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NCC Governing Board calls for a 'just rebuilding'
of Gulf Coast, and an independent inquiry in D.C.

New York, September 27, 2005 -- Keenly aware of the spiraling effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on millions of Americans, the National Council of Churches USA Governing Board formed an NCC commission to work for the "just rebuilding of community" on the Gulf Coast.  

The board, meeting in New York September 26-27, also passed unanimously a resolution to call on the U.S. government to create an independent commission similar to the 9/11 Commission to investigate deficiencies in the response of rescue and relief workers following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and in other devastated areas of the Gulf. 

NCC President Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., pictured, Christian Methodist Episcopal bishop of Louisiana and Mississippi, said he would appoint Church World Service representatives and others with special expertise to the NCC commission on Katrina and he asked NCC member communions represented at the meeting to recommend persons who could serve. Church World Service is the humanitarian and relief agency of the communions that are members of the NCC. 

The Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, who proposed the formation of the commission, noted that millions of hurricane victims "were left behind, not by the rapture but by the rupture of the social contract." 

Hoyt said he was also mindful of the hidden human tragedy of Katrina, including the alarming number of suicides of rescue workers and "people who lost everything." The board received for a second reading a resolution on "Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Support," which will be passed on to the NCC General Assembly for approval. The General Assembly meets November 8-10, 2005, in Hunt Valley, Md. 

The resolution on suicide prevention urges member communions to "study and address the issues related to suicide prevention, intervention and support for those who attempt suicide and survivors of suicide loss." 

The first National Conference for Survivors of Suicide Attempt and Healthcare Professionals will be held October 19-21, 2005, in the Marriott Downtown hotel, Memphis, Tenn., with singer Judy Collins acting as national honorary chairperson. Collins also hosted a National Council of Churches TV special, The Fierce Goodbye,  produced for NBC affiliates and broadcast last May. The special explored Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Greek Orthodox perspectives and psychologists' and counselors' views. 

In other actions, the Governing Board welcomed the official launch of the NCC's new curriculum, "For the Peace of the World, A Christian Curriculum on International Relations." Introduced by Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, associate general secretary of the NCC for International Affairs who edited the work, the study book will be available through the Council's publishing arm, Friendship Press. 

Based on extensive field testing in local church settings, Dr. Peggy L. Shriver developed the curriculum following consultation with communion heads and other church leaders. Dr. Janice Love wrote the lead essay. Other contributors include Kireopoulos, Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, and the Rev. Dr. William H. Hopper, Jr.

The Governing Board heard a report from Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, deputy general secretary of the NCC for Research and Planning, on the preparation of a policy on human biotechnologies, "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made." The policy, which will be presented to the NCC General Assembly for a first reading in November, is already receiving accolades from experts. Dr. Larry Rasmussen, a retired ethics professor and member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the curriculum "demands our attention just when our attention is riveted elsewhere by the devastation of war and hurricanes. Yet present and future generations will be profoundly affected -- directly -- by the quiet, behind-the-scenes development ... of vigorous biotechnologies." 

The Governing Board also voted to pass on to the General Assembly a resolution to reaffirm provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; a resolution on Civil and Religious Liberties that offers a theological foundation for balancing those liberties with the need to protect the nation from terrorist attacks; and a Bill of Media Rights that reaffirms that the public owns the airwaves and has a right to expect local stations will respond effectively to community needs. 

The board also discussed the withdrawal this summer of the Antiochian Orthodox Church from NCC membership. 

Bishop Hoyt sent a letter to H.E. Metropolitan Philip Saliba expressing regret at the action, and asking for a meeting with the Metropolitan "in the near future." 

"We do not always agree," Hoyt wrote the church leader September 27, "and we are reminded that our Bylaws state clearly that the Council has no authority to prescribe common creeds or beliefs for member communions." 

The National Council of Churches is composed of 35 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and peace communions representing 45 million Christians in 100,000 local congregations in the United States. 

Contact NCC News: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252


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