Swedenborgian Church Participates in National Council of Church Retreat to Montgomery, AL

May 18, 2022

The National Council of Churches held their governing board retreat in Montgomery, Alabama in May followed a by a board meeting the following week. This meeting was planned with a focus on addressing racism. The Swedenborgian Church was well represented both in the retreat and board meeting.

A tour of the Equal Justice Legacy Museum and memorial to victims of lynching were part of the event. The museum is both outstanding in its use of cutting-edge technology and presentation to tell the story of slavery through mass incarceration. At the same time, it is overwhelming sad and, at times, deeply depressing. As our faith teaches, sin needs to be fully seen to be addressed, the museum provides an excellent space to focus on that. I would highly recommend a visit as one of the best museums of history I’ve been to.

The board retreat was well facilitated and focused on racism in the church and on the council. It was probably one of the most honest discussions I’ve experienced on my nine years representing our denomination. As a board we’ve developed great fellowship and I particularly enjoyed our worship time together. The sermons by our board chair and new president were high points in the time together.

The following week, the NCC gather in a business meeting to make some major changes that we’ve been working for some time.

The NCC is proud to announce that is has hired a new President, General Secretary in the person of Bishop Vashti McKenzie who had recently retired from the AME church. She has agreed to take on this interim role for two years. I had a chance to get to know her better and I’m very excited by her combination of business acumen and spiritual compassion-love and truth. You can learn more details about her HERE.

Last year, the NCC elected its first all-female executive board, and the new board chair is Board Chair, Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, who is also the Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. She has inherited a host of administrative challenges that appear to facing all faith communities and she’s navigated through them impressively. Keep her in your prayers. She praised the hire of the new President saying:

“The National Council of Churches is blessed to have Bishop McKenzie in this key leadership role. She brings the necessary insight, expertise, and ecumenical commitment to the Council” said Board Chair, Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, who is also the Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

It’s quite a statement that the NCC now has two African American women leaders. You can only imagine what these two women have done to attain their leadership positions and the NCC is blessed to have them on board.

There isn’t a meeting where someone doesn’t ask about our church and what we believe and do. We are far below in membership compared to our partners, but we are deeply involved and participatory. In my nine years we’ve never missed a meeting.

As NCC moves forward, I’ve been asked to chair the bylaws committee and draft up a new document that better represents our current time and needs. I’m grateful that our church has asked me to represent us and I believe the time invested in this type of ecumenical work is important and our denomination uniquely can play a leadership role in respecting all faith paths.

If any churches have questions about the business or work to combat racism at the NCC, please contact me for more details.

By Reverend Tafel