The Rev. Calvin Butts speaks during a news conference of the Progressive National Baptist Convention at the National Press Club, on Oct. 9, 2018, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Black clergy vow to forge their own path

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Representatives of two black Baptist denominations, the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention USA, declared on Tuesday (Oct. 9) that they would stand apart from white liberals and conservatives alike while seeking to address a politically divided nation.

Rejecting the “politics of fear” they say has taken hold in this election season, the pastors assembled at the National Press Club said that race and spirituality should not be ignored as the two sides work to get out the vote.

“As the body of Christ, we do not serve as mere mascots of the liberal left, sent by patronizing paternalists to serve as the point on the head of their ideological spear,” reads a declaration released by PNBC President Timothy Stewart and the Rev. Calvin Butts, the denomination’s social justice chair.

“Nor do we set horses with those of the religious right who hide their rampant racism and hysterical hypocrisy amidst the existential ruins of a morally and theologically bankrupt spirituality.”

The Rev. Matthew V. Johnson Sr., the Birmingham, Ala., pastor who authored the declaration, earlier told Religion News Service that white religious conservatives and liberals have focused on opposite sides of hot-button issues such as abortion and LGBTQ rights while not giving race and racism enough attention.

“It’s not just about black special interests,” said Johnson, vice chair of the PNBC Social Justice Commission. “This is an issue of justice.”

At the news conference, Johnson noted that Democrats and others protesting the nomination of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh showed a lack of concern about the nominee's record on race issues. Their indifference, Johnson said, is an example of “the problem that we have with the liberal left.”

The PNBC, the denomination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., formed as a breakaway group from the National Baptist Convention in the 1960s after the NBC opposed sit-ins and other civil rights protests. The presence of the Rev. Amos Brown, social justice chair of the NBC, demonstrated his group's support for the younger denomination’s declaration.

The Rev. Amos Brown, right, and Rabbi Jack Moline, of Interfaith Alliance, attend an announcement by the Progressive National Baptist Convention at the National Press Club on Oct. 9, 2018, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Butts said that as black preachers, "We have our own view of the gospel message which is the only authentic view." Naming Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Paula White — all members of the religious right — he said, "They’re heretics as far we we’re concerned – hypocrites,” said Butts, as he closed the news conference. “And we need to be unafraid to say this and stand firmly on who we are.”

In August during its annual meeting, the PNBC protested Trump administration policies it believes are harmful to the poor, people of color and working-class families.

But Tuesday's declaration states that the nation’s current cultural crisis is not the sole fault of its president. “The presidency of Donald Trump is not the cause of the American malady but a symptom, a consequence, an effect; although by the aid and abetting of the present administration the sickness has received license and worsened,” the declaration reads.

Speakers at the news conference said getting out the vote could be just one effect of their declaration.

RELATED: With Voting Rights Act weakened, black church networks seek more voters

“We’ve got to really vote like hell in this midterm election and in 2020 and get rid of this excuse ‘my one vote won’t count,’” said Brown. “Every vote counts. We’ve got to get that over to our congregations.”

But Butts anticipated the declaration would also lead to other steps, including black church support of personal withdrawing of money from banks, such as Wells Fargo, for their role in the subprime mortgage crisis that has disproportionately affected minority homeowners.

“We will be asking our churches to focus on action against these banks,” said Butts, the senior pastor of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. “And always remember that when this economy booms, it is usually at the exploitation of black and brown people.”

Others attending the declaration announcement included representatives of the Church of God in Christ, the Interfaith Alliance, the National African American Clergy Network and the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative.


  1. This nation is sharply divided. The PNBC and the NBCUSA are uniting their efforts. Several divisive social issues stated. The emphasis in this article is ministers. So, in all of these statements, in all of the stated intentions, where is Jesus Christ in all of this?!
    So it is stated by the ministers, “We have our own view of the gospel message which is the only authentic view.”
    Whaaaaattt???? How many different views of the Gospel are there? Jesus didn’t see it that way. Where is Jesus Christ in this strategy?? What was Jesus’ priority? Where does this fit in with these ministers?
    Jesus broke the racism barrier when he reached out to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Unless I’m misunderstanding this article, the PNBC and the NBCUSA are contributing to the communities racial clash, not working to resolve it!
    Receive Jesus Christ into your life.

  2. Thank you gentlemen and gentlewomen. There is more at stake than either party has the equity to face.

  3. Will black women and black LGBT be included?? 💅💅💅

  4. Exactly. Another “religious” group more interested in the politics of this world than the gospel that speaks of the next.

  5. “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    If they are truly Christian pastors, they can start by abandoning concerns based on race.

  6. Thank you for reporting on this. I hope that black women are also involved in leadership, and that the effort includes addressing unjust structures of patriarchy. Where can I find the text of this Washington D.C. Declaration?

  7. With Interfaith Alliance in the mix there likely won’t be a problem with that. One of most widely respected leaders I have ever worked with was a Black female organizer from the Interfaith Alliance. She is smart, bold, kind, very hard working and spiritual and helped us make significant headway for change in our community. She was especially passionate about a project called NOVA that worked with businesses to locate and train new employees from depressed communities.

  8. A storm is coming; no, not Michael. But the one unimaginable in its scope and relentless in its fury. It’s not about right or left, democrat or republican, black or white nor rich or poor. It’s all about salvation or damnation. The prophet Daniel warns: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). That time is NOW. The people must be warned.

  9. Perhaps not enough from the Democrats but race was an issue raised during the confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh. Whitehouse, Redmond, Booker, Harris and Hirono (50%) raised issues with his record.. On the Republican side only Murkowski noted native rights as an issue. Am disappointed that there wasn’t greater outside mobilization of voices of protest over these issues and to raise public awareness of possible costs to the social fabric of American life..

  10. yes. The focus of Christianity is Christ, not the “social gospel” The church’s job is to teach Christ and Him crucified. These are all diversions planned by the enemy – some with good reason – but intended to bring the church from its mission. People wanting to be involved in politics, more than Jesus should move on. Too many are trying to lead people under the guise of Christianity into their politics – starting with the “Reclaming Jesus” trash – uneducated people led by charismatic leaders into a Christianity that is totally of satan, not Christ.

  11. Thank you sandinwindsor. We need to hear more about Jesus and becoming like Him and less of the social gospel which the biggest farce to engulf Christianity. It’s a works religion of the highest order which lacks the power of the True Gospel. Lives are changed by Jesus Christ and not political activism. The social gospel will not stand the coming storm.

  12. Attention pastors stop speaking for all Black People ,we all don’t follow that BS you brainwash our people with every Sunday,Jesus ain’t real.

  13. Thank you, sandinwindsor, for keeping your perspective on Jesus Christ and his salvation!

  14. Thank you, adventtruth, for focusing on Jesus Christ and his Gospel!

  15. Does this mean that blacks are going to stop lynching queers now?

  16. You are a KKK member pretending to be a black person. Stop lynching LGBTQ+ people for attention.

  17. Stop lynching LGBTQ+ people for attention.

  18. Can y’all please deal with the epidemic of LGBTQ+ people of color being lynched by other people of color? One of these decades…

  19. Blacks lynching queers in their own communities is an example of “divide and conquer”, FYI.

  20. Only if you stop smearing Supreme court justice nominee’s

  21. I will never stop telling the truth or advocating for the rights of sexual abuse survivors. Your pet rapist judge belongs in jail, along with all the people who oppose LGBTQ+ rights. You people are no better than Hitler.

  22. You are uneducated. Get off this forum.

    LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. One of the decades, black people will acknowledge that.

  23. Christianity is nothing but crazy bullsh*t that denies basic biology.

  24. And just how many of these black, blind clerics are standing on the wall declaring the judgment of God upon America is imminent, calling their followers to REPENT and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation before it’s too late?

  25. Interestingly, my black clerical colleagues conspicuously made no mention of the genocidal destruction of innocent babies in the womb, a large and disproportionate number of which are black.

    Addressing black life, in America, is only relevant when those who mount the pulpit speak to it from the womb to the tomb based upon the Word of God.

    Neither did they address rampant biblical illiteracy among the ranks in black Protestantism.

    They, themselves, are to blame in that they only ‘preach’ from the Scriptures-at least many of them do. But their liberal, low-view of the Scriptures leaves them ill-equipped, at best, to actually ‘teach’ the Scriptures. Hence no reference, at all, to that disabling and proliferating scourge which leaves most black people, in the Church, deaf, dumb and blind to the truth of what the Word of God actually declares on virtually every subject.

    And they wouldn’t dare address how, in light of the Scriptures, homosexuality and marriage are no longer taboo within their own ranks (in both pulpit and pew). The nation, and particularly the black family (which is most threatened by this abomination), no longer calls sin by its rightful name because of appalling silence from black pulpits on the subject, and now faces the judgment of Almighty God.

    So while these so-called ‘erudite’ clergymen wax eloquent in their diatribes against this present administration-completely giving Obama and Hillary a pass because they are liberals and Leftists like they are-pardon me if I color myself completely unimpressed, at all, by their fundamental failure to even mention the real reasons why the black family, the black church and, as a result, the black community are, all, failing at epidemic rates ON THEIR WATCH.

    And God will hold them accountable.

  26. That demonic statement, alone, exposed who these people really are. Blind guides leading their followers down the primrose path toward destruction. Jesus had much to say concerning them! And, trust me, they won’t and don’t like what He has to say.

  27. Butts said that as black preachers, “We have our own view of the gospel message which is the only authentic view.” Naming Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Paula White — all members of the religious right — he said, “They’re heretics as far we we’re concerned – hypocrites,” said Butts, as he closed the news conference. “And we need to be unafraid to say this and stand firmly on who we are.” I agree with Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts and if I was able to create a Venn diagram that was visiable to the reader it would connect the words of the late James Cone “The Black Liberationist” with words that still speak now…“Indeed our survival and liberation depend upon our recognition of the truth when it is spoken and lived by the people.” The term “Cultural Equity” a defining issue for the 21st Century speaks volumes…”that all people everywhere have the right to inherit and develop their intellectual, emotional, material, and spiritual traditions.” So I can bring my authentic self to the table. I am a Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. pastor for 21 years and I’m proud of Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts.

  28. I am commenting as Founder of the Nannie Helen Burroughs (1879-1961) Project. Please visit my website,, and you will see the important role she played in the Baptist Church, such as starting Woman’s Day in 1907. In addition to fighting for the role of women in the church, she spoke openly about the unscrupulous nature of politicians in both parties adversely impacting the role of women in all of society. Burroughs life and works addressed the very issues facing our country today, speaking, writing and working to seek “Common Ground” among the races. As an 85 year-old retired US Army Colonel having studied her life for the past ten years, my education and professional training suggest that our Black and White male clergy need to follow the model established by Nannie Helen Burroughs of the NBC and Una Roberts Lawrence of the SBC. In the 1930s, they brought women together across racial lines to confront the problems of their time. It seems to me that our Black and White religious leaders could first seek “Common Ground” among leaders in the respective races, and then come together and find the “Common Ground” for a “Joint Declaration” The masses deserve this of our spiritual leaders. The women did it before, so bring them to the table now. We need the views and vision of Nannie Helen Burroughs back in our lives today.

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