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National Council of Churches
New Orleans, Louisiana—May 23, 2006—A Special Commission of the National Council of Churches promises to “speak truth to power” throughout the long and arduous rebuilding effort of this city and the entire Gulf Coast region.
Eight months ago hurricane damage and destruction “took off the mask” of poverty, race, class and gender in the United States. The NCC’s Special Commission will be supporting local ecumenical groups “to advocate for justice in the distribution of resources and services for those impacted by the hurricanes, especially the poor.”
A report was presented to the NCC’s Governing Board today by the Rev. Melvin G. Talbert (right), retired bishop in the United Methodist Church and chair of the Special Commission for a Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.
“We will speak with the moral authority of our member churches,” Bishop Talbert told the Governing Board.
“There are times when we will take the initiative to open the doors that need to be opened,” he said. We will, says the report, “hold fast to our vision of restored communities of love and justice.”
As this city and the region are rebuilt, there is great concern that poor and low income citizens will be ignored or given little consideration as plans are put forward. There is concern that respect for the environment will be overlooked as rebuilding efforts go forward. The Special Commission will speak up and speak out when it will help local groups or congregations in doing the work on the ground.
In his report, Bishop Talbert said it is the “right of all displaced residents to return to a community that offers security, tranquility and stability of opportunity.”
The commission heard from local religious leaders during its two-day meeting here that coincided with the regular quarterly meeting of the NCC’s Governing Board. This city was chosen to bring the witness of the church here as well as learn more about the role of the church in the rebuilding efforts.
The Special Commission was authorized to hire a local coordinator in the region. The staff presence in the region is seen as critical in keeping the voice of the church at the table in the civic dialogue about remaking a city and region that gives voice to the voiceless.
The Governing Board established the commission last September. It was formally established by the NCC General Assembly in November at its annual gathering.
Commission members include representatives of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Armenian Orthodox Church, Episcopal Church Diocese of Louisiana, Moravian Church, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church.
NCC News contacts: Leslie Tune, 202.544.2350; Dan Webster, 212.870.2252
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