NCCC Pulpit Call on Race Relations Sunday

November 15, 1961

NEW YORK, N.Y. Nov. 15 -- A nation-wide pulpit call will be sounded on Race Relations Sunday, next Feb. 11, to "support laws to further justice and freedom in the rights of full citizenship, education, employment and residence.”

"Above all,” says the message for the Day sponsored by the National Council of Churches, "we who profess to be disciples of Christ have something even more essential to contribute to race relations -- the commandment of Christ to love one another as He loves us."

The 1,000-word message will be read from the pulpits of many local churches related to the National Council through the 33 Protestant and Eastern Orthodox denominations that are Council members. It was prepared this year for the 39th annual observance of Race Relations Sunday by the Rev. Dr. Roswell P. Barnes, New York, executive secretary of the United States Conference of the World Council of Churches.

Based on the scripture passage of John 13:34-35  ("By this shall all men know me) the message goes on to point out that although the ideas a person holds about race relations are important, they are not enough to characterize him as a Christian. Any person with a lively concern for justice may have valid ideas about race.

"If a person is a disciple of Christ he goes beyond justice – he loves. He loves all of God's children for whom Christ died. Justice is inextricably involved in such love,” the message states.

It is not enough for a church to conform to the best practices in the society around it, the message further says, urging that if a church must be faithful to its calling regardless of what others may think or do.

"We must witness to the oneness of God's family through our churches and in our communities. Only then can justice, freedom and human dignity become manifest through love in our world.”

Appended to the message is a set of suggestions and resources for action prepared by the National Council's Department of Racial and Cultural Relations.

The suggestions are addressed to local church groups, pointing out what community action can be taken to bring about desegregation and integration of public schools, full employment opportunities for all in a community, the elimination of segregation on public transportation, and by opening membership rolls to all people regardless of race.

Observance of Race Relations Sunday was begun interdenominationally in February, 1923 and from this beginning has widened in the succeeding 39 years to include the 33 denominations now constituent to the sponsoring National Council of Churches.