To help focus its work, the National Council of Churches periodically selects priority issues that are of particular importance in society and for people of faith. These priorities become the focus of time and resources for NCC staff, Convening Tables, Governing Board, and other appropriate NCC bodies. There is no limit to the amount of time devoted to a particular priority, but it can range anywhere from 1-5+ years.
The A.C.T. Now to End Racism initiative of the National Council of Churches urges the NCC, its members and partners to Awaken to the many manifestations of white supremacy and racism especially in the church, to Confront the need for change, and to work to Transform church and society into a reflection of the inclusive and equitable reign of God.
The National Council of Churches professes that the image of God is found equally in each person (Gen 1:26). All are called by God to treat each other with dignity and love (Mk 12:31). Yet, the sin of racism – a distortion of human value, and a church-dividing issue– continues to grip the United States of America.
Contrary to the will of God, the legacies of slavery are embedded in U.S. laws and practices. To this day, distribution of wealth and power is filtered unjustly through largely white controlling interests. The National Council of Churches admits to the painful truth James Cone stated in his landmark essay Theology’s Great Sin: Silence in the Face of White Supremacy: the collective silence of the church through enslavement, Jim Crow, and the criminalization of communities of color, renders church people complicit with the evil of racism. In the face of such injustice, the church – sometimes silent, sometimes intentionally involved – is called, along with all who benefit from this system, to take reparative action.
Since at least the 1970s, the U.S. criminal justice system has been based on the harsh punishment of individuals, especially in relation to crimes where drugs are involved. Today the U.S. has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, with 743 per 100,000 people incarcerated for a total prison and jail population of over 2 million people. Those imprisoned are disproportionately people of color (African American, Latino, etc.).
Today there is a growing movement to reverse this trend. Through legislation, pretrial diversion, education, re-entry work, and many other ways the faith community has already worked closely for decades in the area of criminal justice. Taking this experience into account and working with our brothers and sisters in historic African American churches, the NCC will seek to lessen the racial disparities in the criminal justice system and encourage a focus on restoration of formerly incarcerated people and empowerment of persons of color to interrupt the cradle to prison pipeline.
Interreligious Relations with a Focus on Peace
The world’s many faiths play a crucial and significant role in building peace in their societies. This is true both on a global level and in local communities. Interreligious relationships build bridges of understanding between peoples in an increasingly interconnected world. These connections are vital as we seek to understand one another and find mutually beneficial ways to support one another.
There are many settings for Interreligious peace work. Within the U.S., partnerships between Christians, Jews, and Muslims helps reduce suspicion and anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment in society in a post 9/11 world. As Asia continues to grow understanding religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and others becomes increasingly important in working together to address the conflicts and disparities present in those parts of the world. NCC will seek to strengthen its current relationships and build new ones in joint efforts to work together for peace.