The Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (PNBC), led by its new president, Dr. Timothy Stewart, held a press conference at the National Press Club in Northwest on Tuesday, Oct. 9, challenging the Christian right and criticizing them for allowing the country to slide toward spiritual disaster.
As the home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the PNBC says they’re compelled to step forward amidst the worsening crisis at the heart of American life to reaffirm the commitment of the Church of Jesus Christ to truth and justice.
PNBC and its partners say they’re sounding a clear alarm in a moment of spiritual and cultural confusion and pointing the way toward the redemption of this trying hour. Further, they promise to continue to life the Black Church as a voice to be acknowledged and recognized as germane to all conversations relative to the Christian faith in America.
Dr. Calvin O. Butts, pastor, Abyssinian Baptists Church, New York, has been designated to lead ongoing efforts and serves as the new chair of the PNBC Social Justice Commission. Others who joined Butts and Stewart during the press conference and who have signed on as partnering organizations include: Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-convener, National Coalition of African American Clergy; Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune, executive director, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative; Dr. Keith Byrd, pastor of Zion Baptist Church, Washington, DC, and 2nd vice president of PNBC; and Dr. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist, San Francisco, and Social Action chair of National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
An excerpt of the comments shared as part of the PNBC’s Declaration Statement during the press conference:
We have called this press conference in part because we realize that to ignore this reality, that is to say the pivotal role of race and spirituality in our present malaise is to court disaster in the upcoming mid-term elections. America, we have a problem.
Stated succinctly: the American Republic is in crisis. In light of this crisis we are compelled to remind America and her leaders of some essential truths.
1) Authentic and integral leadership is not pandering to public opinion in such a crisis. It may call for the sacrifice of mundane personal preoccupations with one’s political career on the sacred altar of the common good.
2) Journalism is not treating both sides of an issue as equally valuable because they appear to be held by two or more opposing but substantial parties; but rather in subjecting both sides equally to the truth regardless of who comes out ahead in the assessment. We reject the notion that an opinion or a position is of equal worth just because someone (usually white) happens to hold it.
3) “‘No kingdom divided against itself can stand.’ (We) believe this government cannot endure, permanently half [suffering arbitrary state surveillance, subjugation and cruelty] and half free.”
4) It is absolutely crucial to vote. But we hasten to add that it is not enough to remind people of an abstract obligation to vote. It is time for the powers to be to give the people a positive reason to vote. No version of the politics of fear is acceptable. Relying on cheap, morally tinged rhetorical tricks and manipulation instead of dealing practically with substantial issues particularly on race questions is what got us back here in the first place.
5) The presidency of Donald Trump is not the cause of the American malady but a symptom, a consequence, an effect; although by the aide and abetting of the present administration the sickness has received license and worsened.
6) It is Christian heresy to call any nation that forsakes the needy, the sick, the poor or mistreats the foreigner in their midst, blessed. This is to say the policy and practices of the current administration and the party in power are clearly and irredeemably Anti-Christ.
7) You can identify the true Christian Church by what it identifies with. The true Church identifies with the poor, the prisoner and the oppressed; the vulnerable and the at risk; the sick and the disabled; the lost and the mentally ill. The Christian Church cedes preeminence and affirms the primacy of the Kingdom of God in all matters finite and eternal. The Body of Christ does not identify with the interests of empire. It does not identify with the principle of profit or power over persons. It does not identify with racial supremacy. No true Christian believer prioritizes patriotism over piety or assumes the false equivalence of God and country. The identification with Christ and his Kingdom supersedes and relativizes ALL other worldly commitments.
The African American Christian Church occupies a uniquely strategic position in the present situation being seated at the spiritual center of the political whirlwind now rocking the foundation of the American Republic; a whirlwind driven, we firmly believe, by the unfinished business of America’s stormy legacy of white racism and its perniciously tornadic spawn. As the Christian Church we, in principle, stand apart from those on the left and the right. As the body of Christ, we do not serve as mere mascots of the liberal left, sent by patronizing paternalists to serve as point on the head of their ideological spear. 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.