| Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie – NCC Interim President/General Secretary|
The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches met in Karlsruhe, Germany recently where thousands gathered from diverse communions to continue the work of “…the unity of the church and the unity of humankind.” Dr. Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee said that our prayers were many. The included creating “..an enabling environment for prayer, celebration, discussions, exchange of views and ideas, as well as a glimpse of church life in Germany.”
Under the theme “Christ’s love moves the world reconciliation and unity”, delegates and participants tackled tough issues that was both challenging and inspiring. Daily prayers in a variety of languages with music reflective of every corner of the globe strengthen the ecumenical fellowship. Presenters in the thematic plenaries were relevant on a variety of subject matter that touched on racial injustice, the plight of indigenous people and environmental concerns. Our small group work was done either in home bible studies or in ecumenical conversations.
I left the gathering with great hope and great disappointment. Great hope that Christians from all over the world from diverse faith traditions and reformations were able to pray, worship and study together. The Holy Spirit permeated the cacophony of the sounds of worship so that as we were immersed with traditions not our own, we could feel the presence of God.
I felt hope as the delegations from Russian and the Ukraine were in the same place as the WCC tried to reach a consensus that would express the outrage of an unprovoked war, give voice to both delegations of the same faith tradition and leave with a statement that does not put people’s lives in jeopardy when they return home. Hope that indigenous people were given voice and place to express their current issues. Hope that the crises in the Middle East had a hearing that express the human cost and concerns for religious freedom.
There was hope as the young adult delegates demanded a seat at the table. They made impact advocating for their full participation – allow us to participate now so that you will have a church in the future. So many signs of hope including making new global friends. Hope that we could challenge one another and still do the work of consensus building as a decision matrix. It looks consensus building is a pathway to failure yet emerges as a pathway of seeking common ground amid competing interests.
| I was honored to be elected to the Public Issues Committee. It is one of the hardest working committees of the assembly meeting in between sessions, sometimes late into the evening or very early in the morning. The work of this committee provided a safe space for serious engagement on the trauma and suffering of people, the struggle with the legacies of colonialism, creation justice, the ravages of war and the things that make for peace in a divisive world|
We sat together Russian and Ukraine, Middle East and Africa, Pacific, Asian and the Americas. We prayed together. We worked together through difficult conversations.
Bishop Dr. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bavaria was elected the new Central Committee Moderator along with two Vice Moderators. One is a member of NCC’s Executive Committee, H.E.Archbishop Dr. Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Apostolic Church. The other is the Rev. Merlyn Hyde Riley, Jamaica Baptist Union. Also, Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., was elected as the North American president, one of eight regional and Orthodox presidents elected by the Assembly.
“Where people are suffering, where people cry out for justice, the church must be an agent to give them a voice and to make visible how the church can be the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” said Bishop Bedford-Strohm.
Bishop Sally Dyck, Ecumenical Officer, United Methodist Church and a member of NCC’s Governing Board was also elected to WCC’s Executive Committee.
Several persons of NCC communions were elected to WCC’s Central Committee including: NCC’s Executive Committee member and Board Treasurer, Rev. Dr. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada; Ms. Kathryn Lohre, Executive, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations at the office of the Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Bishop Brian Thompson, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; Rev. Dr. Jennifer Leath, African Methodist Episcopal Church; Evelyn L. Parker, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Dr. Raimundo Barretto, American Baptist Churches, and others.
| Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker Smith – WCC president from North America; National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; Bread for the World USA I am grateful for this invitation from our Interim General Secretary, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie. Invitations like this are consistent with her steady pulse of inviting us to be a community. In Karlsruhe, she invited us for our group photo and North American regional meeting. She also gave voice to our WCC Public Issues Committee that brought substantive advocacy proposals for the ecumenical movement. We have and continue to appreciate her presence and leadership of our NCCC then and as we return to North America.|
The Assembly was also invitational and built community. Although any of us wondered if an Assembly would event be possible because of COVID and other intersectional issues but alas the prayers and diligent labors involved prevailed and God’s grace was extended for this. This testimony to grace was animated and amplified particularly in the worship and prayer times. The contributions from the world in our devotional life was powerful and inspirational not only for the Assembly but for our being back to our regional homes. The plenaries engaged us and helped us to remember days past and the people who have brought us thus far by God’s grace. The Ecumenical Conversations and Brunnen engagements were particularly engaging and allowed us to go beyond the face of the issues and to create community exploration at the micro and macro levels.
The Pre-Assemblies were strategic to building community. The voices of the Community of Women of Men, Indigenous communities, those who are differently abled and the youth the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI) played key roles in laying the foundation for deepened inclusion during the Assembly. I heard from many who appreciated this traditional entry point for those who have not been at an Assembly. I am grateful for the continued space and support of the WCC related Pan African Women of Faith/Pan African Women’s Ecumenical Empowerment Network (PAWEEN) and WCC related Africans and Africans in Diaspora (AAD) that go forward and speak directly into mutual priorities of the North American region and the WCC. I am also particularly grateful for the leadership of our WCC Moderator, Dr. Agnes Abuom, our Vice Moderators, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, the late Metropolitan Gennadios, our General Secretaries since Busan and the faithfulness of the past Central and Executive Committee who served for 9 years versus the conventional 7-8 years. A period that included the challenges of the pandemic and racism, increased climate change and conflicts. It was not easy to go forward when so much threatened this possibility.
I thank God for all of you and look forward to serving with the elected WCC leadership and our North American region going forward in the global space with the NCC and WCC. Thank you for the invitation to serve you.
|Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer – General Minister and President, United Church of Christ These last two weeks in Germany were a dramatic testimony to the power of Christian siblings coming together in love and fellowship. Greeting dear friends whom we have been unable to see through the season of pandemic was absolutely delightful; and meeting new friends from all over the globe was rewarding.|
I deeply appreciated the way the body wrestled with tough issues that we knew had the potential to divide us. The pair of matters surrounding the war in Ukraine and the plight of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories demonstrated our collective capacity to stay in dialogue with each other even when the disagreements are pronounced and passionate. This ability to model civil discourse and love across divisions can become a balm to a world drifting father and farther apart.
Just as rewarding was the unity with which we spoke of the urgency for the body of Christ to organize our collective capacity to seek a pathway through the climate crisis. Throughout the Assembly, we iterated our clear commitments to ending the crisis and rescuing a planet in the throes of an apocalyptic, dystopian unraveling. That was very gratifying, and I pray with fervor that we all take action and combine our efforts to raise consciousness and commit to lowering our carbon footprint.
Finally, let me say that of all the wonderful things we experienced, the worship for me had to be the highlight of them all. To see and hear and experience every morning the beauty of every culture expressing itself in sacred language, art, dance, and music had me wondering if this wasn’t what heaven will be like. I didn’t want it to end. I will never forget it.
At the 11th assembly of the World Council of Churches meeting August 31–September 8 in Karlsruhe, Germany, Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith has been elected North American president. As one of six regional and two Orthodox newly-elected presidents, she will serve in this capacity until the next assembly in several years’ time. According to the WCC Constitution, in addition to serving as ex-officio members of the WCC central committee, the role of the WCC presidents is “to promote ecumenism and interpret the work of the WCC, especially in their respective regions.”
Rev. Dr. Walker-Smith brings many years of local, national, and international ecumenical experience to this role. Professionally she serves as the National Senior Associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World, a non-profit organization that seeks to bring the collective Christian voice to the work of ending hunger in the US and around the world. For her church, the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., she is Ecumenical Representative, serving at both the WCC and the National Council of Churches USA, among other ecumenical settings. She is a graduate of Kent State University, Yale University Divinity School, and Princeton Theological Seminary.
“Rev. Dr. Walker-Smith is no stranger to the hard work of ecumenism,” stated Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Interim President and General Secretary of the NCC. “With a spirit of enthusiasm and joy, for many years she has offered her talents to the WCC and the NCC, as a member of our respective governing bodies, and as an ecumenical leader in other organizations and initiatives. We are so proud to have Rev. Dr. Walker-Smith represent the US and Canada at the WCC as North American president.”
The other presidents elected at the WCC assembly are:
- Rev. Dr. Susan Durber, United Reformed Church (United and Uniting), UK (Europe)
- Rev. Dr. Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang, Reformed Church of Gereja Tora, Indonesia (Asia)
- Rev. Dr. Rufus Okikiola Ositelu, Church of the Lord (Prayer Fellowship) Worldwide, Nigeria (Africa)
- Rev. Francois Phiaatae, Maohi Protestant Church, Maohi Nui (Pacific)
- Rev. Philip Silvin Wright, Anglican Church, Belize (Caribbean and Latin America)
- H.E. Met. Dr. Vasilios of Constantia–Ammochostos, Church of Cyprus, Cyprus (Eastern Orthodox)
- H.H. Catholicos Aram I, Armenian Apostolic Church of Cilicia, Lebanon (Oriental Orthodox).
The National Council of Churches USA (NCC) is outraged by the killing of Donovan Lewis, an unarmed 20-year-old Black man, who was shot by police in Columbus, OH, on Tuesday, August 30, 2022.
Video evidence shows Lewis was shot without any chance to comply with police orders. In the recently released body camera video, a police officer opens the bedrooms door and immediately shoots Lewis. Then, to literally add insult to injury, police officers shout orders to “crawl out” and “stop resisting” as Lewis writhes in pain on his bed, where he had been sleeping moments before.
According to the Columbus Post-Dispatch, this is the sixth police-involved shooting in Columbus in 2022 and the third to happen within an eight-day period. The continued recurrence of tragedies like this demonstrates the need for robust new approaches to policing that address racial bias and support communities rather than target them, along with redoubled efforts for racial justice. Black Americans account for less than 13% of the U.S. population but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Lewis is one of the 1,044 people killed in an officer-involved shooting so far this year, according to a national police-involved fatal shooting database.
The NCC calls for a complete and unbiased investigation of this and all recent police shootings in Columbus, and for those responsible to be held accountable. As peaceful protests are being planned this weekend in Ohio, our prayers are with the Columbus community for justice and with the family of Donovan Lewis as they grieve.
Previous Statements by NCC on Police Violence:
- A Call to Police Reform and Healing of Communities
- How Long, O Lord, Must We Withstand Police Brutality and Murder?
- (Another) Statement on the Shooting of Black Men by Police: We’re Weary But Not Too Tired to Continue the Fight for Justice
- Floyd Murder by Police Officer Is an Outrage, Says National Council of Churches USA
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) condemns the hate killings of four Muslim men over the past few months in Albuquerque, NM. These attacks are not only heinous for the taking of four lives, but also for the terroristic threat it sends to the Muslim community in Albuquerque and beyond. Our prayers are with our Muslim siblings as they deal with the fear and sense of insecurity that come from these attacks. The NCC calls for a thorough investigation of these killings. We join with the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign and others in calling for federal resources to assist with local efforts in resolving this situation.
Albuquerque is a welcoming community that has responded to an influx of refugees from majority-Muslim countries, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indeed, one of the persons killed was found outside of the Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains office that serves as a hub for refugee resettlement. In addition to this vital work by a Lutheran-related ministry, we lift the work of our many member communions that work with refugee communities, as well as our partner ecumenical organization Church World Service, which works in countless communities across the United States to provide welcome to persons fleeing war, poverty, environmental disaster, and other forms of insecurity in their home countries.
We pray that the Muslim community of Albuquerque continues to find willing partners in the Christian communities that they live alongside as neighbors. May the peace of God be present and continue to provide comfort to the grieving, justice to the oppressed, and love to all.
“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick; raise the dead; cleanse those with a skin disease; cast out demons.” [Matthew 10: 7-8 NRSVue]
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) stands firmly in the belief that the budget reconciliation package, now named the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, should include funding to close the Medicaid coverage gap.
We applaud the Act’s inclusion of lower Medicare prescription costs and a continuation of premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act insurance. However, closing the Medicaid coverage gap is the only provision that would mainly benefit people living in poverty. As Christians, we must answer when scripture asks, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” [1 John 3:17 NRSVue]
We must help. We must provide health care for low-income people who have no health insurance because their state governments would not accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. As people of faith, we want the approximately 2.2 million Americans who live below the poverty line, primarily in Southern states and people of color, to have access to reliable health care. Many work to provide indispensable services for the community but are paid low wages and shut out of employer-based coverage. Without the expansion of Medicaid, they have no feasible way to obtain coverage. Since they are not eligible for Medicaid or premium tax credits, they are forced pay for health care out of pocket or go without needed care.
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic wrought a surge of deaths on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities because they did not have medical access. Many had financial concerns about paying medical bills which kept them from seeking timely care.
Now is the time to further correct the unjust healthcare system in the United States and insure that people living in poverty have medical insurance in every state.
“We must include the least of these, the poorest of the poor in this legislation,” stated Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Interim President and General Secretary. “It’s not too late to close the Medicaid gap for millions and prevent them from going without health care coverage for the foreseeable future. Jesus has told us, ‘just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ We cannot turn our backs yet again on providing life-giving health insurance. I call on our Senators to close the gap now!”
Medicaid must be expanded as an investment in the future of our nation. As Christians we hold dearly our directive to help all who are struggling in poverty and to heal those who are sick. The NCC will not rest until the Medicaid coverage gap is closed in every state.
“The right to full participation of the person in political and civic life, including the opportunity: to vote by secret ballot…the right to vote is a basic human right.” from the 1963 NCC Human Rights Policy Statement
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) announces the publication of its “Voter Empowerment 2022 Resource Guide: A Church-based Action Plan.”
Since adopting a Human Rights Policy Statement in 1963 that declared the inherent worth, rights, and responsibilities of all persons, and steadfastly supporting the Civil Rights Movement by marching with the late civil rights icons Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Congressman John Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., the NCC has long been resolute in making sure people have the right to vote and exercise that right in every election.
“The NCC Voter Empowerment Resource Guide provides ways for our member denominations and their local congregations to actively engage in encouraging participation in the basic human right of voting,” said Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Interim President and General Secretary. “Polling places and voter identification procedures have changed. Many voters have been removed from the voter rolls. With more than 35 states changing their voting laws and requirements since the 2020 election, churches must be trustworthy vessels and carry accurate information to their members so that they know how to exercise their right to vote.”
The NCC Voter Empowerment Resource Guide focuses on monthly calls for action on the second Sunday of each month, “Check-up Sundays,” culminating in “Turn Out Sunday” on November 6th before the midterm elections on November 8th. The guide was developed in partnership with Faiths United to Save Democracy, a broad-based interfaith coalition, which founded and promotes Turn Out Sunday. The Voter Empowerment 2022 Resource Guide is meant to be used by churches as a companion to Faiths United to Save Democracy’s Toolkit detailing voter information for all 50 states.
“Voter protections are severely lacking,” said Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, NCC Governing Board Chair and Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. “Crucial protections that would have been guaranteed by the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act were never passed by the U.S. Senate. Churches have often played a role in supporting essential services and programs by encouraging their members to vote and the National Council of Churches hopes to support their efforts.”
To obtain the guide:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2022
Washington, DC – The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) announces that Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, NCC Interim President and General Secretary, will be traveling to Uvalde, Texas, this Saturday to provide a ministry of presence to this community experiencing unspeakable tragedy following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, where 19 children and two teachers were murdered. There are also 17 other victims who were wounded in the shooting. Bishop McKenzie will attend the morning worship service at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, June 5, 2022.
“There are no words and when there are no words, the ministry of presence is needed,” explained Bishop McKenzie. “I will go and pray with and for church members and the community. I hope that my visit motivates people to give support to the families who are experiencing this tragedy and have immediate needs that are not being met as they wait for other funds to be distributed. As I go bearing gifts, I encourage others to give their gifts and send thoughts and prayers in a tangible way.”
“Thank you for reaching out to us,” responded Rev. Dr. Michael K. Marsh, rector of St. Philip’s. “We greatly appreciate your prayers and support. We welcome your presence with us in worship and prayer.”
The NCC released a statement on June 2 expressing the grief many in the nation feel at the loss of so many innocent lives. “There are no words sufficient for the horror of this act,” says the statement. It goes on to say, “We must act to stop this from ever happening again. It is sinful to offer thoughts and prayers without taking decisive action to reform gun legislation.”
The Episcopal Church is one of NCC’s member denominations. Bishop McKenzie’s visit to Uvalde comes just a week and a half following a trip to Buffalo, NY, where she met with families of those murdered at Tops Grocery Store, as well as churches, community groups and agencies providing help and support for that community following the massacre of 11 innocent people by a gunman who targeted them because they were Black.
For those who would like to know ways to support the families of the victims and the Uvalde community, a list of resources is below.
WAYS TO HELP UVALDE
FROM REV. DR. MARSH, ST PHILIP’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
While large amounts of money are being collected through various organizations and foundations it is not yet being released and some families need financial assistance now. St. Philip’s is collecting monetary donations to assist with those immediate financial needs. Here’s how churches can help:
https://stphilipsuvalde.breezechms.com/give/online Use the dropdown arrow on the right to designate that you would like your donation to go to “Robb/Uvalde Outreach Fund”
Text the amount and “Uvalde” to 830-240-2070. For example: text “$50 Uvalde” – please be sure to include the notation of “Uvalde” after the amount.
Giving by Mail
Make checks payable to “St. Philip’s Episcopal Church” with a notation of “Robb/Uvalde Outreach,” and mail to:
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
343 North Getty
Uvalde, TX 78801
Purchase Gift Cards
Purchase a $100 or $50 Visa or Amex gift card and mail it to St. Philip’s at the address above.
Serving as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ in the public square since 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) brings together 37 member communions, including The Episcopal Church, and more than 30 million Christians in a common commitment to God’s love and promise of unity.
They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Psalm 106:37-38 NRSVue
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) grieves for the 21 lives lost at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. We pray for the loved ones of the 19 children and two teachers who were killed and for the 17 who were wounded.
There are no words sufficient for the horror of this act. Our United States are covered with blood – the blood of innocent children and their teachers. We mourn these new victims as we still grieve the lives lost and traumatized during past school massacres at Columbine High School, Red Lake Senior High School, Nickle Mines schoolhouse, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Stoneman Douglas High School, and Santa Fe High School. This year so far, there have been 27 school shootings and over 200 mass shootings in our country. The long-term effects of these shootings exacerbate the harm and trauma experienced by those most impacted as well as our nation as a whole.
We must act to stop this from ever happening again. It is sinful to offer thoughts and prayers without taking decisive action to reform gun legislation.
An overwhelming majority of Americans want tighter gun laws. A recent survey found that 90% of registered US voters want background checks required for all gun sales. Yet, those who have made idols out of guns they sell for profit continue to be in control of national gun laws through political contributions and lobbying efforts. A false theology of “God and guns” has also seeped into too many churches giving cover for elected officials who are intent on doing nothing to stop these mass shootings. Since this horrendous shooting of elementary school children, the main gun lobby organization, the National Rifle Association, continued to promote the sale of guns at their annual meeting in Houston, just a few hundred miles from Uvalde, with the participation of the former president and current Texas elected leaders. When will there be justice?
We admonish those who assert that even more guns should be placed in our communities. Arming more people is not the solution. We know that the best way to stop bad people with guns is to prevent them from having guns. We hold the simple truth that with more guns, there are more gun deaths.
Every country has people with mental health issues and racist beliefs but only US laws make it easy to pick up a gun and kill people, easier, in fact, than it is to obtain a driver’s license. The US has more gun violence than every other developed nation in the world. This is shameful and we should not accept that we must live like this.
“We are angry,” said Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, NCC Interim President and General Secretary. “The right to bear arms is not the right to kill innocent children, teachers, or grocery store shoppers. We can’t be tempted to blame everything on mental health instability, either. No one should be able to purchase assault-style weapons, especially not someone not even old enough to buy alcoholic beverages.”
There are legislative solutions that we know will be effective. In addition to expanding Medicaid in every state in order to make mental health services available to all who need them, stricter gun laws must also be passed. The NCC continues to call for thorough background checks and the ban of assault guns and other military-grade weapons, which have no practical use in our communities beyond mass shootings. The nation should also have “red flag” laws so that law enforcement and others can stop people from buying guns and confiscate guns if they already own them.
Today, we again reaffirm, our 1967 statement calling for Firearms Control. The NCC holds that the God-given “right to life” is fundamental and sacred and that it is not possible to protect life and maintain public order when individuals have unregulated access to firearms. Then and now, the NCC calls for permit requirements that incorporate “proper identification of applicant (by the fingerprint method if possible), and a waiting period prior to issuance so that an adequate check can be made of the prospective purchaser to verify such matters as age, absence of mental illness, and lack of a felony record.” In addition, we repeat our 2010 call for local, state, and federal legislators “to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns, including closing the so-called federal ‘gun show loophole,’ which allows for the purchase of firearms from private sellers without submitting to a background check, or providing documentation of the purchase.”
Furthermore, we challenge those who have embraced White Christian Nationalism and associate guns with their identity as Christians. We ask them to examine how unchecked use of guns reflect our Christian beliefs. Considering guns as sacred above every other right including voting, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion is immoral.
“We pray but we know that prayers are not enough,” stated Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, NCC Governing Board Chair and Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. “The NCC calls on the members of our denominations to advocate, vote, and campaign for appropriate gun laws and elect people who will continue to put our lives, and the lives of our children, above the profit of gun companies. Over 50 years of advocacy has not brought results. We need our churches to have the tough conversations around gun laws and hope that ministers will feel compelled to bravely enter into discussions about gun safety laws in their congregations. We will not be silent and as people of faith, we must act.”
NCC’s policies adopted by the NCC Governing Board regarding gun control:
Ending Gun Violence: A Resolution and Call to Action by the National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A. 2010 https://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/common-witness/2010/gun-violence.php
Firearms Control Adopted by the General Board 1967 https://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/common-witness-ncc/firearms-control/