The following is excerpted from the Church Newsroom. To read the full report, CLICK HERE.
Photo: Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles moderates a panel of members of the New York Commission of Religious Leaders at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Photo credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
When New York state considered legalizing prostitution in 2019, the Rev. Que English already was the head of an anti-human trafficking organization seemingly named for the moment: Not On My Watch, Inc.
She was grateful that Not On My Watch didn’t have to stand alone. By her side were her influential colleagues on the New York Commission of Religious Leaders.
CORL released a joint statement and successfully opposed the proposal. The statement’s signees included the Catholic Archbishop of New York, the pastor of a Christian megachurch in Brooklyn, the executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis and a new member — an area seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We came together as one voice which could not be ignored by government,” the Rev. English said Thursday night at BYU’s Hinckley Center during the final session of the Religious Freedom Annual Review.
CORL also is positively impacting maternal mortality rates, prison reform and food insecurity in and around New York City.
That interfaith collaboration is a model for how religion can make a positive difference, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said as he moderated a panel discussion by CORL members.
The commission’s president and vice president met Thursday with the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ. Presidents Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring presented each with the First Presidency Medallion.
Elder Cook congratulated CORL for “the excellent religious leadership you are providing in New York City. I believe it is an excellent example to many places in this and other countries. You have our love and our appreciation.”
Thursday’s conference included a session on building interfaith alliances and networks to support religious freedom and engage in social causes like hunger, homelessness and criminal justice.
“I liken it to us being trusted messengers in our city with the power to influence for good,” the Rev. English said in an interview with the Deseret News. “It’s one thing to go in as one religion. It’s another thing to go in as interfaith. When interfaith is represented and you have those who are voices already in their individual faith come together under one roof, change is inevitable or impact is inevitable.”
CORL added a Latter-day Saint representative in 2018, Elder David L. Buckner, an area seventy. In his first meeting, he was impressed as he watched the religious leaders discuss New York’s biggest issues and counsel with each other and with city leaders.
“I remember the Rev. Al Sharpton saying something to the effect of, ‘Elder Buckner, we might be in different ships, but we are in the same storm,’” Elder Buckner said. “And it was at that moment that I realized that this table was not only inclusive, but it counseled together.”
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis and vice president of CORL, said the religious leaders can help government find solutions.
“CORL is a very significant organization, a group of respected faith leaders in the city of New York that sit with government officials and has a voice in policy,” he said. “We’re independent. We don’t need government to give us anything. We want to make sure that we can give government the support they need in confronting the challenges of life, whether it’s homelessness, crime — there’s a host of issues; we don’t lack for problems.”
The CORL delegation said the addition of a Latter-day Saint leader has added to its ability to address issues and make an impact.
For example, the Rev. A.R. Bernard, president of CORL and pastor of the Christian Cultural Center Megachurch, said his church was feeding 25,000 people a year before the pandemic increased the need. It is now feeding 100,000 a year, with help from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which also provided volunteer missionary labor to help distribute the goods.
“We have a kindred spirit for service and the kingdom,” said Bishop Victor A. Brown, senior pastor of Mt. Sinai United Christian Church and a member of the College of Bishops of the World Council of Independent Christian Churches.
He said that after Elder Buckner showed an interest in food insecurity, Bishop Brown showed him his church’s food pantry. Elder Buckner arranged a $32,000 gift to purchase a new commercial refrigerator, new shelving and non-perishable goods to stock them.
“We’re excited and I definitely see it as an ongoing partnership,” Bishop Brown said. “I’m just incredibly impressed with what I have seen thus far in terms of the mobilization efforts. It’s as if they’ve covered all the bases. They’ve thought about every need that a person could ever have and said we’re going to put something in place.
“They have truly incarnated the mission of Jesus Christ in terms of being accessible and available to the least of these.”
To read the full report, CLICK HERE