About the NCC |
Justice & Advocacy
| Faith & Order |
NCC News |
Make a Gift
Index to Policies, Resolutions and
Adopted by the NCC General Assembly, 1997-2005
Following are links to policies and resolutions enacted by the
National Council of Churches/Church World Service General Assembly at its November 1997-2005 annual meetings. A "Resolution
on Sudan" delegated by the 2001 Assembly to the NCC Executive Board (and approved at
the Board's February 2002 meeting) is also included.
For other resolutions adopted
by the NCC Executive Board, click on the "Search" button above and type in key
words for the topic you are researching. Eventually, we hope to make the NCC's entire body of policies available on the Web. E-mail the NCC Communication Department for further information.
National Council of Churches
and Church World Service
General Assembly, November, 2005
Statements and Pastoral Messages
Resolution on the Threat to Civil and
Religious Liberties in Post-9/11 America
on Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast
Resolution to Reaffirm Commitment to the Voting Rights Act
A Statement on the Disavowal of Torture
Pastoral Message on Alexandria
Pastoral Message on Constantinople
Resolution on the Threat to Civil and Religious Liberties in Post – 9/11
Adopted by the General Assembly November 9, 2005
Civil and religious
liberties, while affirmed under secular constructs that were formed by our
national and world communities based on generations of human social interaction,
are grounded in the religious conviction that all human beings reflect the
divine imprint and are thus worthy of respect. These principles protect and
seek to nurture the fundamental freedoms that men and women possess as members
of an enlightened society.
The National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the USA has historically and consistently defended these
principles as integral to the well being of US citizens, and indeed of all
people. This defense has been strongest during severe tests of our national
character. This resolution, while recognizing the myriad civil and religious
liberties issues at stake today – having to do among other things with privacy,
gender, and genetics, as well as with free exercise, establishment, and
education – is addressed primarily to the issues most related to this moment of
national crisis, a crisis characterized by post-9/11 anxiety and responses such
as the USA PATRIOT Act.
The theological foundation for this position is in the scriptures and
tradition of the Christian faith. If it is true that all human beings reflect
the divine imprint – “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image,
according to our likeness…So God created humankind in his image, in the image of
God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27, NRSV) –
then it is also true that essential human dignity is the divine gift of God.
Such dignity in turn reflects humanity’s infinite worth and its endowment with
rights intended to guard against the diminishment of that worth. It is no
surprise that we consider religious liberty as basic to all other liberties.
based on the relationship with God for which humankind was created, a
relationship of love and freedom, the dignity of women and men is found in our
freedom – here the Christian tradition speaks of free will, and of the maxim
that “God became a [human being] so that [human beings] could become like God” –
and thus in our response to God and in our responsibility toward one another
under God. Our response to God, and our responsibility toward one another,
therefore, is to act in accordance with obedience to God, and to serve one
another to the well being of all.
Particularly in times of national crisis, the National Council of Churches USA
has taken strong positions in defense of these principles based on these
theological affirmations. This is so even while recognizing that security is
preeminently in God, and not in the secular constructs that govern our social
contract with one another. A review of these positions, taken in the past yet
highly relevant in specific content to this day, is in order:
In 1954, at a time of fear and suspicion with regard to communism, a policy
statement, entitled “Investigative Procedures in the Congress of the United
States,” was critical of the stigmatization of people and organizations on the
basis of unsupported accusations; called into question forced testimony, under
false pretexts, concerning economic and political beliefs; sought the prevention
of questionable legal procedures intended to subvert legal processes; and
expressed concern over the exploitation of public interest and fear.
In 1955, during a time of
social unrest, a policy statement, entitled “Religious and Civil Liberties in
the United States of America,” affirmed the separation of church and state while
denying the indifference of church and state to one another; defended the rights
and liberties of cultural, racial and religious minorities (though subjecting
the exercise of these rights to morality, public order and security); and
affirmed the interdependence and indivisibility of religious and civil
In 1957, at a time of
debate over racial desegregation, a policy statement, entitled “Freedom of
Association,” called for the protection of voluntary associations, especially in
connection with desegregation; defended the right of peaceable association and
freedom of speech; defended the right to privacy and anonymity of membership in
such associations (subject to legal guarantees); and voiced its opposition to
the suppression of voluntary association.
In 1965, at a time of
struggle over the right to vote, a policy statement, entitled “Equal
Representation is a Right of Citizenship,” affirmed the equal right to vote, and
the equal value of all votes; called for protection of the standard of equal
representation; stated that rights cannot be taken from people by those in power
to protect their power; and confirmed that equal representation is a fundamental
right and an adjunct to full political personhood.
In 1966, during a time of
war, a policy statement, entitled “Rights and Responsibilities of Debate,
Diversity and Dissent,” stated that freedoms and liberties were to be protected
in times of crisis, not curtailed to present a united front; condemned the
invalidation of the witness of whole groups based on the questionable motives of
a few; defended conscientious dissent in times of military action; and
questioned the appeal to patriotism to stifle criticism.
In 1967, at a time of
social upheaval, a policy statement, entitled “Church-State Issues for Social
and Health Services in the U.S.A.,” affirmed equal access to social welfare
resources; distinguished between service and evangelism as a guide for the
policies of church-related social agencies; affirmed the role of communities of
faith in helping to implement social programs and shape social policy; and
outlined principles governing church and state relations in social service.
In 1968, at a time of war
and continued social unrest, a policy statement, entitled “Religious Obedience
and Civil Disobedience,” confirmed the responsibility of government to secure
justice, peace, and freedom, and to maintain order for these purposes; affirmed
that Christians can disobey government if its authority is misused, and peace,
justice, and freedom are denied; stated that Christians are compelled to act out
of faith, yet peaceably in the case of civil disobedience; and argued that civil
disobedience is a violation of a law deemed unjust in obedience to one’s
conscience or a higher law.
These policy statements,
when taken as a whole, are a coherent and compelling defense of civil and
religious liberties. Based as they are on Christian faith, they offer a
template against which Christians may evaluate other challenges to civil and
religious liberties that confront Americans and American Churches.
Today we are in another moment of national crisis and uncertainty. The
terrorist attacks of 9/11; the all-consuming “war on terror”; the war in Iraq:
all of these have led to anxiety, the exploitation of fear, and the erosion in
national self-confidence. It has also led this country to the point of
willingly sacrificing the very ideals that have made it great. In no area of
social interaction is the threat as large as in the area of civil and religious
Many of these issues are
reminiscent of years past, as is evident in the above policy descriptions;
others are new and equally shocking. These threats include: indefinite
detention and the withholding of due process; extraordinary rendition and
torture; arbitrary designation of enemy combatants; the suspicion of immigrants
and those applying for immigrant status; the invasion of privacy in terms of
medical records, library borrowing, and other personal documents; and a creeping
reliance on selective religious fundamentalism as the lens for shaping public
policy, especially at the expense of other religious communities.
In response to pertinent
security concerns, the US Government has availed itself of any number of tools.
Most prominent among these is the USA PATRIOT Act, which has attracted much
attention due to its expansion of government power to intrude in the private
lives of individuals. Passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and largely
reaffirmed this year as a continued weapon in the “war on terror,” it holds the
potential for vastly eroding civil liberties. The provisions of the act are in
seeming conflict with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable
searches and seizures. These provisions include: delayed-notice search
warrants to secretly investigate potential criminals; national security letters
to secretly gather private and confidential information; relaxed restrictions on
wiretapping; and extensive use of deportation and denial of immigrant
applications based on unknowing associations.
At the same time, the law
has authorized the seizure of assets of organizations, including religious and
charitable organizations, deemed to have ties with groups labeled by the
government as terrorist. As with other provisions which are executed in secret,
there is no opportunity to challenge government declarations in advance of
adverse enforcement action. The use of these laws to stigmatize American
Muslims has created hardship and mistrust in their community, putting them in
the position of having to prove innocence without even the benefit of an
appropriate public forum.
In addition, the use of
ethnic profiling as a proxy for religious profiling is especially troubling.
The use of such profiling by law enforcement is a debatable and highly suspect
practice. But it does not stop with official acts, as the official practice of
religious profiling encourages a wider discrimination in the society at large
whereby many peaceable, law-abiding citizens are severely disadvantaged solely
because of their religious faith.
Liberty taken away in the
name of patriotism and security is a cause for concern for all who trust in US
Constitutional protections. While churches support law enforcement to protect
Americans, they are not blind to the risks we all share when our civil and
religious liberties are eroded. As persons of faith, we should also be aware
that there is no exemption from these rules for faith-based organizations. We
must therefore continue to stand strong against this tendency and to speak out
in defense of those liberties that are fundamental to our national being.
the terrorist attacks of
9/11 have caused great fear in US society;
government-declared “war on terror” has exacerbated this fear;
the war in Iraq has
increasingly eroded national confidence in the implementation of this “war on
terror,” a development compounded by the exposure by Hurricane Katrina of the
fault-lines in Homeland Security capabilities;
the “war on terror” has
allowed the US to neglect, limit, and even betray its treasure of civil and
religious liberties, as evidenced by recent legislative and policy assaults on
such liberties, especially the USA PATRIOT Act, in the name of security;
as Christians we are
concerned that the freedom we have as human beings is not well
served by current policies;
as women and men of faith
we believe our increasingly diverse society is best served by expanding, rather
than narrowing, the opportunities of people of all faiths to access the public
square, and thereby to expand mutual interaction and respect; and,
as an organization composed
of Christian communions that have together over the years defended civil and
religious liberties, based on Christian faith;
Therefore, be it
resolved that the National Council of Churches USA:
urges its member communions
to be ever-vigilant in protecting and defending civil and religious liberties –
including those not specifically tied to this current moment of national crisis
but nonetheless important to our national life – through any and all moral and
legal means available;
commits itself to the
monitoring of current and potential civil and religious liberties abuses in and
by the US, and to taking action that would address these abuses; and,
pledges to educate members
of its constituent communions, with this resolution and background materials on
previous policy statements, on the importance of upholding civil and religious
liberties, even and most critically in times of national distress.
Return to top.
Resolution on Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast
Adopted by the General Assembly November 2005
Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has
committed itself to a Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf
World Service has played and continues to play a pivotal role in addressing
human need—short term and long term in the region, and
complexity of race and class as instrumental issues in the Gulf Coast demand our
best, most coherent and most effective response,
Therefore, be it
resolved that the General Assembly endorses and affirms both the establishment
of the Special Commission and the relief efforts of Church World Service carried
out in the name of member communions; and urges the Special Commission to strive
for the greatest degree of coherence and comprehensive effort in our rebuilding
of the Gulf Coast communities and in addressing the human inequities which
exacerbated a natural disaster into a wholesale calamity.
Return to top.
Resolution to Reaffirm
Commitment to Voting Rights Act
Adopted by the General Assembly November 9, 2005
The General Assembly of the National
Council of Churches of Christ in the USA adopted a Human Rights Policy Statement
on December 6, 1961, setting forth general principles related to the inherent
worth, rights and responsibilities of all persons. In the section entitled
“Political and Civic Rights” the statement recognizes:
“The right to full participation of the
person in political and civic life, including the opportunity: to vote by secret
This policy statement predated the
enactment of voting rights legislation adopted in 1965. The General Board of the
National Council of Churches adopted a new human rights policy statement on
November 17, 1995. The statement acknowledges extensive changes in our society
since the adoption of a human rights policy in 1963.
The 1995 statement shared theological and
biblical understandings based on our Christian tradition. “Human rights are not
simply granted by human authorities. Human rights are inherent for humankind,
fashioned in the image of God”. Human rights involve the relationships of
individual, groups and social structures. The Christian faith affirms the belief
in these rights and in the corresponding responsibility of men and women to
exercise their rights.
The 1995 policy statement reads in part:
“Racial and ethnic communities continue to
be victimized by racism, xenophobia and ethnocentrism. These conditions are
exacerbated by voluntary and forced migration, human enslavement, political
realignments and the shifting of geographical boundaries. The Church must stand
with these communities as they assert their right to full acceptance and
citizenship, guarantees of and protection of human rights on an equal basis with
other persons in the society, and recognition of their unique worth.”
We believe that the right to vote is a
basic human right, therefore as the Voting Rights Act comes up for
reauthorization in 2007, the National Council of Churches must be on record in
strong support of this legislation. The right to vote is perhaps the single most
important right in a democratic society. Recent history verifies that voting
discrimination against minority populations continues and therefore that federal
oversight of state and local voting functions remains an imperative in
jurisdictions with patterns of voting discrimination.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted
40 years ago. Congress hails the VRA as the nation’s most effective civil rights
legislation. The VRA was amended in 1970, 1975, and 1982. The VRA was adopted at
a time when African Americans were substantially disfranchised in many Southern
states. It has now also removed barriers to voting for Asians, Latino Americans
and Native Americans and for persons with disabilities.
The Act employed measures to restore the
right to vote that intruded in matters previously reserved to the individual
states. Section 4 ended the use of literacy requirements for voting in six
Southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and
Virginia) and in many counties of North Carolina, where voter registration or
turnout in the 1964 presidential election was less than 50 percent of the
Under the terms of Section 5 of the Act, no
voting changes were legally enforceable in these jurisdictions until approved
either by a three-judge court in the District of Columbia or by the Attorney
General of the United States. Other sections authorized the Attorney General to
appoint federal voting examiners who could be sent into covered jurisdictions to
ensure that legally qualified persons were free to register for federal, state,
and local elections, or to assign federal observers to oversee the conduct of
Although the voting protections of the
Fifteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are permanent, the
special provisions of Section 5 remains in effect only through 2007. Section 5
makes it mandatory for election practices that change boundaries or impose new
procedures in certain states to be subjected to administrative review by the
United States Attorney General, or ruled on by the United States District Court
for the District of Columbia before implementation. The NCC believes it will be
a travesty of justice to allow these special provisions to expire.
Prior to the Civil War, African Americans
were almost totally disenfranchised throughout the states. The
Fifteenth Amendment to the
Constitution, adopted in 1870, gave all men, regardless of race, color, or
previous condition of servitude the right to vote. The
Nineteenth Amendment ratified in
1920, provided women the right to vote.
Even after the enactment of the 15th
amendment, many southern states continued to use various methods to prevent
people of color from voting, including literacy tests, poll taxes, the
disenfranchisement of former inmates, intimidation, threats, and even violence.
Until 1965, federal laws did not challenge the authority of states and
localities to establish and administer their own voting requirements.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 was
designed to address these issues. It prohibits discrimination based on race or
language minority status. The VRA enables millions of minorities to register and
vote despite some states’ efforts to limit the exercise of their right. These
key “special provisions” of the VRA have a remedial purpose and are set to
expire on August 6, 2007.
Section 2 of the Act, which bars the use of
voting practices or procedures that discriminate against members of such
protected classes, has been used successfully to attack restrictive voter
registration requirements and the location of polling places at sites
inaccessible to minority voters.
Section 5 of the Act requires federal “pre-clearance” before covered
jurisdictions (i.e., specified jurisdictions with a history of practices that
restrict minority voting rights) may make changes in existing voting practices
or procedures. The Act also provides the Department of Justice with the
authority to appoint federal observers and examiners to monitor elections to
ensure that they are conducted fairly. Initial enforcement efforts targeted,
among other things, literacy tests, poll taxes, and discriminatory registration
In 1975, the Voting Rights Act was amended to address the voting rights of
language minorities. ." Sections 4 and 203 of the Act apply in jurisdictions
with significant numbers of voters with limited or no English proficiency and
require such jurisdictions to provide voting materials and assistance in
relevant languages in addition to English. These provisions now apply to non-
southern states as well because of the increasing diversity in our society.
The VRA was amended in 1982. The amendments
make clear that it is unnecessary to prove that certain registration and voting
practices have been established with discriminatory intent. Instead, section 2
is violated if a court concludes that a voting practice has the effect of
limiting the electoral influence of minorities, even if not motivated by bias. A
second 1982 amendment allows for people who are blind, disabled, or illiterate
to be assisted in voting by almost anyone of their choice.
Many Americans are not aware of the history
of the VRA and therefore may assume there is no longer a need to have the
protection afforded by the special provisions of the Act. Despite the progress
that has been made since the enactment of the VRA of 1965, voter inequities,
disparities, and obstacles still remain for many voters and serve to demonstrate
the ongoing need for the VRA and its special provisions. Gerrymandering,
improper redistricting, disenfranchising former inmates, inaccessible voting
booths and flawed voting procedures are issues that must continued to be
addressed to ensure the protection of the right to vote for all Americans.
Therefore, be it resolved that the
Governing Board of the NCC recommends to the General Assembly the following
Begin work on the VRA in 2005 to highlight
its importance prior to election season.
Call upon member communions and ecumenical
partners to work both individually and collaboratively to insure an awareness of
the need for the Voting Rights Act and its special provisions to be extended
Maintain involvement in voter registration
and get-out-the vote efforts.
Allocate appropriate funding to assist the
Justice and Advocacy Commission to gather and disseminate appropriate
educational materials on the issue of the voting rights act, and empower
the commission to work for the creation and adoption of legislation to make all
the qualities of the Voting Rights Act permanent.
Make reauthorization of the Voting Rights
Act a council-wide priority for 2006-7.
Change the dates of future General
Assemblies to avoid conflict with Election Day.
Human Rights: The Fulfillment of Life in
the Social Order, November 17, 1995
Equal Representation Is a Right of
Citizenship adopted by the General Board, June 3, 1965
Human Rights adopted by the General
Assembly, December 6, 1963
The Right to Vote, February 23, 1961
Return to top.
A Statement on the Disavowal of Torture
Based upon our longstanding policies defending human rights and our affirmation
of human dignity as revealed in scripture, the General Assembly of the National
Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service meeting in
Baltimore, MD, November 8 – 11, 2005, commends the United States Senate for its
recent passage of the “Anti-Torture Provisions” which came as amendments to the
Defense Appropriations Act of 2006. As that bill now comes before the House of
Representatives for action (H. R. 2863), we are deeply disturbed that leaders
within our nation’s government oppose legislation which publicly disavows our
nation’s use of torture anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances.
Within the core of our religious tradition are Jesus’ call to love our enemies,
his blessing of those who work for peace, and his instruction that we are to do
unto others as we would have them do unto us (Mt. 7:12)--a teaching found in
other faith traditions as well. Both United States and international law reflect
this biblical mandate, a social ethic commonly known as the Golden Rule, by
upholding as core principles the right of due process and the humane treatment
of all prisoners, even in times of war. As delegates to the General Assembly of
the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service, we find any and
all use of torture unacceptable and contrary to U.S. and international legal
norms. We find it particularly abhorrent that our nation’s lawmakers would fail
to approve the pending legislation disavowing the use of torture by any entity
on behalf of the United States government.
Torture, regardless of circumstance, humiliates and debases torturer and
tortured alike. Torture turns its face against the biblical truth that all
humans are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27). It denies the
preciousness of human life and the dignity of every human being by reducing its
victims to the status of despised objects, no matter how noble the cause for
which it is employed.
We believe that any reluctance of this nation to publicly disavow torture under
any circumstance not only erodes the peace of the world but even the possibility
of peace, since it destroys the trust required for diplomacy and other
non-violent means to seek peace. Thus, we call upon members of the U. S. House
of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate by approving the legislation
before it banning the use of torture by any entity of our government.
Furthermore, we urge the President of the U. S. and all members of his
administration to support this legislation by affirming America’s long-standing
commitment to refrain from the use of torture.
Return to top.
Message on Alexandria
Adopted by the General Assembly November 10, 2005
We the delegates
to the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the
USA and Church World Service, meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, November 8-10,
2005, have heard with great concern of the horrific and violent acts against the
Coptic Orthodox and Protestant Christians in Alexandria, Egypt, on October
21-22, 2005. In solidarity with one of our member communions, the Coptic
Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, we join our Egyptian sisters and brothers
in Christ in fervent prayer for peace, justice and equal rights in their native
and beloved country, Egypt.
We also commend
President Hosni Mubarak for his condemnation of the violence, his
acknowledgement of deepening tensions between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians,
and his exhortation to Muslim scholars to teach tolerance and shun extremism. In
this same spirit, we commend Sheikh Mohammed Sayed El-Tantawi, Rector of Al
Azhar University, for his encouragement of tolerance and peaceful coexistence
among Muslims and Christians in Egypt in the wake of these recent events.
We join with His
Holiness Pope Shenouda III in his call for prayer and are comforted with him in
the Book of Psalms, which states, “Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage and He
shall strengthen your heart. Wait I say on the Lord” (Ps 27:14).
Especially as we near the Advent season, we pray for Christians and all people
in the region where Christ was born and sojourned, was crucified and
Return to top.
Message on Constantinople
Adopted by the General Assembly November 10, 2005
Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA meeting in its General Assembly in
Baltimore, Maryland, USA, expresses its sadness and dismay at the recent attacks
and demonstrations by extremist elements in Turkey against the Ecumenical
Patriarchate and the person of His All Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of
Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.
the timely response of the police in Istanbul in containing these elements of
fanaticism and extremism.
We pray for the
continued well being of Patriarch Bartholomew and stand in solidarity with the
Click here to go to the section
you wish to research: Policies,
Other Official Documents
Other Official Documents