During this chapter in the country’s history, with faith communities across the country focusing on racism and reconciliation, the Conference of National Black Churches forum stands out.
For one thing, in addition to denominations represented in the CNBC, the event will include national leaders in a number of major, mostly white denominations.
It also will take place, starting today, in Charleston, where the national racial narrative changed in June. That is when nine black congregants at Mother Emanuel AME Church were gunned down as they studied the Bible, allegedly by a white man with racist motives, shattering the sense of many black people that their churches were where they could feel safe from oppression.
And while the conference participants will be Christians, many likely with significant theological differences, the common intent is to discuss social justice — and to find ways that diverse Christian churches can agree to promote it.
That’s certainly a worthy mission.
The Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, CNBC chairman, said his organization represents 20 million people in eight denominations. But were it not for CNBC, he says, leaders of those denominations would have little, if any, interaction with one other.
Certainly those leaders have had little, if any, interaction with leaders of predominately white denominations. Individual churches or denominations, he says, can be more effective if they join together.
The conversation will not be easy. It will involve tough subjects like income disparity, health care, voter registration and, more controversially, reparations.
But if things go well, the best ideas will rise to the top as others fall to the wayside.
Mr. Richardson tells us his goal is to come away from the conference with concrete plans for how churches can put their conclusions into action.
One model that is likely to be considered is the successful Charleston Area Justice Ministry, led by the Rev. Nelson Rivers and involving people of different faiths and races who are interested in achieving social justice. Mr. Rivers will participate in the conference.
Mr. Richardson said the conversations could well uncover church doctrine or practices that inadvertently inflame racism, even though Christianity is clear that every person was created in the image of God.
The meeting will feature an ecumenical service open to the public at Emanuel AME Church at 7 tonight. The conference will take place through Dec. 17 at the Charleston Marriott on Lockwood Drive. Participants must register at www.thecnbc.org.
A chilling shooting at Mother Emanuel in Charleston set the stage for serious, honest discussions about race. The CNBC conference starting here today is prepared for just that.