A statement by the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
-Psalm 46:10-11 NRSV
The Governing Board of the National Council of Churches, meeting during the Easter season 2020, sends greetings to all with the eternal message, “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!”
These joyful words are a balm, especially, during these difficult days when the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping over the country, and indeed the entire world, causing illness, death, and the disruption of lives and livelihoods. At the time of our meeting, April 28, 3,090,844 people worldwide have tested positive for the virus, and 213,273 have died.
In the United States alone, there are 1,003,844 cases, and 57,962 deaths have been reported. Fortunately, some areas in the country and around the world are experiencing a decrease in the daily numbers of confirmed, new cases of infection. It remains uncertain whether these positive trends will continue or if a new wave of the virus will emerge. Thus we acknowledge that uncertainty and fear remain. In the midst of such tribulation, we claim that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NRSV).
This pandemic shines a light on our ability as a nation and as a people to rally together in a time of crisis. We rejoice and express thanks for all those who are providing aid and comfort to the ill and suffering. This includes first responders, medical personnel, chaplains, and others providing humanitarian assistance. Our prayers are with the scientists and researchers and other experts who are working on improved testing, new vaccines, and guidelines that will enable a return to normal life.
Now is a time to imagine a bold new future, and a way forward that considers the best interests of all of God’s people.”
We are grateful to the countless individuals who have come to the aid of their neighbors out of moral conviction, religious faith, or love. We also give thanks for educators, civic officials, and religious leaders, who are learning new, creative ways to teach, lead, and minister to their communities.
This pandemic also shines a light on the hierarchy of human life as we live it. Many essential workers considered essential are treated as expendable. Grocery clerks, orderlies, custodians, restaurant workers, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and countless others — are at the bottom of the economic ladder. They are required to show up at work and maintain the comfort of others without having necessary resources to protect themselves or their families. We support measures to safeguard their well-being and elevate their economic and social status.
We urge everyone to continue to adapt to those guidelines which will limit the spread of the virus. Now is not the time to ignore measures intended to limit illness and loss of life.
As we are mindful of all the good happening around us, we must also name the injustices and challenges that we confront. This crisis reveals dangerous biases. In particular, we condemn the hate-speech and hate-crimes directed against the Asian-American community, as well as attacks on our siblings of other ethnic and religious backgrounds who are experiencing hatred and xenophobia during this time.
The pandemic has uncovered the systemic racism and classism that is intrinsically part of our national DNA and has shined a light on the vast disparities in our healthcare system. Large cities are reporting over 70% of reported deaths are of African Americans.
A grossly disproportionate number of persons of color are suffering and dying from COVID-19 because of the systemic poverty and racism that plagues our society. We reiterate our determination as a Council to work to end racism.
People seek and need connection with one another, and they desire to collaborate to build a new future that integrates justice and peace with health and well-being.”
Further, the economic collapse that is underway shines a light on the weakness of our social safety net, including economic and healthcare inequities, and the tenuous nature of our purported prosperity now that tens of millions have quickly been thrown out of work. As some corporate interests rightly seek government funding to support their workers, others inappropriately seek vast sums from our government to enrich themselves; meanwhile, those of more humble means have received inadequate assistance. We pledge to continue to advocate for our nation’s resources to be utilized to help the most vulnerable among us, including immigrants and refugees.
Finally, this is a time of grief and sadness for millions of people. The loss of life and the numbers who are suffering is staggering. The anguish is compounded by our inability to be near our loved ones as they pass away and to gather in community to celebrate their lives and participate in rites of committal. Although many have died alone, they are not expendable and their loss to us is irreplaceable. We pray that their memory be eternal, and that their loved ones be comforted.
As people and communities of faith, we know that God is with us, and that we are all in this beautiful creation together. A central message of the ecumenical movement has been the resolve to stay together despite our differences. When we do so as a society, we are able to coordinate and extend our response to the pandemic and, in seeking to remedy the weaknesses and faults in our society that this pandemic has exposed, insist that those who are suffering be placed at the center of our concern.
Now is a time to imagine a bold new future, and a way forward that considers the best interests of all of God’s people. The pandemic is a crisis and all crises provide opportunities for change and renewal. People seek and need connection with one another, and they desire to collaborate to build a new future that integrates justice and peace with health and well-being. We celebrate that and we are committed to participating as full partners in working for the beloved community.