The 2017 Consultation facilitated both the collection and dissemination of racial justice strategies, while catalyzing the face-to-face “truth telling” that has characterized previous meetings and that continues to be so essential to confronting and redressing persistent inequality. The historically black denominations, in partnership with majority white denominations, are uniquely suited for this work. With nationally organized institutional structures connecting countless local churches, these denominations are pipelines to millions of voices of hope and despair, victory and struggle in communities all across the country. Our churches are also places where inter-generational dialogue about the history and future of racial justice struggle can take place most powerfully, as new forms of activism emerge amidst older ones. Finally, since the challenges we face are not only sociological and political, but psychological and spiritual, the relevance of the churches as places of living, working theology should become evident.
The oldest and most pervasive challenge we face is that of bias. In the United States the primordial racial bias manifested as the institution of slavery itself. That bias now manifests perniciously as the systematic inequalities and indignities that black people face in practically every area of life. African Americans and other minorities remain disproportionately poor, incarcerated, under-educated, unemployed, lacking adequate health care, and subject to violence, including violence perpetrated by the state under the pretense of policing. Poor and working class white people face vulnerabilities that lead to anger misdirected at other vulnerable groups. Our nation’s political climate continues to foment storms of animosity, all too frequently violent, toward racial minorities and immigrants.
The 2017 Consultation on the Burden of Bias continues the prophetic work of previous CNBC gatherings. Prior consultations have brought together eight historic African American denominations in the USA and the African Diaspora with representatives from national churches of other racial and ethnic backgrounds to engage in honest and thoughtful dialogue, corporate worship and fellowship, and support of collective ministry efforts.