Some 70 evangelical black pastors from across California gathered at the Crenshaw Christian center in Los Angeles for the first High Impact Leadership Coalition Marriage and Moral Value Summit, on Tuesday, February 1, 2005. The summit, led by the High Impact Coalitions president Bishop Harry S. Jackson, and the Traditional Values Coalitions president Lou Sheldon, was the first in what is to be a wave of seminars and events that will culminate with a pro-family rally of African American Christians at the nations capitol next year.
Sheldon, the main organizer for the event, began the summit with political rhetoric, encouraging the pastors to let at least twenty percent of their congregants contact lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington to oppose gay marriage.
However, as the summit went on, Sheldon began focusing on the will of God and the natural law of the creator as the main reasons why pastors should lead the fight to protect the family and marriage.
Gods creative order is so necessary. We cannot live with guilt and shame and at the same time think we could have the blessing of God, said Sheldon.
You need to educate your people about where we are standing, he continued. And as the song, Onward Christian Soldiers says, like the mighty army, moves the Church of God.
The four hour summit also featured a documentary, produced by Sheldons Traditional Values Coalition, entitled Gay Rights, Special Rights. The video, which was distributed to all of the attendees, exposed the works of the homosexual lobbyists, who have secretly but effectively been implanting their agenda into our social, political and educational systems for 30 years. The documentary also and surveyed the tensions between the African American civil-rights movement and the gay-rights movement.
After watching the film, Samuel Barlow, a member of the Ontario Christian Center, said he was thankful to have learned so thoroughly about the current crisis facing Christians.
I did not know what the basic agenda was when I first came here, said Barlow. But Im glad Im here because this issue raised here is rather serious it is vital we know about this because it goes against the teachings of the Bible.
Finding out where we are and the kind of trouble we are in, I felt this issue should be brought up to people who are serious about religion, said Barlow. They should stand up for what the Bible teaches.
The summit followed the official launch of the High Impact Coalition, a nationwide effort to unify the voice of evangelical black leaders on six critical issues: the reconstruction of the family, wealth creation in urban areas, education reform, prison reform, healthcare reform and African relief.
The coalitions president Bishop Jackson, a national evangelical Christian leader and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington D.C., explained that the time is ripe for such a movement to take form.
Things are ripe to make a difference, said Jackson. Oprah Winfrey or the next chairman of AOL time Warner is more than likely to be on the pew of African American Churches right now, and these churches are not just the storefront organizations they used to be.
We found there is a need for something to unite this group to let them exercise their clout for the benefit of our church community, said Jackson. We start with the black church, but we hope that the values of the community will also impact other churches as well.
Jackson also explained that both righteousness and justice is needed to lead the African American church community in this critical era.
Historically, weve said that black churches vote their pocket books while the white evangelicals have the privilege to choose values," said Jackson.
However, if you look closely, there has been a justice orientation in the African American vote; It has always been issues that looked like economics in nature, but at the bottom line is social justice that is clearly represented in the Bible, said Jackson. "White churches hold righteousness issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage in priority."
So there hasnt been a competition of values, but more of a difference of focus. We hope to marry righteousness and justice, and trumpet these things all around the country, he continued.
Ultimately, however, Jackson explained that the protection of the family, which includes the effort to protect marriage, is the most important undertaking of the High Impact Coalition.
If you look at all six point, they are tied into the black family issue, said Jackson. Marriage is our number one in priority. Everything else, poverty, prison reform, family recreation, are all related to building stable black families.
The reason, Jackson explained, is because issues regarding the family and moral values are related to the righteousness of God, while other social issues as important as they are are related to justice for the community.
You need to have both the justice and righteousness factor, said Jackson. But in priority, righteousness has to be first since your personal integrity and moment with God becomes a stepping stone to justice. You got to prioritize those things you are personally in step with God, and then move toward creating opportunities for justice.