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National Council of Churches USA Receives Medgar W. Evers Award

April 8, 2004, NEW YORK CITY - The National Council of Churches USA has been honored by the historic Walker County (Ala.) Memorial Committee with its 2004 Medgar W. Evers Award for Religion and Education.

A black substitute school teacher, Mrs. Wilda McFarly of Burnwell, Ala., established the award in 1963 to memorialize Evers, an early civil rights leader who was murdered by a white segregationist on June 12, 1963, in Jackson, Miss. His murder sparked angry protests across the south and helped pave the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act.

“At that time, most whites didn’t recognize what blacks were doing,” said the Rev. David Lewis, who currently chairs the Memorial Committee. “The award honors persons and organizations of all races who have made a valuable contribution to the good of humanity and the betterment of the community.”

The Rev. Lewis (pictured, right), Associate Pastor of St. John Baptist Missionary Baptist Church (NBCUSA, Inc.) in Dora, Ala., presented the award on April 5 to NCC General Secretary Robert W. Edgar (pictured, left) in the NCC’s New York City offices. “We chose the NCC because it’s been very supportive of civil rights and education,” said the Rev. Lewis, a national public speaker. “Living together and caring for one another is something all of us ought to understand.”

The 54-year-old National Council of Churches brings together 36 Protestant, Orthodox and historic African American denominations comprising 45 million U.S. Christians. Through the Council, they engage in a wide variety of educational, advocacy, research, communication and environmental justice ministries, theological studies, and Bible translation - notably, the New Revised Standard Version.

Priorities include a Mobilization to Overcome Poverty, voter registration and activation, work for peaceful solutions to international conflicts, global nuclear disarmament, fair wages for U.S. farmworkers, better interfaith understanding and civil and human rights, both in the United States and around the world. The Council actively is pressing for welfare policy that lifts families out of poverty and is pressing the U.S. government to keep its financial commitments to international development and HIV/AIDS crisis work.

The Rev. Lewis said the NCC was chosen from among 100 individual and organizational nominees and was the first religious organization to be honored by the Walker County Memorial Committee. The committee’s 13 elected members are all county residents with backgrounds in community and civic affairs. Walker County has 70,000 residents, the Rev. Lewis noted.

The award consists of two plaques - a tribute to Medgar W. Evers and the citation to the NCC “for your outstanding participation in organization programs and efforts that benefit all citizens….You have given valuable contributions to the ‘God of Humanity,’” the citation reads. “We hope you will continue lifting the veil of ignorance. Every step of progress in the world has been made by dedicated people.”


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