Black clergy call for churches to foster healing in the aftermath of Charlottesville

An ecumenical group of African-American clergy gather outside the U.S. Capitol in opposition to the proposed pending budget and health care bill on July 18, 2017. RNS photo by Madeleine Buckley

(RNS) — A coalition of African-American clergy is calling on churches to serve as sacred spaces for healing in the aftermath of violence in Charlottesville, Va., and as the nation grapples with racism and other bigotry.

“We urge churches across the country to create safe and sacred spaces for prayer, healing, dialogue and honest conversations about the history and reality of racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism and white supremacy in this nation,” the black clergy said in a Friday (Aug. 18) statement.

“Our youth and young adults especially need a place to process this assault on their being and the very soul of this nation.”

The group, which spearheaded the first-ever “African American Clergy Advocacy Day” on Capitol Hill a month ago, also denounced the hatred displayed recently in Charlottesville and the “subsequent inflammatory and detestable words of President Donald Trump supporting the hateful actions of the KKK, Nazis and white supremacist groups.”

The 10 initial signatories include leaders of the National African American Clergy Network, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative and the National Council of Churches, as well as officials of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ.

The black clergy called on Congress, denominational leaders, and particularly white evangelical church leaders to speak out against the “evil” of white supremacy.

RELATED: Rev. Al Sharpton’s thousand-minister march gains steam after Charlottesville

They also took issue with Trump’s assertion that “many sides” were responsible for the violence in Charlottesville.

Declaring, “No, Mr. President. There are not many sides,” the group questioned his contention that “fine people” were among both sides in the protests that turned violent and left three people dead.

“These ‘fine’ people intimidated churchgoers, attacked clergy and threw bottles from the tops of steps into the crowd of counter protesters — those who were standing against their hatred, bigotry and white supremacist values,”  the online statement said.

On July 18, members of the clergy group protested the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts affecting programs including food stamps and Meals on Wheels; 16 people were arrested. A week later they joined others in a protest of the Senate’s unsuccessful efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act; 31 people were arrested.

The Rev. Leslie Copeland-Tune, who drafted the statement, said the group plans to return to Capitol Hill in September to urge members of Congress to be more outspoken against white supremacy. The clergy also plan to visit five states represented by Congress members who hold key roles in considering the proposed budget.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • I imagine we’ll be hearing about racism, Trump, and Charlottesville for the rest of the month, especially with the secular news media, (CBS, NBC, etc) who want to politically exploit this horrific tragedy to either neutralize or remove Trump from the presidency.

    No inconvenient facts and questions, no critical looking at violence on all sides, not even willing to say the names, deeds, or weapons of ALL prominent gangs involved. Most all agree that Racism and White Supremacism are evil, but now it’s very clear that OTHER agendas are being spoon-fed to us.

    This post is not aimed at Spuddie, by the way. I know I’ve been yapping about him and Antifa, but Spuddie is nowhere near Antifa, so I’ll tone down the yapping. Antifa actually has a track record of violent, hateful actions towards police officers that is only exceeded by the openly fatal Black-Lives-Matter gig. The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security labeled Antifa, “Anarchist Extremists.”

    (Also, being very scientific folks, the Antifa’s seem to have discovered a new function for bicycle locks. Pray you never find out in person.)

  • We all prefer facts. Nobody has disproved the facts offered specifically about Antifa by the NJ Office of Homeland Security. Antifa goons absolutely do not limit themselves to “property.” Plus their documented, demented, drooling hatred of police officers more than proves their extremist anarchy.

    If we want to stop the far-right crazies, let’s call for the good old POLICE, not the far-left crazies. Sheesh.

  • I don’t want Trump removed from the Presidency until January 20, 2021. Unless, of course, Pence can be removed before Trump can or at the same time. If Pence becomes President due to the office becoming vacant, he will enjoy an extended honeymoon from the corporate media, such as Gerald Ford received in 1974-76. He would be a much worse President than Trump could ever be.

  • Cart before the horse. You condemn a man before he has had any opportunity to demonstrate what sort of chief executive he would be. Given the plain disarray of the Trump administration, I can’t help but think Pence would be an improvement, his spiritual convictions aside, which with I am obviously in sympathy.

  • It has bothered me for some time that you frame the majority of your arguments on the basis of statistical summations, as if such answers for everything. I find that doubtful, it allows for little nuance or interpretation of facts. Further, statistics can easily by skewed depending on the criteria set by the compiler. To quote Mark Twain, “There are three kinds of lies; Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.”

  • I’d prefer Pence as well. But at present I’m not convinced he would be sufficiently hard-nosed to weather leftist hatred and abuse.

  • Trump is interested in promoting Trump. Pence is interested in promoting christofascism. Big difference.

  • First, I don’t just pop out stats. I spend some considerable time looking for evidence/research one way or another. I will look for criticisms of findings as well.. But sometimes 2 + 2 equals 4. Floyd said something about the shootings of police officers by certain specific groups which I know is not true. And it hasn’t been true for a considerable period of time. My background is in analyzing information with respect to making recommendations as to policy decisions. I have also learned that the best way to deal with bias is to deconstruct using facts. So this is me by training. Otherwise things devolve into ego and who is right.

  • I read the New Jersey web page on antifa. I see no mention of BLM or ‘documented, demented, drooling hatred of police officers’. What is referenced is altercations between anarchists and white supremacists.

  • Evidence for your assertion regarding Pence? His mere adherence and forthright declaration, as is his right, that a life framed by New Testament theology is the best one for producing a life practice that best serves his fellow citizens?

  • He has a long record. He’s been the darling of christofascist groups like focus on the anus for decades. However, the Indiana “License to Discriminate” bill which he signed before a representative sample of these enemies of freedom, suffices more than enough.

  • You toss the term “christofascist” around far too loosely for my taste, but that is entirely within your 1st Amendment right.

  • Their proposals demand exercise of force and lack of respect for pluralism. The shoe fits all too well.

  • Pence hasn’t done anything to warrant impeachment, as much as I disagree with his policies. Hey, he even disagrees with Trump’s policies but that’s down the memory hole at this point. A vacancy in the Vice Presidency would allow Trump to nominate a replacement.

  • Aw, poor Trump. How unfair that his defense of Nazis as “fine people” has opened him to condemnation.

  • I’m not bothered by this, but you keep quoting Mark Twain.
    ETA: the summer actually tends to make me think of Twain, if only because that was always the summer assigned reading in middle school.

  • Somebody was throwing rocks and bottles of urine at police officers, and blocking their vehicles, in Boston last weekend while they were trying to maintain order during the measly right-wing rally. Antifa is not a fan of law enforcement.

  • Indeed I do. But Mark Twain is eminently quoteworthy. Do you not agree? In my case, I merely plead that he is my favorite American author despite his skepticism about God. He is followed closely in my literary pantheon (If I may use that word) by P.J. O’Rourke, whom I consider to be Twain’s modern successor.

  • I think some philosophical parsing is in order here. I’m not convinced Mr. Trump was defending the neo-Nazis’ point of view, but rather their right, and the right of others who participated in the event to express that point of view. I’m reasonably certain that not everyone who endorsed free speech at Charlottesville was either a neo-Nazi or a member of the KKK. Admittedly, I could be wrong. But My remark was not prefaced on Mr. Trump’s remarks, but rather on the deafening chorus and tendency from the extreme Left to shout down anyone who disagrees with them on any subject whatsoever. It is neither democratic or tolerant.

  • I think he’s implicated in Russiagate/Flynngate. If it’s a joint impeachment they could be impeached together and then President Pelosi could nominate a new Vice President.

  • The Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville was not a free speech rally. It was purportedly about the statues, but really was about the “white genocide” the removal of the statues supposedly represents. Do a google image search for the some of the posters used to promote the rally. You won’t find anything about free speech, just propaganda evocative of the 1930s showing a “real American” smashing a Star of David with a hammer while a stereotypical “eternal Jew” looks on, promotions of “pro-white” and “you will not replace us.” Has a single person come forward and said, I’m an art historian and I came to the march to have a salonesque debate about iconoclasm, only to find a Nuremberg rally?
    It’s also not democratic or tolerant to criticize Trump and get called an Alinskyite, Soros-paid, libtard globalist scumbag, but at this point it’s like background noise.

  • I actually find the term confusing – up until recently they would have been called black bloc I think – perhaps to eliminate racial connotations?. They have been doing that kind of stuff for a long time. But mainly G8 type summit meeting protests kind of stuff in the past. Interestingly enough, police have been known to pose as black bloc to embed themselves in protest and possibly act to encourage them to reveal themselves. Police generally see this behaviour as an attempt to escalate police response to otherwise lawful protests. They are a thorn in protest organizers’ sides. And their disdain for law enforcement makes them more like sovereignists that anything else.

  • Chances are she will be in January, 2019, and it’ll be at least that long before Trump and Company’s charges wind through the investigatory funnel.

  • I’m perfectly prepared to criticize Mr. Trump for many things, mostly for his tendency to shoot from the lip without having his proposed comments vetted by the more thoughtful members of his administration. I do not believe, in any case, that Trump’s intent was to endorse neo-Nazism or the KKK. As to the scurrilous remarks coming from the wingnut Right, they are evenly matched by such comments from the screwball Left. What say we combine our efforts to gently ease both groups off the center stage of American activism by ignoring both. Without an audience they’ll be reduced to exhorting and encouraging those of like mind in ever diminishing circles.

  • Hello…I am often specifically identified by others as a member of the Religious Right. And again…I dispute your assessment of my capacity to understand…without prejudice to you.

  • Well, yes and no. You conduct yourself respectfully here, which is different from some others. I think there are a lot of people who perceive themselves as conservatives but they change in a New York minute. When told of the specifics of antics of Religious Right groups, you have a history of responding like a reasonable person. I think this may be why it is hard for you to see how so many of your fellow travelers respond with incoherence, rage, violence, and oppression.

    Let’s take Pence’s license to discriminate bill which he signed in a closed ceremony with Religious Right celebrities. Pence’s response to the outcry when asked if he had anticipated it was “Gosh, no!” One can perhaps believe the Vice President shares your particular form of naivete. For a man who refuses to meet alone with any female this is perhaps somewhat believable. He could be in such a bubble that he truly did not realize the wind he would inherit so to speak. Yet he has made a career of advancing himself politically through his close association with verifiable christofascists like James Dobson and the like who have promoted him as if he were a new brand of detergent. Some politicians certainly do lack insight. And therein lies the danger. Those who trust people unworthy of their trust tend to make bad decisions. Pence is like the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland” who stated she set a goal for herself of believing five impossible things every day before breakfast.