Voting Rights Sense, in a New Light

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Over and over, we heard North Carolina’s stringent voter identification law, enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2013 over the protests of voting rights advocates, described as simply a “commonsense” measure to deter ballot fraud. We were supposed to ignore the fact that the kind of fraud by impersonation that a voter ID law might prevent has not been a problem in this state, with only a minuscule number of cases coming to light. We were supposed to ignore the difficulty that many residents – elderly, disabled, living in remote…

The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry Elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

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Photo credit: Episcopal News Service We join with our Episcopal brothers and sisters in celebrating the election of the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry as their 27th Presiding Bishop. Those of us in North Carolina have benefited from Michael’s deep faith, his leadership, and his extraordinary skills as a preacher and advocate in his role as Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.  We can only imagine all that he will accomplish for the larger church and will enjoy watching the rest of the world discover what we have come to know. Blessings…

Statement on the Supreme Court’s Same-Gender Marriage Decision

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We celebrate today’s Supreme Court ruling with our gay brothers and sisters who wish to marry and have their marriages recognized nationwide, with denominations and congregations that have authorized and now are affirmed in continuing to perform same-gender marriages, and with the clergy who have sought to officiate these weddings as a matter of faith. At the same time, we recognize that this continues to be a difficult and complex issue for many people of faith. So we would reiterate that this ruling does not force people to change their…

The Leadership of Pope Francis

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern “[Pope] Francis almost makes me want to convert to Catholicism.” This is the sentiment generally expressed by many of my colleagues at Duke Divinity School. Many of us who are not Catholic find refreshing a Pope who is faithfully in touch with so many social justice concerns in such a visible way. He was almost from the outset a popular leader for all Christians in many ways because of his concern for the poor, the marginalized, and those without a voice (including our…

Standin’ in the Need of Prayer

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Raleigh’s Martin Street Baptist Church (historically African-American) and Pullen Memorial Baptist Church (historically white) have a partnership that has extended over more than two decades. It grew out of the personal friendship of former pastors David Forbes and Mahan Siler. Both of them, by the way, have been leaders in the Council over the years, with David preaching at this year’s Legislative Seminar. A call went out on Saturday from Nancy Petty, Pullen’s current pastor, for Pullen folk to go to services at Martin Street on Sunday as a way “to stand in…

Statement on the Supreme Court’s ACA Decision

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The North Carolina Council of Churches celebrates today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.  For decades, the Council has supported universal health care, and while the current version of Obamacare does not reach that ultimate goal, it has proved to be a crucial step forward. We are grateful to the justices of the Supreme Court who have upheld the subsidy guaranteeing 6.4 million Americans — more than 450,000 in North Carolina — continued access to care. Meanwhile, some states, including our own, have chosen to fall even farther…

Scrutiny for Gun Laws, Post-Charleston

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Their timing, as it turned out, was less than impeccable. The gun-rights boosters who are pushing N.C. House Bill 562 ran up against some common-sense objections that resulted in two main elements being stripped from the bill. But more than that, later on the very evening when the bill gained final House passage, the folly of lax firearms regulation was once again illuminated by the monstrous events in Charleston, S.C., where the devil’s brew of guns and racial hatred claimed nine lives. The fate of nine respected and beloved citizens who…

Undocugraduation: Hope to Replace Fear

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern On my way to work one day last week, I listened to WUNC as I usually do. I heard a lot about the state legislature during my drive to Raleigh – about how the Senate budget will cut up to 8,500 teaching assistants jobs and the stories of TAs lobbying Senators to rethink the plan, about how the House plan is much different, but both will leave the state with millions of unused funds, and about Moral Monday protesters naming the injustices of…

Racism and Islamophobia — Local and Global

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern “Islamophobia doesn’t just affect Muslims, it affects a broad range of people,” began Manzoor Cheema, a leader of Muslims for Social Justice and one of the coalition leaders for the newly formed Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI). “The only way to overcome this oppression is to unite in our struggles.” His message was very pertinent to those at Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church recently, where representatives from at least 21 organizations gathered. Those present are actively engaged in efforts to stop…

Evelyn and the Encyclical

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I strongly suspect Sister Evelyn Mattern would have liked Pope Francis. She’d have appreciated his focus on compassion and justice and his unwillingness to be distracted from those issues that defined Jesus’ ministry. She’d have approved of his outreach to the masses of people who suffer in horrible poverty but remain among the most faithful. And I imagine that she would be profoundly grateful for his recently released encyclical which makes it clear that humans must accept their share of the responsibility for climate change. Evelyn, who died in 2003,…

Statement on the Shootings in Charleston

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With people across the world, the North Carolina Council of Churches grieves with the congregation of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. This kind of violence against people of faith in other parts of the world has recently and rightfully been called terrorism. Indeed, the people of Emanuel AME have experienced a terrorist act. Fear and violence invaded their space of grace and hospitality while they were together for the faith filled purpose of prayer and worship. As they welcomed the stranger into their midst, an act of…

Refugees Find Hope in Meeting With Each Other

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By Wayde Marsh, Duke Divinity School Intern Storytelling is a central piece of community organizing because through it you offer your listener a way into your life in an organized format: a challenge you faced, a choice you made, and an outcome. And so, one by one, the diverse collection of people surrounding me offered up their stories: “When I was 12, I was [abused] by nine soldiers in the street and left to die…” “After my father was killed, we had to flee…” “After we fled the civil war,…

Sad Signals on Tolerance, Rule of Law

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Gov. Pat McCrory tried to warn his fellow Republicans who call the tunes in the General Assembly. The rule of law was at stake, McCrory said, and the state would be asking for trouble if it let public officials pick and choose which of their duties they will carry out. His veto stamp thumped down on Senate Bill 2. The governor to his credit wasn’t swayed by the notion that an official should be able to avoid performing a duty because of a “sincerely held religious objection.” Granting that leeway is…

The Pope and Ecology: Shouts from the Highest Steeple

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The excitement is building: for the first time in history, the Pope is issuing an encyclical on the environment… but wait, why is this important? First, the Pope presides over the largest religious body with a single human leader: Catholicism. He is influential. Second, the encyclical is the second most important document the Pope can issue and is the first of its kind to address environmental issues. The letter is a significant event. Along with our Catholic partners and Twitter companions @CatholicEcology, @CatholicClimate, and @CathClimateMvmt we are counting down the…

Project NO REST Needs Your Input to Help Victims of Sex Trafficking

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At the North Carolina Council of Churches, our work is often guided by Isaiah 1:17, which advises,​“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” In my work I often focus on calling people to see the sacred worth in strangers and immigrants and farmworkers in their communities. Farmworkers are often at-risk for labor trafficking due to their immigration status, recruitment debt, isolation, poverty, and the​ lack of strong labor protections. Human trafficking is much broader than just labor trafficking — it can…