The Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC)
The Conference of National Black Churches has a long history of working to convert Faith into Advocacy. Thus, by calling and conscience, we offer our humblest, heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the senseless shooting at historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, an evil act resulting in the deaths of its pastor and eight of its members. We offer our prayerful concern for the three survivors of the senseless attack.
The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church is one of the founding members of CNBC, and has been a steady partner in our continuing mission of Advocacy for just causes. Even so, when one of our number has been hit, we all feel the pain.
The Conference of National Black Churches is a collaborative group of eight historic Black Christian denominations speaking to the multiple and systemic ailments in our culture. Our mission is advocacy regarding matters pertaining to social justice issues, public policy, health, hunger, economic empowerment, violence and education on behalf of millions of our congregants and to the benefit of persons who are without church affiliation.
CNBC is therefore compelled to lift its collective voice in sympathy with the Mother Emanuel AME Church, a tragedy so extraordinary as to defy logic. It was an assault on black life in America, in the continuing struggle for justice and equality long denied, and where senseless violence has been the norm. It was the full definition of evil that brought a misguided young adult, welcomed into a Bible study, and too intentionally, ruthlessly killed his hosts.
No one could have imagined that such an atrocity would be unleashed on a small group of people practicing their faith. It is difficult to fathom why and how such a thing could happen in what is alleged to be an advanced civil society. We should only hope and pray that our world is not reverting to the chaos of lawlessness.
While this tragedy has cut our individual communions to the core, it is necessary that even as we mourn, grieve and pray, we must lift the collective voices represented in CNBC to call attention to several lingering concerns. In the days since that awful night of death and despair, we have reason to feel hopeful about the future on the following public policy matters:
The Confederate flag and Race in America
The Confederate flag is still a contentious symbol of bigotry, hatred and treason flying at the State Capitol in South Carolina and at many county courthouses. It is still an offensive symbol for African Americans in particular and for people of goodwill in general. It is representative of a painful era of our nation’s history. We join with a swelling chorus of voices in saying to the state legislature that the time has come to remove the flag from view at the Capitol. Tax payers should not be forced to see it as they pass to do business at the Capitol or anywhere on public property as the continuing symbol of oppression and misery, upholding injustice as the norm for Black humanity.
Sensible Gun Laws
We also call for sensible gun laws. We believe many lives could be saved when guns are not so accessible. President Obama has been accused by the political right of politicizing these tragic deaths by invoking the nation’s attention to a conversation that should lead to meaningful legislation on gun ownership around the second amendment of the constitution; a policy which at a minimum should include a serious background check. So be it; we stand with the logic and concern of the President. The shooter at Mother Emanuel was a disaster waiting to happen, and it did.
Security at Churches
The conversation has already begun to find ways to have meaningful security at our churches. With the callous act at Mother Emanuel, we know that not everyone shares our worldview about sacred space and will take advantage of what is normative for our congregations, a welcoming environment. It is unfortunate that our sanctuaries and sacred spaces are routinely disrespected. It is our hope that the Church can preserve its open door policy without the threat of unwelcomed intrusion and without having to resort to practices that are antithetical to our essential message of love and faith, peace and goodwill for all.
Again, we offer our sincere prayers on behalf of the families of the Emanuel Nine, and for the congregants and ministry of Mother Emanuel Church. We pray that our gracious God will bring healing and comfort that God alone can give, and will inspire progress for good out of this appalling tragedy.
June 25, 2015
Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman, CNBC Board of Directors
Jacqui L. Burton, President