As the National Council of Churches prepares to launch its new Truth and Racial Justice initiative, see this example of a church that recently confronted its own roots in racism, and how this laid the foundation for a new future.
The National Council of Churches is pleased to announce that Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will be leading a major new emphasis of the Council. Rev. Watkins will be directing a nationwide accounting of how churches and their leaders have been complicit in, and have perpetuated, racism in America.
The National Council of Churches believes that a complete, honest, and exacting truth about racial prejudice and hate has not yet been told. This ambitious project, co-chaired by Jaquelyn Dupont-Walker (African Methodist Episcopal Church) and Rev. John Dorhauer (United Church of Christ), will unfold over a period of years and will involve the 38 member communions of the Council, a community of mainline Protestant, historically African American churches, Orthodox and Peace churches.
“The complicity of the white churches and leaders must be accounted for and acknowledged if we are to begin the process of moving toward healing in this country,” says Watkins. “Predominantly white congregations and denominations have been complicit in perpetuating the sin of racism in ways we have not yet fully recognized, and no healing, no justice, no reconciliation can be achieved without a complete telling of the truth.”
For the past two years, Watkins has served the National Council of Churches as the Chair of the Governing Board. She served as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from 2005 to 2017. She gave the sermon at President Obama’s National Prayer Service in 2009 and served a term on the White House Advisory Council for the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She has a lifelong commitment to racial justice.
Watkins has been succeeded in her term of office at the National Council of Churches by Bishop Darin W. Moore of the AME Zion Church, who begins his term immediately. Watkins is employed as contract staff specifically for this project.
“This is clearly one of the most ambitious, and most important, projects of the National Council of Churches in its history,” said General Secretary and President Jim Winkler. “This effort is a clarion call to the conscience of the churches and the soul of America. We have the utmost confidence that Sharon is the right person for this work and for this era of the Council.”
WASHINGTON: The Right Rev. Darin Moore, Presiding Prelate of the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District and 99th bishop in succession of the A.M.E. Zion Church will be elected Chairperson of the Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC) on November 10, 2017, at the annual meeting of the Council at the Sheraton Hotel in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Bishop Moore has served as the NCC Vice-Chair for the past two years. Prior to that, he served as chair of the Finance Committee, in which role he restored fiscal health and discipline to the Council. This was a monumental task which required many hours of work and delicate diplomacy. Bishop Moore accomplished this with grace and tact. The NCC is now on a strong financial footing.
Most recently, Bishop Moore led a delegation of NCC denominational leaders to Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel. During the journey, the delegation met with His Excellency President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the acting US ambassador to Egypt Thomas Goldberger, the Grand Mufti of Cairo, Ambassador Hanna Amireh of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Mr. Akiva Tor, Head of Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions, Mr. Mike Hankey, Deputy US Consul General, and numerous other faith, government, and nongovernment leaders.
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. is the oldest and largest ecumenical organization in the country, representing 38 member denominations comprised of some 30 million Christians in more than 100,000 local congregations. The A.M.E. Zion Church is a founding member of the NCC, which was founded in 1908 and first known as the Federal Council of Churches. Today, the NCC is a diverse covenant community of 38 member communions and over 35 million individuals –100,000 congregations from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African-American, and Living Peace traditions.
Today, the NCC carries out interreligious dialogues, faith & order conversations, social justice ministries, and owns and administers the copyrights of the Revised Standard and New Revised Standard Versions of the Holy Bible.
One of the primary ways I process information I don’t understand is to place it within the confines of a frame. That frame may be intellectual or visual. I might not have been able to bear being an eyewitness to the events in Charlottesville this past Saturday if I had not had my camera to help organize, or protect me from, what I saw.
Several weeks ago we at the National Council of Churches (NCC) were contacted by a pastor in Charlottesville, Rev. Phil Woodson, Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church. He wanted to alert us to what was expected on August 12th. There had been a crescendo of activity by the alt-right in response to the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee and rename the park that frames it to Emancipation Park. One rally turned violent. The “Unite the Right” rally, Rev. Woodson remarked, would be much larger and would present a serious challenge to the city of Charlottesville.
A week later, I recorded an interview with Rev. Woodson for our weekly podcast. He sounded concerned. He spoke of the upcoming confrontation as a Tolkien-esque moment: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” The reference seemed a bit too grand at the time, but it certainly got my attention.
When I arrived in Charlottesville Friday, St. Paul’s Memorial Episcopal Church was a scene of frantic preparation, yet the doors to the church were locked. I was puzzled by this until I realized that Congregate C’ville, the group coordinating the activities that would form the clergy counter-protest I would join, was taking security very seriously. I was soon allowed into the church where I took a seat in a side room among fellow communicators. We briefly coordinated and agreed that my role would be to serve as one of three official photographers for the events that would follow.
Worship infused the weekend. Rev. Traci Blackmon preached to a huge crowd Friday evening. I thought about how lucky I am to get to hear Traci and other truly great preachers on a regular basis. Saturday morning started with an early worship service that featured soulful music and the preaching of Dr. Cornel West. While the service was an oasis in the midst of the desert, our faces surely betrayed the concern in our hearts.
The gathered group was divided in two: those who had been trained in nonviolent civil disobedience, and those who had not. I was with those who had: We would be the ones to stand in the center of the action. But what would we do? Our numbers were disappointingly small. Organizers had hoped that, with 1,000 clergy, we would effectively end the rally by blocking the entrance to Emancipation Park. But with fewer than 100 of us, we would be quickly overcome.
Deliberation continued. Given our small numbers, what would our action be? What was the purpose of our being there? But soon, the time came. We prayed, then left through the doors of the church into the streets. I wore my clergy collar, two cameras, and my walking shoes. I stuffed a bagel into my mouth and my water bottle into my backpack.
I walked ahead as the clergy formed a series of lines. They locked arms and walked slowly. They sang. They prayed. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” I went forward to try to get a look at what lay ahead, where we would be over the next few hours.
On the way, a young man with a camera passed by.
“Hey, are you headed to Emancipation Park?” he asked.
“Yes,” one female clergyperson answered.
“You’ll get a lot of good footage there!” he replied. She asked him if he was a person of faith.
“Oh yes! Calvinist,” he quickly snapped with an air of assurance and smugness.
I didn’t notice at the time that he was wearing a light blue polo shirt, the same as others who were marching with the KKK.
The group lined up along the edge of the sidewalk at Emancipation Park. According to Cornel West, nine groups of neo-fascists — Klan, neo-Nazi, and alt-right groups — marched by, staring at the clergy as they walked. It was pure intimidation. The clergy kept on singing, never engaging with those who taunted them.
I saw the young man again, wearing his blue shirt. He began taunting our clergy. “Every lesbian clergyperson in America must be here right now!” he jeered. “Where did you go to seminary? Do any of you know John 3:16?” he jeered.
Others on the hill shouted, “Heretics!” at us. The old Nazi slogan, “Blood and soil!” was heard being shouted at us from the other side. It was deeply disturbing. I had trouble taking it all in. These were things I had avoided: Klan symbols, hate speech, and guns. It was overwhelming.
I tried my best to organize all that I saw between the four edges of my camera’s frame.
Over the years I have understood the role my camera plays in my life in various ways. Yes, the frame is a way to organize what I’m seeing, but it also serves to insulate me from it as well. Somehow the camera stands between me and what I’m seeing. It both prevents me from fully experiencing the beauty of what’s in front of me and protects my soul from being damaged by painful experiences as well. It is both a blessing and a curse.
As the fascists and the anti-fascists marched toward each other, we quickly realized that the violent confrontation we anticipated was about to happen. We knew at that point our work was done, and that if we stayed, we would be arrested, injured, or perhaps even killed. Within seconds of our exit, the violent scenes occurred that have been repeated continuously on cable news. The organizers of the clergy counter-protest credit members of the anti-fascist groups for saving the lives of some in our group.
I don’t want to get into the hindsight blame-game that many are playing. I hold the organizers of “Unite the Right” responsible, the fascists and haters that came chanting, “You will not replace us!”, and those in places of power that give them sanction. I hold them responsible for the deaths and injuries that occurred. I hold them responsible for filling the heads of people like James Alex Fields, Jr. with murderous visions and desires. I hold them responsible for feeding minds, young and old, with ideas and actions that are contrary to the ideals of patriotism and freedom, words they claim as their own.
My prayer is that Charlottesville will serve to help us put an end to racism, America’s original sin. I pray we will let August 12th stand as a day when we begin to end 400 years of the mistreatment of black bodies. And I pray that racism will no longer find safe harbor in the halls of Congress or in the White House.
Special thanks to Auburn Seminary for originally publishing this reflection.
The National Council of Churches is grateful to have been invited to join other faith leaders in the counter-protest in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend. The peaceful, loving witness offered by the organizers with Congregate C’ville and the clergy, who came from across the region, was powerful.
Rev. Dr. Joseph Crockett, Associate General Secretary, and Rev. Steven D. Martin, Director of Communications and Development, opened a Friday night worship service at St. Paul’s Memorial Episcopal Church with words from Martin Niemoeller: “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, for I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Early in the morning of Saturday, August 12, people gathered at First Baptist Church to sing and pray. The clergy then formed into two groups: those who had been trained in nonviolent civil disobedience, and those who had not. Organizers issued stern warnings to those who were willing to participate in the civil disobedience action: With the presence of armed militia, the potential for violence was extremely high.
At 8:00 am, clergy and faith leaders joined arm-in-arm to walk toward Emancipation Park, the scene of the violence that would later unfold. The group lined the street in front of the park, just feet from armed militia. They prayed and sang while protesters, carrying shields, flags, banners, and weapons, marched by.
“I have wondered to myself, ‘If I were present in during the height of the civil rights movement, if I had held a pulpit during that time, would I have stood on the right/correct side of history?’” asked Rev. Annette Flynn, United Methodist clergy from Tennessee, who traveled to Charlottesville to be part of the counterprotest.
The crowd size grew as marchers came in formation along the street lined by clergy counter-protesters. From one side came Alt-Right, KKK, and neo-Nazi groups; from the other side came anti-Fascist protesters. The clergy were in the middle of a violent clash that was about to unfold.
Rev. Flynn continued: “I saw fear in the faces of the Alt-Right. I tried to look them in their eyes and they would not make eye contact. I saw and felt their fear. I felt sadness for them. I wish people who are quick to judge them would remember that what lies behind anger is often deep hurt. We are called to compassion and love. Always.”
As the two groups converged, the organizers of the clergy action signaled the group to leave the scene. Within seconds, the violence that has been played continuously on cable news unfolded.
After they safely left the scene, the faith leaders regrouped in a restaurant that had been designated a “safe space.” Time was spent praying about and reflecting on what had occurred. Upon receiving word that the crowd had been dispersed, local Charlottesville clergy returned to Emancipation Park.
Several of these clergy were on the scene when a Dodge Challenger, allegedly driven by a white supremacist, plowed into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The presence of faith leaders in Charlottesville was appreciated by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who thanked those who came to bring a peaceful witness.
Charlottesville native and clergy counterprotest organizer Rev. Seth Wispelwey remarked, “Our city is in shock and traumatized. I’m immensely proud of how clergy and faith leaders from all over the country came to stand on the front lines of with us – offering both pastoral and prophetic care on an unprecedented day for our community. This is not just a local moment, though, and it is not an aberration. White supremacy is woven into our country’s DNA, and that pastoral and prophetic work must continue to heal our trauma while pivoting into the deep, hard life-giving work ahead. The white church must help lead. We’ve been playing catch-up for 400 years.”
“This weekend in Charlottesville I saw the most extreme expressions of hate-fueled violence, and love-inspired witness, I have ever experienced,” said Rev. Michael Neuroth, Policy Advocate for the United Church of Christ. “I stood with and supported faith leaders from Charlottesville as they offered their bodies as “living sacrifices,” seeking to absorb the physical, emotional, and spiritual blows white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups came to wield against people of color. My hope is that Charlottesville is a wakeup call to our nation that we must urgently confront white supremacy and the white privilege that undergirds it in our own lives, families, and communities.”
“White supremacists attempted to take over our town,” clergy organizer Brittany (Smash) Caine-Conley reflected. “What happened instead: Charlottesville community members and our allies rallied to love and protect each other. We are heartbroken and horrified by the murder of our own Heather Heyer. We will mourn, we will grieve, and then we will get to work, doing everything in our power to dismantle white supremacy in all of its forms.”
“America is a wounded, divided nation. And yesterday, everyone was crying out loud in pain, each in their own ways,” said interfaith activist Sahar Alsalani, who stood with the clergy counterprotesters. “The sad things was, no one was listening to or hearing each other…..only reacting, without any supervision, like in a playground brawl when the teachers were away. There were no winners at the end of the day. Everyone lost something. And only God knows how we will all recover.”
I am Sharon Watkins, Chair of the Board of the National Council of Churches. We, of the NCC, are 38 member churches who follow Jesus. We have been consistent in proclaiming that Jesus would not have liked this budget.
Jesus said, “let the children come to me,” and expects us to follow in that spirit. This budget makes American children go hungry – please hear me when I say that – children. in. America. will go hungry because this budget cuts SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) by more than 25%. Greatest negative impact? Low-income working families.
This budget would significantly cut the Children’s Health Insurance Program. I ask you – what kind of people don’t take care of our children?
This proposed budget would cut Community Block Grants which support many vital neighborhood programs – especially for youth – and … children.
We, as the National Council of Churches and as part of the Circle of Protection, are also deeply distressed by the proposed cuts to funding of international assistance programs.
Jesus tells us a neighbor is the one who shows mercy. He calls us to be that neighbor. Instead, this budget would reduce U.S. foreign aid by 29 percent – at a time when famines are emerging in four countries across Africa and the Middle East – not just drought: starving-to-death famines. Deep cuts to foreign aid are likely to fall especially hard on international initiatives that help people get out of poverty – nutrition programs for babies, for example. “Let the children come,” says Jesus.
Further, this proposed budget seems to be based on an assumption that poor people and children should fund our national defense. The National Council of Churches and the Circle of Protection do not agree. The biblical prophets teach us that our security depends on upholding justice for people in poverty. Common wisdom in our own time tells us, “a hungry man is an angry man.” *
Today, from across the Christian spectrum we agree: Jesus would not like a budget that increases hunger and sickness in children and working families here or abroad. We do not think it is right – or wise – to ask sick and hungry children to pay for the nation’s defense.
We join hands today in a continued circle of protection around those programs which provide a needed neighborly hand to the vulnerable among us. When they are strong and healthy, we all are stronger and more secure.
* Bob Marley from the album “Live”
Read the release from the press conference
Read the full statement by the Circle of Protection
Operations Manager and Executive Assistant
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
The Operations Manager and Executive Assistant is responsible for providing administrative and organizational support to the General Secretary/President of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) and overseeing all office management, computer networks and systems, office equipment, contracts administration, and human resources administration. This position will be located in the NCC’s Washington D.C. offices and is non-exempt and non-bargaining unit.
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The 38 NCC member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.
- Receive and process invitations and develop itineraries, including travel and lodging for the General Secretary/President.
- Process high level documents and correspondence and greet and maintain contact with high-level visitors and colleagues of the General Secretary/President.
- Process and prioritize incoming mail and assist with General Secretary/President’s correspondence.
- Prepare payment authorization forms and process expenses for the General Secretary/President.
- Provide support to committees of the Council, in particular the Executive Committee and the Governing Board, make arrangements for meetings, preparing materials, attendance lists and other related tasks as appropriate.
- Maintain NCC files, listservs and database information, including rosters, email-lists, etc.
- Assist in the planning and staffing of the NCC’s annual Christian Unity Gathering.
- Develop, update and manage the policies and procedures of the organization.
- Oversee supplies and equipment inventory.
- Review office invoices for accuracy and ensure timely payment.
- Manage office space lease agreement and building owner relations.
- Manage technical consultant to provide services for NCC and its staff.
- With staff’s support, evaluate the need for new office systems, furniture and equipment. Ensure that equipment is maintained adequately including copiers, office and cell phones.
- Ensure effective and timely computer services to staff, including desktops, laptops, servers, network, Wi-Fi, broadband.
- Process and send follow-up communications for incoming check and online donations.
- Develop contracts and agreements as needed with appropriate staff and input of legal counsel as needed and approved by the General Secretary/President.
- Monitor compliance with requirements such as reporting and certificates of insurance.
- Answer main office phone and email and respond to general questions and requests.
- Coordinate the administrative processes of hiring, recruitment, performance and termination for the General Secretary/President.
- Ensure that personnel files are maintained in an orderly and accurate manner.
- Process and maintain time records of staff for payroll, vacation, sick leave, travel request records and other purposes.
- Process and maintain staff benefit records for health, disability, life and other purposes.
- Prepare and maintain employment, evaluation, and termination records for staff and employment contracts for independent contractors.
- Undertake other projects/work/functions as required at the discretion of the General Secretary/President.
- Bachelor’s degree preferred or significant operational and administrative experience.
- Proficiency in Microsoft Office and Outlook. Experience with GoogleDocs and WordPress preferred.
- Experience working with Neon or other CRM database systems is preferred.
- Ability to work independently with minimal direction, take initiative and multi-task.
- Highly organized and able to prioritize and manage multiple and varied projects.
- Ability to work with confidential information in a professional manner.
- Must be a cheerful, resilient professional and a team player that enjoys working with a variety of people.
- Specificity to detail, protocols and professionalism in all respects.
- Willingness to work occasional evenings or weekends and travel 2-4 times per year to assist with major meetings or events.
- Superior oral and written communications skills.
- People of color, women, individuals with disabilities & veterans are encouraged to apply.
- Passion for ecumenism and the work of the National Council of Churches is preferred.
- Membership in an NCC member communion preferred.
Salary and Benefits
Annual salary of $58,000 and pension benefits, 22 days of paid vacation, and a significant health care insurance subsidy.
Procedure and Deadline
Send a cover letter and resume by February 15 to:
National Council of Churches