Subject: NCC Newsletter: Seeing with New Eyes

View this email online if it doesn't display correctly
Seeing with New Eyes

NCC Newsletter
March 5, 2021
Pay Attention
I think and read quite a lot about racism and white supremacy these days, more really than ever before in my life. Not only is this due to the pervasive reality of systemic racism throughout American history, but because it requires me to make an intentional personal choice.
As a middle-aged White male, I must make the decision to focus on the causes and realities of racism because I can largely choose to ignore or minimize racism. I have the option of denying systemic racism or minimizing its impact or I can even suggest, bizarrely, that I am the victim of ‘reverse racism’.

In her brilliant book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” Isabel Wilkerson is correct in asserting that the addiction of White people to their status over and against Black people has not only led them to oppose universal healthcare and childcare and free higher education out of a desire to deny those benefits to Black people, it has also led to growing distress and early deaths among White working class people out of a fear of losing their status as the highest caste. In other words, racism is not only deadly to people of color, it harms those who are devoted to it.
As I contemplate examples of racism I have encountered along the way, I recall going to a Capitol Hill restaurant some years ago with a group of United Methodist leaders including a number of Black bishops. We were seated in an uncrowded restaurant and placed drink and appetizer orders with our waiter. Then we began a long and comfortable conversation.
After some time, I realized our waiter had not returned and our drinks had not been served. I asked the waiter about this and he said he’d bring them but nothing happened. This time, I got up and went to find him. Again, he said he’d bring them out to us and yet still nothing was brought to the table. I was embarrassed as I had assured the group this was a great restaurant. Finally, I asked for the manager and our food began to arrive. The manager profusely apologized, personally took over our service, and did not charge us for our meal.

Now that I look back on this episode I wonder if racism was a factor. Or, was it just poor service? It’s hard to say, I suppose. No one in our group said anything about what took place and I was too obtuse to name this as an example of racism. However, as the years have gone by, I have pondered this incident several times. My sense is that most White people would just chalk something like this up to a bad waiter and this permits White people to ignore what Black people experience quite frequently.
White people must lay aside our hermeneutic of suspicion and listen with open hearts and ears and see with new eyes.

I encourage White people to educate yourselves. Read David Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass. Watch Henry Gates’ new documentary on the black church. Read Isabel Wilkerson’s new book on caste. Watch “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Linger over articles about the spike in anti-Asian violence. Read the hateful things said by Rush Limbaugh and the Proud Boys. Read Raymond Wood’s confession. Read the horrible things said by Alexander Stephens and James Henry Hammond 150 years ago. Escape from your white-centric world, at least some of the time.

All of this and more is not an intellectual or educational exercise. Your life depends on it. 

Grace and Peace,

Registration is Open for Ecumenical Advocacy Days!
Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be a virtual gathering held April 18-21, 2021. This annual gathering of Christian advocates and activists will provide opportunities to worship, delve deeply into the pressing issues of the day, and lift our voices by speaking truth to power on Capitol Hill.

The 2021 theme is "“Imagine! God’s Earth and People Restored.” EAD 2021 is an opportunity to support this global movement centered on and led by the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts due to historic racial and colonial inequities. Together, we will passionately advocate and reimagine a world that lives out the values of justice, equity and the beloved community.
NCC Lenten Reflections
NCC’s 2021 Lenten Reflections follow the Committee on the Uniform Series plan for reading and studying the Bible. Each Wednesday, we will share the scripture from the week’s Sunday Bible verses. We hope you will reflect on these passages of scripture during the seven weeks of Lent in light of your own experiences and relationships.
Advocacy Update from the Hill
This weekend will mark the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday -- the Black voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., where advocates were attacked and beaten at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by White state troopers and sheriff’s deputies on live television for all the world to see. This tragic event in our nation’s history is more popularly known for when the late Rep. John Lewis was severely beaten. It was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, one in which the NCC was intimately involved. There is perhaps no timelier moment for two critical bills, that are both now in the hands of the Senate, to be considered.

On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the US House of Representatives passed two important pieces of legislation beneficial to the safety and flouring of the United States, it’s people and it’s democracy: H.R. 1280 – the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 and H.R. 1 – the For The People Act of 2021. It’s important to note that these two reform bills were admittedly accelerated through the chamber, bringing the legislation to the floor Wednesday night — and canceling votes Thursday — amid revelations of new white supremacist terror threats to the Capitol.

H.R. 1280 – the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, sponsored by Rep. Bass, Karen [D-CA-37], was intended to hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, improve transparency through data collection, and reform police training and policies. It’s named after the Minneapolis Black man whose neck Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on May 2019 killing him, which ignited national and global protests, demanding change to the U.S. policing institution. H.R.1280 passed by a vote of 220 to 212, where Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) voted Yea and Reps. Jared F. Golden (D-ME) and Ron Kind (D-WI) voted Nay. Rep. Bass has said that its “just the first step to transform policing in America by raising the standards for policing in America, and holding officers who fail to uphold the ethic of protecting and serving their communities, accountable.” The Justice in Policing Act establishes a federal standard for the operation of police departments; mandates data collection on police encounters and use of force occurrences, compiling it in a national registry; and reprograms existing funds to invest in community-based policing programs. It would also streamline federal law to prosecute excessive force and establish independent prosecutors for police investigations and more.

While the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was written to address systemic excessive force against African Americans by police it does have faults and falls short. For instance the bill would not have prevented George Floyd’s death. The legislation doesn’t offer public access to the police misconduct registry, yet Law enforcement agencies will be required to submit the requisite data on use of force and racial profiling to the US Attorney General. The bill ends qualified immunity for local law enforcement officers but does not eliminate the doctrine entirely. This provision, as currently drafted, remains problematic because it would codify a judicially invented doctrine that does not exist in the statute and allows other local, state and federal officials, acting under the color of law, to deprive people of their civil rights without accountability. A plausible solution to that shortfall is the Ending Qualified Immunity Act recently reintroduced by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA). In the wake of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment sought to end the deprivation of rights that African Americans suffered at the hands of state and local governments. In 1871, Congress enacted Section 1983 to make that goal a reality. Qualified immunity obstructs that goal, however, standing in the way of fundamental constitutional accountability.

H.R. 1 – the For The People Act of 2021, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes [D-MD-3], addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics for the three branches of government. It also passed mainly along partisan lines, 220 to 210 with Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Mary E. Miller (R-IL) not voting. Specifically, the bill expands voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting). It also limits removing voters from voter rolls. Further, the bill addresses campaign finance, including by expanding the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals, requiring additional disclosure of campaign-related fundraising and spending, requiring additional disclaimers regarding certain political advertising, and establishing an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices. The bill addresses ethics in all three branches of government, including by requiring a code of conduct for Supreme Court Justices, prohibiting Members of the House from serving on the board of a for-profit entity, and establishing additional conflict-of-interest and ethics provisions for federal employees and the White House. The bill requires the President, the Vice President, and certain candidates for those offices to disclose 10 years of tax returns.

The Senate must demonstrate its commitment to racial justice, integrity in policing and protection of our Democracy through free and fair elections by enhancing and sending these bills to President Biden’s desk to sign into law. We The People must hold our elected officials accountable by advocating for these and other transformative pieces of legislation to be passed. As people of faith, we must heed the call of Christ and of the prophet Micah and make justice happen by being informed and engaged in the political systems that organize how we live in community.

Why We Need to Know:

The bills now move to the Senate, where passage is not guaranteed. As for the policing bill, Republicans say the legislation goes too far and would prevent police from doing their jobs effectively. Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida said on the House floor Wednesday that the bill would "weaken and possibly destroy our community's police forces."

With the voting empowerment bill, in the wake of major Democratic wins in 2020 and early 2021, Republican states around the country have submitted dozens of bills to suppress voting rights. Already in 2021, more than 250 bills in 43 states have been introduced by Republican state legislators that create more unnecessary barriers to voting.

The groundbreaking pieces of legislation passed by narrow margins in the House. And the biggest obstacles are in a split Senate. On some legislation, it takes only 51 votes to pass, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. On deeply divisive bills, they would need 60 votes under the Senate’s rules to overcome a Republican filibuster – a number they may not reach.

For the text of these two bills and other House and Senate bills, and to keep track of their progress through the houses of congress, go to
Church Security Risk Assessment and Grant Program
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) supports efforts to maintain safe and secure houses of worship and related facilities while sustaining an open and welcoming environment. In partnership with the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives and the Faith-Based Information Sharing and Analysis Organization, CISA provides resources that assist in securing physical and cyber infrastructure. A new resource for self-assessment has been developed for churches to use. This resource page is designed to guide a church through a four-step process that can act as the building blocks for improving the security and safety for congregants and facilities. 

There is $180 million available through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to fund support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements and activities to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack. The grants are issued as part of broader state and local preparedness efforts.
Social Security Information for Faith-based Groups
In this time of financial hardship, churches and faith-based organizations are being asked for help in reaching the people most in need, including people with low-income backgrounds, experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, with limited English proficiency, and people with mental illness. The Social Security Administration explains how to help and provides a useful toolkit on this special webpage.

Paycheck Protection Program Deadline Nears
Faith-based organizations, small business, and nonprofit organizations have priority access to cash to assist with business expenses and can apply through 3/9/2021. Larger organizations can apply 3/10-30/2021.

Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Bishops Encourage Vaccinations
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church broadcast CME Town Hall: A Conversation on the Vaccine Pros and Cons for People of Color  on Sunday, February 28, 2021. This webinar directly addresses concerns about the vaccine with straighforward talk about what is really being shared and the emotional toll of this pandemic. Both Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Presiding Prelate, 5th Episcopal District, and Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Presiding Prelate, 8th Episcopal District, talk about their experiences getting vaccinated and emphasize that it's the safe and responsible thing to do.
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America encourages everyone to continue to be vigilant, be safe, and to trust the science of the vaccines.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church shares a personal story about his father and the polio disease and encourages vaccinations in his public service announcement.
Vaccination Information Provided for Orthodox Christians
Drs. Hermina Nedelescu, Catherine Creticos, and Gayle Woloschak provide answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the different COVID-19 vaccines, including how they are made and how they work, in a document published by The Orthodox Theological Society in America. The authors are providing updated information as it arises so that Orthodox Christians can make decisions regarding vaccine options for themselves.
Promote the #Pastors4Vaccines Campaign
NCC encourages all of our communions to spread the word and participate in the #Pastors4Vaccines campaign. So far, 252 faith leaders have signed the pledge. As trusted members of our communities, faith leaders are in the unique position to increase trust in the vaccine, prevent the spread of harmful misinformation, and ensure equitable distribution of doses.

#pastors4vaccine #PastoresProVacuna
From Our Partners
Help for Polarized Churches
As political polarization has grown more intense, churches are struggling with the discord. The Minnesota Council of Churches has developed a tool, MCC Respectful Conversations, to help. Although not designed to change minds, these facilitated conversations can lead to softened hearts. Congregations, educational institutions and community groups throughout Minnesota are using this resource to "cool the heat of intense disagreements in their communities". 
Job Listings

Creation Justice Ministries Executive Director - Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director (ED) will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for Creation Justice Ministries’ programs and execution of its mission. The Executive Director’s overarching responsibility will be to continue and enhance the program ministries of CJM and to encourage and enable member communions to address eco-justice issues through their own programs. The Executive Director is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization; ensuring the organization’s financial stability, and focusing on mission-related programs and activities. The ED oversees staff and maintains accurate and complete financial and organizational records. The Executive Director is the chief fundraiser, administrator, and ambassador for the organization and also directs staff.

Legislative Associate - MCC U.S. - This full-time position will lead Mennonite Central Committee’s advocacy efforts on U.S. policy with regard to the Middle East and immigration, including policies relating to uprootedness, militarization, criminalization, racism, antisemitism and the unethical detention of adults and children. (Current areas of focus include Palestine/Israel, Syria and U.S. immigration policies.) The position includes significant research, analysis, writing, speaking and networking responsibilities and may include mentoring interns. The position is based in Washington, D.C., and will report to the director of National Advocacy and Program.

If this newsletter was forwarded to you, sign up to receive it.


Your gifts helps us build a more just and equitable community that chooses grace over greed, love over hate, and faith over fear.

110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
You may unsubscribe or change your contact details at any time.