Historic African-American denominations call for cross-racial dialogue

Conference of National Black Churches National Consultation.

By Stephen Padre

The Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC) called for the member churches of the eight historically African American denominations, along with sister denominations from predominantly White traditions, to intentionally engage in dialogue, worship, and ministry efforts together as a mechanism for reconciliation and to tear down the lingering vestiges of racism that are pervasive in American society.

The conference issued this call in a statement Dec. 17 at the conclusion of its 2015 National Consultation, “The Healing of our Nation: Race & Reconciliation,” in Charleston, S.C. The statement included sections on economic inequality and mass incarceration, two issues that Bread for the World is working to end as causes of hunger.

“Nationally, over 20% of our children live in poverty,” the statement says. “That number more than doubles in the African American community…Economic disparities based on race and its root causes must be honestly confronted in order to advance a collective goal of equal justice for all. Poverty is an insidious, devastating, and life threatening reality that causes African Americans to disproportionately suffer.”  

Regarding mass incarceration, the statement reads: “It is therefore our mission to identify and dismantle unjust laws and practices that unfairly target minority individuals for the express purpose of economic gain of the perpetrators and architects of this manner of oppression.”

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, national senior associate for pan-African church engagement in Bread’s church relations department, represented Bread at the consultation and spoke to the CNBC’s board of directors about renewed links with Bread that informed their call to action.

“I am pleased to say that a developing renewed partnership is underway with Bread for the World for the purpose of working together on our Vote to End Hunger campaign and to end hunger by 2030,” said Walker-Smith.

Nearly 300 people gathered in Charleston for the consultation, which included speakers who addressed racial hatred, white privilege, poverty, gun violence, mass incarceration, and the criminal justice system as well as racism in the church and the road to reconciliation. Participants engaged in “truth-telling” and honest dialogue about how to root out institutional, individual, and internalized racism.

The CNBC also kicked off a three-year initiative to engage in cross-racial dialogue at the local level in partnership with sister denominations, to work with seminarians to come up with new solutions for ending racism, and to continue to fight the systems that continue to perpetuate racism and inequality for African-Americans.

Stephen Padre is managing editor at Bread for the World. 

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