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NCC Governing Board presses call for immigration reform

New York, September 22, 2010 -- For the second time in two years, the National Council of Churches Governing Board has issued a call to government officials and church leaders to take action on "comprehensive immigration reform."

The first resolution, issued in September 2008, expressed support for legislation to reform the nation's immigration system and for local congregations in national and local advocacy for immigrants and their families. The 2008 resolution was also endorsed by the board of Church World Service (CWS) and adopted by the NCC/CWS General Assembly in November 2008.

The current resolution, "A Call to Action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform," was issued in response to SB 1070, the Arizona law intended to mandate local police to determine the nationality of persons they detain, which many fear would lead to racial profiling by police, social service providers and members of the community.

"Since the enactment of this harsh legislation in Arizona," the resolution reports, "faith leaders from around the country traveled together to that state to stand in solidarity with immigrants and return to their communities with first hand accounts of the fear that is plaguing the immigrant community."

Noting the "terror and fear" in immigrant communities caused by the Arizona law, and the threat of similar legislation in two dozen states across the country, the Governing Board declared "as persons of faith ... we must recommit ourselves to stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters, our neighbors, to do all we can to enact immigration reform."

The board's statement committed members "to engage national, state and local legislatures to voice our opposition to Arizona's anti-immigrant SB 1070 and similar laws that have been introduced in more than 22 states."

"Moreover, we commit ourselves to help educate our communities about the dangerous consequences such laws have on our nation and local communities, and we commit to one another to join in prayer and advocacy for those who are harmed by unjust legislation as well as for those who are working to overturn it."

The resolution called on the president and Congress "to recommit themselves to the comprehensive, effective and humane reform of immigration laws and enforcement structures" and called upon member communions and "millions of faithful Christians who worship in our churches to actively engage national, state and local legislatures to insist on comprehensive immigration reform at every level."

The resolution was adopted by unanimous voice vote during the Governing Board's two day meeting near the Newark, N.J., Airport September 20-21.

The resolution was presented via telephone hook-up by the NCC's Immigration Task Force: David A. Leslie, executive director of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon; Jen Smyers, Church World Service; and Jan Olav Flaaten, executive director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council.

Read the full text of the resolution here.

A resolution on the war in Afghanistan was returned to the NCC Justice and Advocacy Commission for revision after several substantive revisions were requested by board members. The Afghanistan resolution will be resubmitted to the board for action at its November 9 meeting in New Orleans.

The meeting of the Governing Board was presided over by the Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, President of the National Council of Churches.

Other items coming before the Governing Board this week included an update on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by Katherine Marshall, a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and Visiting Professor in Georgetown's Government Department.

The UN Summit to review progress for meeting the goals was taking place in New York at the time of the Governing Board meeting. Included in the presentation was an update on how the NCC has actively promoted study of the MDG, and how the goals relate to current programs, such as the fistula campaign. The NCC's study guide is online and available from Friendship Press.

The board also heard a report of the August 21-20 trip by NCC and CWS leaders to Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela to study the plight of millions of displaced persons caused by political violence in Colombia.

Participants included NCC General Secretary Michael Kinnamon and CWS Board chair Bishop Johncy Itty. NCC Secretary Josť Luis Casal, an organizer of the trip, submitted this report.

The board also approved resolutions to merge the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches with the National Council of Churches and heard reports from the Council's program commissions.    

Study papers that will be discussed at the Centennial Gathering of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service November 9-11 in New Orleans were reviewed by board members. The papers include "Christian Understanding of Creation in an Age of Environmental Crisis;" "Christian Understanding of Unity in an Age of Racial Diversity;" and "Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terrorism."                    

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 36 member faith groups -- 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.

NCC photos by Philip E. Jenks 

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell),

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