NCC Annual Meeting Ends with First Policy Statement on Children

The National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS) joint annual gathering in St. Louis MO concluded on Nov. 11 with a call to afford more respect to children – a population they said were given a “three-fourths” value status.

“We have not respected children as we might,” said Anne Tuohy, a member of the Episcopal Church and chair of the NCC’s Committee on Justice for Children and their Families. “This statement is really about values ¾ about valuing children.”

The policy, entitled, “The Church and Children: Visions and Goals for the 21st Century, is the NCC’s first policy statement in regards to children; the policy, which contains 51 goals grouped under seven vision categories, correlate to the NCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence emphasis on protecting women and children around the world. The seven categories are: Faith communities, Family, Education, Safety, Arts, Recreation and Culture, Economic Security and Health.

“This policy is an invitation to think more deeply about how we honor children in our church, our society, our world,” Tuohy said. “It lays a common foundation of Christians working together, taking the best interests of children to heart.”

"This is the first policy statement specifically about 'children.' In the past most of our work on behalf of children has been around specific issues like childcare, health care or public schools," said Anne Tuohy, Chair of the Committee for Justice for Children and Their Families.

In essence, the policy encourages the NCC-related churches to welcome Jesus as did Jesus.

“As God has nurtured the church so too we are to nurture children in the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ — teaching them to know and love the Lord, encouraging their spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit, and tending to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs,” the policy statement read.

“Jesus grew from boyhood to manhood within the shelter and nurture of the community of faith. He taught, healed, proclaimed and welcomed those whom society would toss aside. His teachings, through word and deed, on children rebuked a cultural standard of excluding and devaluing children,” it continued.

The statement, passed unanimously by the delegates, also recognizes the diversity of children’s gifts and needs.

Because “every child is a unique gift from God,” the report stated, churches need to “meet all their basic needs; love, shelter, protect and defend children committed to our care and in our communities; nurture and support families in caring for their children, acting in their children’s best interest, and recognizing and fostering their children’s spirituality and unique gifts; “advocate for the integrity of childhood and the dignity of all children at every level of our religious, civic and political structures”

“When children realize their potential and fulfill their dreams, our communities flourish and all are enriched beyond measure,” the report continued.

Tuohy agreed, saying, “Let us recognize that all children, regardless of economic status, are faced with choices and threats that can be bewildering. Our charge is to nurture children into the faith and teach them the values we live by.”

Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, the NCC's General Secretary, said of the policy statement: "This action reinforces our long-term commitment to children - all children. It is our responsibility to care for all the children in our communities and having this policy makes a bold statement about our continued efforts to fight on their behalf."

Meanwhile, in other business, the NCC awarded several prominent figures for their dedication to civil rights and peace, including the civil rights pioneer Dr. Dorothy Heights, musician Tim Janis, Professor at Eden Theology Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee Baldemar Valesques, and the Mt. Olive Pickle Company’s William Bryan.

The delegates also released an “Action on Dialogue Among U.S. Christians on Christian Values,” and a related “Open Letter,” and reaffirmed the NCC Executive Board’s May 2004 call for urgent intervention to stop the killing in Sudan.

The 2004 NCC-CWS annual meeting followed the theme “Weave Anew” and lasted from Nov. 8-11 in St. Louis.