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Friday
Apr222016

EARTH DAY PRAYER

 In honor of Earth Day, a prayer of confession from Creation Justice Ministries’ Earth Day Worship Resources for 2015, “Have You Anything Here to Eat: Sustainable Food in a Changing Climate"

Gracious God, We have taken the fruits of your creation and your merciful abundance for granted. We have uttered prayers of thanksgiving without true gratitude.

        Meanwhile, we have failed to recognize the suffering of the earth and of the people who have produced our food. Ignoring our con­nection to the rest of your creation as we reap nourishment, we move further away from your vision of your beloved community.
        Forgive us, O God, and transform us. Open us to the richness and beauty in connecting our food—at the Lord’s Table and at our individual tables—to all the natural and human resources who have brought it to those tables.
        Help us give thanks not just for our food but for all those who have brought it before us and to work that they might also flourish.
        Encourage us to work for justice for all, so that all may give you thanks and be fed. In Christ Jesus we pray, Amen.

 

Friday
Apr152016

For those lost in the system…

April 15, 2016 - letter to our congregations

Dear Christian Sisters and Brothers,

As you are aware, our state administration has begun the process of dismantling the kynect system for applying for health insurance, or diskynecting as some have penned it. At the same time, a new system, called benefind, has been rolled out that will be used to replace the Medicaid enrollment side of kynect. 

Whether you agree with this move or not, I want to draw your attention to an urgent situation the transition is causing. At least 63,000 participants have lost their benefits, or have had them put on hold because of glitches in the systems. Though the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services is working hard to fix the problems, there is a huge backlog. We have heard stories of critically ill patients not being able to get treatment because their Medicaid payments have been halted, and families who have lost their SNAP and TANF benefits.

Churches have always been on the forefront of caring for people in crisis. I am writing to you let you know that you may get more requests for assistance during this transition time, and to encourage you to reach out to persons adversely affected by the move from kynect to benefind. Check with your vulnerable parishioners and folks in the communities surrounding your church to be sure they have what they need until they are back in the system and getting their benefits.

My prayer is that by working together we can help those with the most need get through this time of confusion, disappointment, and pain. This tragedy is also an opportunity for congregations to reach out and be the healing presence of Christ in their communities and across the Commonwealth.

Thank you for your ministry and mission – for being the Body of Christ in and for a hurting world.

Peace be with you,

Rev. Dr. Peggy Cecil Hinds

Interim Executive Director

Monday
Apr112016

White House Launches the Fair Chance Business Pledge

From THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 11, 2016

FACT SHEET: White House Launches the Fair Chance Business Pledge

“Now, a lot of time, [a] record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society -- even if you’ve already paid your debt to society.  It means millions of Americans have difficulty even getting their foot in the door to try to get a job much less actually hang on to that job.  That's bad for not only those individuals, it's bad for our economy.  It’s bad for the communities that desperately need more role models who are gainfully employed.  So we’ve got to make sure Americans who’ve paid their debt to society can earn their second chance. 

– President Barack Obama, Rutgers University, November 2, 2015

 

Today at the White House, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and other White House officials hosted 19 companies from across the American economy who are standing with the Obama Administration as founding pledge takers to launch the Fair Chance Business Pledge. The pledge represents a call-to-action for all members of the private sector to improve their communities by eliminating barriers for those with a criminal record and creating a pathway for a second chance.

Companies signing the pledge today include: American Airlines, Busboys and Poets, The Coca-Cola Company, Facebook, Georgia Pacific, Google, Greyston Bakery, The Hershey Company, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, Koch Industries, Libra Group, PepsiCo, Prudential, Starbucks, Uber, Under Amour/Plank Industries, Unilever and Xerox.

Right now, there are approximately 2.2 million Americans behind bars. The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, and 25 percent of its inmates.  Each year, more than 600,000 inmates are released from federal and state prisons, and another 11.4 million individuals cycle through local jails. Around 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record — almost one in three Americans of working age.  

Too often, that record disqualifies individuals from being a full participant in their communities — even if they’ve already paid their debt to society. As a result, millions of Americans have difficulty finding employment. 

Since President Obama took office, this Administration has been committed to reforming America's criminal justice system. Last summer, the President spoke about the importance of reducing barriers facing people who have been in contact with the criminal justice system and are trying to put their lives back on track. He then became the first President to visit a federal prison where he sat down with individuals who would be returning to their communities. In November, he visited with formerly incarcerated individuals and emphasized that a smarter approach to reducing crime and enhancing public safety must begin with investing in all of our communities.  He also announcednew efforts by this Administration to help formerly incarcerated individuals to rehabilitate and reintegrate back into their communities, including an upcoming rule from the Office of Personnel Management that will “ban the box,” delaying inquiries into criminal history until later in the federal hiring process.

Building on these efforts, the White House issued a challenge to businesses to take on the Fair Chance Business Pledge. A broad array of businesses have come together to support the reforms needed to bring about this change. 

By signing the Fair Chance Business Pledge, these companies are:     

·         Voicing strong support for economic opportunity for all, including the approximately 70 million Americans who have some form of a criminal record.

·         Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to take action to reduce barriers to a fair shot at a second chance, including practices like“banning the box” by delaying criminal history questions until later in the hiring process; ensuring that information regarding an applicant’s criminal record is considered in proper context; and engaging in hiring practices that do not unnecessarily place jobs out of reach for those with criminal records.

·         Setting an example for their peers. Today’s announcement is only the beginning. Later this year, the Obama Administration will release a second round of pledges, with a goal of mobilizing more companies and organizations to join the Fair Chance Business Pledge.

Companies and organizations interested in joining the Fair Chance Business Pledge can so do by signing up HERE.

Building on today’s announcement, in the coming weeks, the White House and the Department of Justice will host events in Washington, D.C. and across the country to amplify leaders taking steps to provide fair chance opportunities:

·         The Justice Department has designated the week of April 24-30, 2016, as National Reentry Week and is coordinating reentry events across the country – from job fairs, to practice interviews, to mentorship programs, to events for children of incarcerated parents – designed to help prepare inmates for release. To learn more, click HERE.

·         In the coming weeks, the White House will host a Champions of Change event to honor individuals expanding fair chance opportunities. The event will highlight local leaders and programs that are improving their communities by partnering with the philanthropic and private sectors to help those who have been incarcerated rehabilitate and reintegrate. To learn more, click HERE.

*           *           *

THE FAIR CHANCE BUSINESS PLEDGE

We applaud the growing number of public and private sector organizations nationwide who are taking action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. When around 70 million Americans – nearly one in three adults – have a criminal record, it is important to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these individuals from gaining access to employment, training, education and other basic tools required for success in life. We are committed to providing individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to participate in the American economy.

These companies put forth their pledges as follows:

AMERICAN AIRLINES: At American Airlines, our employees are the source of our success, with a clear connection between the quality of our team and the quality of the experience we can provide our customers. American is working hard to recruit, develop, retain and engage the very best people – those with unique perspectives and ways of thinking that will position us as a global leader – while recognizing the importance, in appropriate circumstances, of giving people a second chance.

To ensure we aren’t removing qualified individuals from employment consideration, we have banned the box and we don’t ask criminal history questions until someone accepts an offer. We are also conducting consistent, reliable, and fair-minded background checks as part of our hiring process.

We commend the Administration and applaud the many corporations and organizations that are taking similar actions to give all Americans a fair chance to succeed and enjoy everything our country has to offer. American Airlines is proud to take the Fair Chance Business Pledge.

THE COCA-COLA COMPANY: Fair chance policies and programs not only enhance the likelihood of success for the more than 600,000 individuals who are released annually from state and federal prisons – they also help to reknit families and rebuild communities. For these and other reasons as outlined below, The Coca-Cola Company is pleased to join the Fair Chance Business Pledge as a signatory.

The Coca-Cola Company has a long-standing commitment to equal opportunity. This spans our employment practices and development of existing employees. We are dedicated to maintaining workplaces that are free from discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, veteran status, genetic information, citizenship status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, or any other reason prohibited by law. The basis for recruitment, hiring, placement, training, compensation and advancement at the Company is qualifications, performance, skills and experience.

We are particularly proud to share that The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Refreshments do not engage in background screening related to criminal history until after a decision to hire has been made. When there is a successful applicant who has a criminal history, our talent acquisition team has in place a process to review the relevancy of the history to make an informed decision. We recognize that creating a pathway for a second chance is an important first step in creating successful, sustained re-entry into mainstream society. 

FACEBOOK: Facebook is a vocal supporter of equality and we are proud to stand with a growing number of companies who have chosen to ban the box. We strongly oppose hiring practices that discriminate against qualified applicants on the basis of criminal record.

Recently, Facebook collaborated with the California Department of Justice on the agency’s OpenJustice initiative, a program that promotes transparency in the criminal justice system to strengthen the public trust, enhance government accountability, and inform public policy development. 

Signing the Fair Chance Hiring pledge allows us to reaffirm our commitment to find ways that our company can create opportunities for all to succeed. And we encourage other organizations and employers to do the same.

GOOGLE: Google has banned the box in its hiring process since 2011. In the last year alone, Google has advanced racial justice and criminal justice reform with grants to organizations and leaders totaling over $5 million. Google will continue its commitment to criminal justice reform and creating opportunities for formerly incarcerated Americans by:

·         Convening other leading technology companies to recruit more companies to ban the box and go beyond the box to support formerly incarcerated Americans re-entering the job market.

·         Conducting listening sessions with criminal justice organizations and formerly incarcerated leaders to understand what specific supports are needed and consider how Google products can be used to raise awareness of the issue of mass incarceration in America.

·         Hosting a series of regional forums on criminal justice reform with formerly incarcerated women and men.

GREYSTON BAKERY: As part of our Fair Chance Pledge, we commit to:

·         Banning the Box - by delaying criminal history questions until later in the hiring process, or not asking them at all and giving individuals a chance to prove themselves through hard work regardless of background;

·         Training human resources staff on making fair decisions regarding applicants with criminal records, and other employment barriers, and reporting data on the number of applicants through Open Hiring;

·         Ensuring jobs, internships, apprenticeships, and regular and progressive job trainings are available to individuals with criminal records and other employment barriers;

·         Keeping an open door policy for Open Hiring for anyone to sign up for a chance at a job, when one becomes available; in the meantime, accessing workforce development trainings for employment readiness;

·         Providing mentorship and “soft-skills” support once on the job to ensure retention and readiness, particularly through the apprenticeship/internship period;

·         Supporting with placement to area employers from workforce development training programs whenever possible, through matching services and providing trainings in demand;

·         Providing key worker benefits past the apprenticeship period including: subsidized childcare, access to lower-cost nutritious food, and access to affordable housing, to address the highest risk factors of low-income workers and previously incarcerated individuals in sustaining employment;

·         Working to provide a “living wage” to all our workers in addition to subsidized worker benefits, to help those with employment barriers sustainably break the cycle of poverty.

Greyston also takes action in our local community of Yonkers, NY by supporting other employers in considering Open Hiring in their businesses, de-risking fair chance employment for them by investing in workforce development and job training programs, to increase overall regional employability and job readiness, including in “soft skills” such as literacy and numeracy, mentorship, etc.

Greyston also provides other community programs such as an early childcare center, community gardens, and housing supports for both worker benefit as well as community health and well-being, to truly contribute to sustained Fair Chance employment.

THE JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL AND HEALTH SYSTEM: The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System’s (JHHS) practice of providing access and opportunity to the returning citizens of Baltimore is not a charitable endeavor, but a strategic part of the way we conduct our business.  We are not just an organization that conducts business in Baltimore, but an integral part of the community — interwoven and connected for 126 years and counting. 

When Mr. Hopkins endowed the Hospital, he recognized that the service we provide can only have a positive lasting impact if all members of the community are a part of JHHS mission. We have made sure to keep Mr. Hopkins’ directives, which in many ways mirror the Fair Chance Business Pledge, at the forefront of all that we do. This is evidenced in our hiring practice, which embraces our community's citizens who meet our hiring requirements — including returning citizens.

We have banned the box in our hiring process and have an established practice of individually reviewing applicants that have criminal background. This thoughtful, detailed process has enabled us to have a strong returning citizen hire rate over the years.

Our long standing partnerships with community based partners, particularly those that serve returning citizens, and understand our organization and the work we do, provides us with a pipeline of talented applicants. We share our practices with other Baltimore City companies and encourage dialogue on the importance of engaging all of our citizens in the employment process.

Lastly, our organizations unwavering commitment to Baltimore City and Maryland is reflected in our Institution’s leadership, managerial and supervisory staff, who understand that we have a lot of talented people in our community. We recognize that we cannot afford to let good talent get away — especially talent that might need a second chance.

KOCH INDUSTRIES AND GEORGIA PACIFIC:  Koch Industries and Georgia-Pacific support the Fair Chance Business Pledge and applaud the leadership of the White House on this critically important issue. The Pledge is consistent with Koch and Georgia-Pacific’s mission to help people improve their lives and remove barriers to opportunity for all Americans, especially the least advantaged. 

We believe that we shouldn’t be rejecting people at the very start of the hiring process who may otherwise be capable and qualified, and want an opportunity to work hard. 

LIBRA GROUP:  The Libra Group believes strongly in the twin values of hope and opportunity. Investing in the community isn’t just a matter of ‘paying back’ with the fruits of commerce; it is good business in its own right. A community with hope and opportunity is one better equipped to contribute in tomorrow’s world. Part of our responsibility in running an international business is to actively give something back. We do this through a series of 10 managed programs and initiatives which are broadly linked to the themes of community support and assisting people who have been denied or have limited opportunity, including the formerly incarcerated. Some of these initiatives include:

·         Drive Change: Libra Group supports Drive Change and its mission to use the food truck workplace to run a 1-year Fellowship for young people returning home from prison so they can obtain preferred employment and educational opportunities. Our monetary and in-kind support, in the form of essential skills trainings have allowed Drive Change to:

o   Hire a part-time “Truck Coach” who will empower the young people in the program to gain the most from their entire Drive Change experience;

o   Host hospitality trainings to make sure the Fellows are receiving quality instruction that can drive their future career opportunities;

o   Support instructors in developing courses in work-place readiness, social media, marketing, money management and small business development;

o   Provide management training for Executive Staff.

·         Defy Ventures: Libra Group provides funding to Defy Ventures to support its mission of harnessing the natural talents of formerly incarcerated individuals and redirecting them towards the creation of profitable and legal business ventures. 

·         Libra Internship Program: Libra Group Internships are a unique opportunity for bright, talented young people with proven leadership potential to undertake a paid placement of up to six months’ duration with the Libra Group and its subsidiaries around the world. We work with organizations such as LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America), SEO, Prep for Prep, Harlem Children’s Zone, Miami Dade College, Olivier Scholars and CUNY, who are dedicated to provide educational opportunities to students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Through Libra’s Internship Program, we support the children of formerly incarcerated parents. We have hosted a number of students who have grown up with either one or both parents in the criminal justice system.

PEPSICO: We all have a vested interest in creating conditions that allow individuals with criminal convictions to succeed. Finding a job is often one of the biggest barriers to a second chance; that's why PepsiCo is proud to sign the Fair Chance Business Pledge. A fair chance at a good job significantly increases an individual's chances of successfully re-entering society while strengthening the communities we all share.

We already “ban the box” by eliminating criminal history questions on our employment applications and delaying a background check until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.  In cases of a criminal background, we individually review each case to understand the relevancy of the conviction, time passed, evidence of rehabilitation and other factors. All candidates have the opportunity to tell their unique story and will not be eliminated from consideration based solely on the fact of a criminal conviction. 

PepsiCo has a long history of promoting equal opportunity.  We evaluate current and prospective employees solely on their qualifications, experience and performance – and we have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.

We will continue our efforts to create opportunities for formerly incarcerated Americans by working with community partners to provide job readiness training and support, such as Stanford Law School's Justice Advocacy Project, an effort to assist individuals with navigating the challenges of reentry.

PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL: Prudential Financial is proud to take the White House Fair Chance Business Pledge, building upon our long-standing commitment to equal opportunity. Our efforts to date have focused on establishing internal policies and supporting programs that rebuild communities and provide second chances to individuals and families.

Internally, Prudential is committed to inclusive hiring practices when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best talent. We post our open roles publicly and do not inquire about an individual’s criminal history until after an offer of employment is extended. If it is revealed that a candidate does have a criminal record, that does not in and of itself necessarily disqualify him/her.

Additionally, Prudential has provided nearly $50 million to support fair chance hiring policies by investing in businesses and organizations who have demonstrated a commitment to inclusive hiring practices. These practices include assisting individuals with criminal backgrounds through workforce training, which includes occupational skills training and workplace soft skills training, so that they can successfully re-enter the workforce.

STARBUCKS: Starbucks continues to encourage its partners (employees) and others to recognize the choices we, as organizations and as citizens, can each can make every day to see a different story for America. The Company believes that equal access to opportunities, for those willing to work hard and play fair, continues to be the promise of our country.  In many ways, Starbucks is demonstrating responsible, compassionate ways to provide more individuals a second chance:   

·         Ban the Box: Starbucks does not inquire about criminal histories on initial job applications and runs background checks only after a conditional offer of employment. The intent is to provide applicants with a criminal history the chance to be evaluated as a whole person by having their circumstances considered on a case-by-case basis.

·         Access to Opportunity: In partnership with like-minded organizations, Starbucks has come up with creative solutions to open doors for transitioning veterans, aspiring students seeking debt-free college degrees, and Opportunity Youth- 16-24 year olds who face systemic barriers to jobs and education. 

·         100,000 Opportunities Initiative:  Supported by many of the country’s youth and opportunity-focused nonprofit organizations, local governments, and participating funders, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is an employer led coalition of over 30 companies committed to engaging at least 100,000 opportunity youth by 2018 through experiential job fairs, apprenticeships, internships, and both part-time and full-time jobs.  Since August, Starbucks has already hired over 7,000 opportunity youth, and plans to host its next hiring fair in its hometown of Seattle in May.

UBER: Providing economic opportunities to those with certain offenses on their records is a way for Uber to help reentering citizens find a way to earn a living. Driving for the Uber platform is a great option for someone looking to get back on their feet: it’s easy to get started and completely flexible.

We believe that the right path forward is to tailor our driver screening process to focus on issues that are directly relevant to providing a safe and reliable ride. We also conduct a transparent, up-to-date, and fair assessment of who should be on the Uber platform and who shouldn’t. This ensures rider safety without excluding people who deserve a fair shot at work opportunities.

To that end, in California—where more than 100,000 people drive with Uber—we’ve committed to:

·         Notifying people who don’t pass Uber’s pre-screening process that they could be eligible for getting felonies on their records adjusted under Proposition 47 (which they only have until November 2017 to do) and pointing them to resources to help them do that.

·         Aligning our pre-screening process with Proposition 47 to give people with low-level, nonviolent convictions on their records the same economic opportunities as everyone else.

·         Referring people who still don’t qualify to Defy Ventures to get work and entrepreneurship training as well as mentoring and job placement assistance.

We look forward to making similar commitments across the country, and we’re pleased that already, our technology and our background check processes—which include screening through national, state, and local databases—are reliable and accurate without unnecessarily discriminating against minorities as fingerprint-based checks do. We’re excited to continue working with community groups and reentry organizations across the country to explore ways our policies and technology can make our screening process fair for everyone.

UNDER ARMOUR AND PLANK INDUSTRIES:  Under Amour and Plank Industries want to commend the Administration for their leadership in promoting the Fair Business Pledge with employers across this country and we are proud to take the pledge across all of our businesses. This initiative serves as an important reminder that while we all seek to improve our economy and create jobs, we must also consider the barriers that prevent qualified individuals from joining the workforce.

Under Armour comes from very humble beginnings in Baltimore, Maryland. Today, we are a global brand in performance footwear, apparel and technology with nearly $4 billion in annual revenue employing 12,000 teammates in 28 offices across 18 countries. Baltimore is home to Under Armour, and as we grow, so will the opportunities in this great city.

While Under Armour continues to be a catalyst for economic activity in Baltimore, we believe there is even more we can do to grow the economy. Taking the Fair Business Pledge is just one example of how we can make our hiring practices more inclusive for some in our community. Through the Blocal initiative, we have also pledged to work with other business leaders in Baltimore to promote locally owned businesses, hire more from the local community, buy from local suppliers and continue to give back to our local communities.

As leaders in business, we all focus on creating economic opportunity. As leaders in our community, we should also consider how everyone can participate in the opportunities we create.

UNILEVER: Through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever is committed to enhancing livelihoods and creating a brighter future for all. We believe that businesses like ours can and should play an important role in generating wealth and jobs around the world, improving skills and offering access to markets. Fairness in the workplace is about respecting the rights of all those who work with us. Furthermore, business can only truly flourish in societies and economies where human rights are respected and upheld. 

Several years ago, Unilever was one of the first companies to implement the “banning the box” policy, meaning that we no longer ask applicants to declare a criminal record prior to being invited to interview for a position. More recently, we decided that we will not conduct criminal background checks until a contingent offer has been made to a potential applicant. By taking these actions, Unilever is proud to be a signatory of the Fair Chance Business Pledge. We are committed to providing equal opportunities to individuals with criminal records a fair chance to participate in the American economy.

XEROX:  Xerox is proud to join other corporate leaders in “banning the box.” Xerox is committed to fostering an environment where everyone can contribute and succeed at every level of the corporation.

Our outreach into diverse and broad employment markets for qualified individuals results in hiring our talented workforce and allows us to build and maintain an inclusive corporate culture. We strive continually to strengthen our work environment on an ongoing basis by valuing employees with different backgrounds and perspectives.

 

Friday
Apr012016

Felony expungement bill heading to governor’s desk

From Legislative Research Center enews

Legislation that would allow those convicted of low-level felonies to ask the court to permanently seal—or expunge—their records is on its way to becoming law.

House Bill 40, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, and Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, received final passage today in the House by a vote of 84-13 and will now go to the governor for his signature. The bill includes provisions from Senate Bill 298 that were added to the bill by the Senate when it passed HB 40 by a vote of 33-5 on March 29.

“House Bill 40 is about redemption,” Owens said about HB 40 when it passed the House in January. “It’s about second chances.”

HB 40 would allow those convicted of a Class D felony under any of 61 specific criminal statutes, or who were charged but not formally indicted of a felony, to seek expungement of that conviction or charge five years after they have completed their sentences or probation. Those convicted of a sex crime, a crime against a child, or who have criminal proceedings or violations pending would not be eligible for expungement under the bill.

Courts would also have the discretion under the bill to expunge Class D felonies of those with previous Class D felony convictions unless the previous conviction was for a sex offense, a crime against a child, or if there is a criminal proceeding or violation pending against the individual. 

Kentucky law currently allows for expungement of misdemeanors and violations. Those are lesser crimes than felonies which include offenses like shoplifting, bad check writing, and driving on a suspended license.

Wednesday
Mar302016

A Letter from our Board President

Dear Friend of the Kentucky Council of Churches:

No doubt this traditional Easter affirmation and response is echoing in your mind and heart these days.  It is the essence of our hope in Christ, as well as the foundation of our calling to proclaim the good news everywhere.  We spread that good news through our individual relationships with others, through the ministries of our various congregations, and through our efforts to do justice in the world.  The KCC is an ever-present resource in that gospel proclamation:

ð  Bearing witness through advocacy during the legislative session and other occasions as legislators make decisions that directly affect the lives of all Kentuckians.  As of this writing, your representatives are active in Frankfort advocating for common sense criminal justice reform, abolishment of the death penalty, responsible lending practices, and affordable, accessible healthcare. Legislators call on us when they want broad Christian support, and they listen to us when we are united in social witness. In March, we helped get four bills passed in the House – HB412 on criminal justice reform, HB40 on expungement (passed the Senate since this writing), and HB5 and 6 to maintain funding for healthcare and Medicaid expansion. These were small, but important victories. We also advocated against bills that would allow for predatory lending and discriminatory business practices.

ð  Providing opportunities for us to make acquaintance, share fellowship, and encourage each other through informal gatherings of judicatory executives, committees and commissions working together on issues ranging from ecumenical formation to creation care, and through the fellowship, learning, and inspiration of our annual assemblies. In February we held a special judicatory leader gathering to foster community among our leaders, to discuss social justice issues facing our state, and to learn what issues are most pressing to our denominations. We plan to have another such gathering later this year.

ð  Strengthening congregational leadership and ecumenical understanding through our Annual Assemblies.  Last October’s Assembly at the Nazareth Retreat Center in Bardstown focused on interfaith understanding and cooperation, a most timely topic these days. One participant wrote, “I found this to be an excellent foundation for involving a congregation in more robust interfaith work.  Additionally, I am thankful for an excellent workshop on community interfaith relationships, in which participants received practical tools and suggestions for how to begin the work of interfaith dialogue.”

ð  Assisting other organizations and networks to accomplish their goals. We are providing local support for the National Workshop on Christian Unity, which is meeting in Louisville in April. We are founding members of a new coalition, Kentucky Smart on Crime, and we are considering membership in another organization focusing on economic policy.

Simply put, our ministry together through the Kentucky Council of Churches is an invaluable means for us to proclaim the good news of the Risen Christ in word and deed.

This is our first Friends letter of 2016, and again this year the Council invites you to be a part of this vital ministry.  Your donation makes it possible for KCC to accomplish its goals of promoting Christian unity and advocating for justice and equity. I hope you will take this opportunity to continue, renew, or begin your support of the KCC with a generous gift!

 In addition to your immediate contribution to support the KCC, consider making a legacy gift to the KCC’s permanent endowment and/or including the KCC in your estate planning.  Legacy and estate gifts help insure the Council’s ongoing life into the future.  Contact the Council office (859-269-7715) for information about legacy and estate gifts.

 Finally, while I am writing, allow me to issue an early invitation to attend this year’s Annual Assembly at the Nazareth Retreat Center, October 20-21, 2016.  Our theme for this year’s Assembly is “Living Justly: connecting personal choice with public responsibility.”  Make plans now to enjoy an engaging program at a beautiful location.  Details will soon be available on the KCC website (www.kentuckycouncilofchurches.org).

Your support of the Kentucky Council of Churches through your prayers, your participation, and your contributions is vital to maintaining the Council’s ecumenical witness to the Risen Christ throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.  We are grateful for that support.                

Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed!

Sincerely, 

 

Gregory Alexander

Executive Board President