200+ Faith Leaders Issue Letter to President Biden to Establish Reparations Commission by Executive Order
The National Council of Churches USA (NCC), Faith for Black Lives, and more than 200 faith leaders from across the country issued a letter today to President Joseph Biden to establish a commission to study reparations by executive order on or before Juneteenth, June 19, 2023.
The United States has a notable record of demonstrating the courage to admit when its policies and actions have resulted in harm. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate victims of the US policy to place people of Japanese descent into internment camps during World War II.
“The National Council of Churches historically has stood on the frontlines in advancing a vision of racial justice in America to build a beloved community,” said Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Interim President and General Secretary, NCC. “This historic letter to President Biden from a diverse coalition of faith leaders speaks to the fierce urgency to preserve American democracy through reparative justice,” she added.
“We encourage President Biden to pursue a pathway of racial healing and transformation in this country by establishing a Presidential Commission to Develop Reparations Proposals,” said Rev. Stephen A. Green, Chair, Faith for Black Lives. “As attempts to erase Black history spread across the nation, it is imperative that we respond with a federal approach to address the harms and vestiges of slavery and segregation.”
Notable signatories include:
- Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Interim President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
- Rev. Cornell William Brooks, Director, William Monroe Trotter Collaborative
- Rabbi Jonah Posner, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Ecumenical Bishop, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
- Rev. Jesse Jackson, President, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
- Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens General Minister and President Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada
- Metropolitan Serapion, Metropolitan of Los Angeles Coptic Orthodox Church
- Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (USA)
- Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President United Church of Christ
- Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Miller, President, Northern Province, Moravian Church in America
- Rev. Stephen A. Green, Chair, Faith for Black Lives
Link to Letter: https://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Reparations-faith-letter-Feb-2023-with-signatures.pdf
Responding to Earthquake in Turkey and Syria
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is mourning the loss of thousands of lives in Turkey and Syria following a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the region in the early hours of Monday, February 6. The death toll from the quake has surpassed 17,000 people, and is still rising with tens of thousands injured, hundreds of thousands displaced, and thousands of buildings toppled.
NCC is urging congregations in the U.S. to join the global community in praying for and supporting those impacted, as aftershocks, inclement weather conditions, civil war in Syria, and a refugee crisis on the border between the two countries, have made efforts to rescue those who may be trapped in the rubble risky and extremely difficult. Disaster and humanitarian relief organizations around the world are responding to the crisis and providing assistance to those who have been left desolate, without food, shelter or personal belongings. Many are also grieving the loss of loved ones or still searching for those who are missing.
You can donate to the relief efforts by using the links below to agencies of our member communions and ecumenical partners.
Brethren Disaster Ministries
Church World Service
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
International Orthodox Christian Charities
Lutheran World Relief
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch
NCC Offers Prayers for Turkey and Syria, Encourages Donations to Help Those Affected
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
Psalm 46:1-3 NRSVue
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is mourning the loss of thousands of lives in Turkey and Syria following a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the region in the early hours of Monday, Feb. 6. The death toll from the quake has surpassed 17,000 people, and is still rising with tens of thousands injured, hundreds of thousands displaced, and thousands of buildings toppled.
NCC is urging congregations in the U.S. to join the global community in praying for and supporting those impacted, as aftershocks, inclement weather conditions, civil war in Syria, and a refugee crisis on the border between the two countries, have made efforts to rescue those who may be trapped in the rubble risky and extremely difficult. Disaster and humanitarian relief organizations around the world, such as Lutheran World Relief, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and International Orthodox Christian Charities, are responding to the crisis and providing assistance to those who have been left desolate, without food, shelter or personal belongings. Many are also grieving the loss of loved ones or still searching for those who are missing.
Compounding our sadness, we have learned that the earthquake, which was one of the strongest in 100 years, caused the collapse of a historic 19th century Syriac Orthodox Church, and severe damage to a Greek Orthodox Church, both in Aleppo, Syria. The churches are related to NCC member communions, and of particular note within the ecumenical community, these were the home churches of Archbishop Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Archbishop Bolous Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, the clerics that were kidnapped by ISIS terrorists in 2013 and never found.
Rev. Deacon George A. Kiraz, who serves as the Syriac Orthodox Ecumenical Representative to the NCC, and Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, described the harrowing conditions on the ground. “The Syriac Orthodox cathedral of Adıyaman, 150 kilometers northeast of the epicenter, collapsed entirely, burying some individuals. People fear staying at night in their homes, which are now damaged, and spend the cold nights in the streets,” he said.
In response to this tragedy, His Eminence Archbishop John Kawak of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern USA, will be holding a service of prayer for all those affected by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, with the Massachusetts Council of Churches today, Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. at St. Matthew Syriac Orthodox Church, 149 Park Street, West Roxbury, MA. The vespers liturgy will be led by Archbishop John in the Syrian Orthodox tradition, with the invitation for others to follow offering prayers from their own traditions.
“Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this horrific disaster. The humanitarian toll is heavy in both countries and calls for our immediate response,” said Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, NCC’s Interim President and General Secretary. “It is in moments like these that our faith teaches us to pray for one another and to do our part to be the hands and feet of God in the world by supporting those in need.”
To support recovery efforts taking place in Turkey and Syria, donations can be made to Lutheran World Relief, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and International Orthodox Christian Charities.
For more information about the prayer service in Massachusetts, please contact Rev. Laura Everett, MCC’s Executive Director at [email protected].
NCC Laments Senseless Killing of Tyre Nichols
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:18, NRSVue)
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) mourns the senseless killing of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black male who died from injuries sustained after a brutal beating at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tennessee.
We pray for the Nichols family as they lay their loved one to rest today, and as they determine ways to honor Tyre’s legacy going forward. We join in solidarity with faith leaders in Memphis and surrounding areas who are providing moral and spiritual leadership to communities mourning this tragedy.
We applaud the swift action of Memphis and Shelby County authorities to terminate and criminally charge those involved in this tragedy. We will continue to monitor this investigation and connect with Memphis area faith leaders to ensure all parties are held accountable, and that the family and community have the resources they need to heal from such a heartrending and unnecessary incident.
We decry yet another act of police violence against an unarmed and nonviolent citizen. The videos of the incident revealed an abhorrent disregard for human life that we collectively must ensure never happens again. Yet, we recognize that this kind of violence continues to permeate our nation’s culture. We must intensify our efforts to end policing that intimidates and traumatizes communities of color rather than protecting and serving them. A traffic violation should not be a death sentence.
While we affirm and support the many law enforcement officers who take seriously their oath to serve our communities daily, we cannot ignore the prevalence of excessive force used by police officers against Black and Brown people.
We call upon Congress to act swiftly in passing comprehensive police reform legislation that will hold officers accountable, train them on de-escalation techniques, and end qualified immunity. Our nation also must address the underlying racial vitriol that devalues the lives of people of color and empowers law enforcement to beat someone like Tyre Nichols to death for what required no more than the issuance of a traffic citation.
Our prayer is that this horrendous display of brutality will be the last such occasion we are prompted to issue a statement of condemnation and that we all commit to using our resources and spheres of influence to hold elected officials at every level of government accountable for passing legislation that it may be so.
NCC Concerned for People in Holy Land Amidst Hostility
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA expresses its concern for the communities in the Holy Land that are being targeted by hostile rhetoric and actions, as well as outright violence and extremism. No community is safe – Israeli or Palestinian; Jewish, Muslim, or Christian – while this violence is tolerated, if not encouraged, by political leaders.
Illustrating the distress felt by all residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding region, due to this violence, is the situation of the Armenian Christian community, which has been part of the fabric of Jerusalem since the 4th century and whose community members are now reportedly subject to continual threats. While we lift them up for particular mention at this time, our concern, and our prayers for peace, extend to all communities in the Holy Land.
For more information on the ecumenical Christian response to the ongoing violence, please see: https://cmep.salsalabs.org/ps-jan2023-usmustengage
National Council of Churches USA Partners with Harvard to Build Faith-based Reparations Campaign
Washington, DC —The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has entered a historic partnership with Harvard Kennedy School’s William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for social justice to develop a faith-based campaign for reparations as a client in the course, Creating Justice in Real Time: Visions, Strategies, and Campaigns.
The William Monroe Trotter Collaborative aims to support innovative and inspiring partners to strengthen the reparations movement. Under its umbrella, a team of Harvard students will be assigned to provide research and resource development support to the NCC in developing Journey to Jubilee, a campaign for reparative justice and democracy reform through racial healing and transformation.
Journey to Jubilee will launch February 1, 2023, in commemoration of Black History Month.
“The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA is a paragon of ecumenical leadership that figures prominently in the long history of social justice movements. The seeds of the enduring reparatory justice movement will be watered by the synergetic efforts of Harvard students and the NCC. With this historic collaboration, we are harnessing prophetic witness to advocacy pedagogy in order to advance America’s moral deliberations on its history and future of reparatory justice,” noted Dr. Cornell William Brooks, Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations, Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Director of the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice.
The NCC, representing 37 member communions, 100,000 congregations, and more than 30 million congregants, has been at the forefront, advocating for reparations as part of its ACT Now to End Racism initiative.
“We are excited that another generation of scholars is willing to tackle the hard work of justice in the area of reparations to explore and develop a fresh way forward,” said NCC Interim President and General Secretary Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie.
The Journey to Jubilee has among its principal aims:
- Establish a broad-based network of faith leaders, activists, and organizations in the reparative justice movement
- Develop a faith-based reparative justice toolkit and training resource to educate faith communities on reparations
- Train and educate faith leaders and communities on advocacy and issue-based organizing
- Convene a gathering of faith leaders to dialogue on reparations
- Establish a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations for African Americans
For more information about Journey to Jubilee and the partnership with the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative, email: [email protected]
NCC Mourns California AAPI Community Mass Shootings, Renews Call for Action
Put away violence and oppression, and do what is just and right. (Ezekiel 45:9, NRSVue)
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) extends prayers and condolences to the AAPI communities of Half Moon Bay and Monterrey Park, California, following the horrific mass shootings there over the past few days. These acts of violence are particularly jarring, as they occurred around the celebration of Lunar New Year and the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, a symbol that reflects peace, empathy, and reflection.
Our country is awash in weaponry, and most especially weapons of war, as demonstrated by the frequent use of high-capacity magazines and assault rifles to commit such heinous deeds. Nevertheless, we reject the notion that these all too commonplace acts of carnage are inevitable or normative to life in the United States. No one should live in fear of a mass shooting because no place feels safe—not school, not the grocery store, not a festive gathering, and not even church.
In the first three weeks of 2023, 39 mass shootings have taken place across the country. At least 69 people have been killed and many more injured. For detailed information on mass shootings statistics in the U.S., visit the Gun Violence Archive (www.gunviolencearchive.org).
Whether at the hands of an unknown assailant boiling with hatred or someone familiar to us, or even at our own hand, we pray for deliverance from the scourge of the true weapons of mass destruction in our nation—guns. We join President Biden in urging Congress to act quickly to pass meaningful reform legislation that supports safe, responsible ownership and implements safety measures from the menace of gun violence.
Even people of faith have grown weary of platitudes in response to these tragedies. Now is the time to put feet and hands to those thoughts and prayers. Now is the time for action.
NCC is committed to continuing its work toward a society where such acts of violence are no longer a part of our legacy, and where people can live without fear. We call for unity, regardless of political ideology or religion, to ensure that Americans are no longer vulnerable to or victimized by gun violence.