Eight major African-American denominations met this past week at one of the oldest AME churches in the South, where this summer a white gunman killed the pastor and 8 worshipers in hopes of starting a "race war." The black church leaders came together for the conference in Charleston, South Carolina, to discuss their role on race and reconciliation in the nation.
The Conference of National Black Churches convened at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where on June 17, Dylann Roof, 21, fatally shot the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a Democratic member of the state Senate, and eight other unsuspecting church members while they were holding Bible study, in a hate crime that horrified the nation for its senseless cruelty.
"Mother Emanuel represents the best in America right now," commented Dr. Rodger Reed, a minister at a Washington, D.C.-based AME church, to local media WCBD News 2, about Charleston-based church hosting the CNBC conference. "This is a bad time in the world, and Mother Emanuel represents the coming together of all people over a tragedy at a Bible study."
The three-day conference, entitled "The Healing of our Nation: Race and Reconciliation," began on Tuesday, bringing together the following denominations: African Methodist Episcopal Church, Church of God in Christ, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, National Baptist Convention of America International, National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Progressive National Baptist Convention, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
The conference issued a statement at the end of the three-day event, calling on predominantly black and predominantly white churches in the nation to unite and for African Americans to register and vote in 2016.
"There is a pernicious 'Value Gap' between black and brown lives and the lives of our white brothers and sisters in America that demands an end to the sin of silence, apathy, and cultural co-opting of the contemporary church. The CNBC refuses to betray our legacy of spiritual transformation inextricably connected to social activism. We have throughout our history, and continue to affirm, that Scripture must be viewed through a hermeneutical lens of justice and liberation," the Conference of National Black Churches said in a joint statement.
Dr. W Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the board of directors for the CNBC, said in an interview with The Christian Post that he considers the three-day conference a success, but knows more work needs to be done.
"[R]acial harmony will require participation from the Christian community, and the black church wants to be a part of that," Richardson told CP, adding that the goal of the conference moving forward is to unite churches across the country to combat racism.
CNBC, he shared, plans to implement a "follow-up plan" that includes dialogues on race relations in ten major U.S. cities. And the Coalition encourages congregations throughout the country to reach across the aisle, both ethnically and denominationally, to discuss ways to combat racism through open conversation and worship.
"Let's celebrate each other, let's talk to each other," Richardson urged, adding that the best way to approach racism is to "respond with the authority of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Some topics discussed during the three-day conference included the Black Lives Matter movement, gun violence, mass incarceration, economic inequality, and politics.
The Conference of National Black Churches in a statement said that the purpose of the gathering was to "have convened and consulted, worshiped and worked, prayed and planned, studied and strategized, to develop a consensus on naming racism, confessing the reality of racism's virulent and lingering damage to the humanity of all, and to chart a course of conduct over the next three years to work towards true justice and reconciliation."