THE COVENANT AGREEMENT
Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman Jacqueline L. Burton, President
The Sacred Calling and Vision
As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to a ministry of reconciliation. Such a call invites us to build and strengthen relationships across the racial divides in ways that do not diminish the rich genius of our diversity. In so doing we confirm our authentic unity through Jesus Christ, as the Lord prayed in John 17:21, that we would all be one.
Gathered for Such a Time as This
In 2015, The Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC), representing eight Historic African American denominations in the USA and the African Diaspora, came together 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 in Charleston, South Carolina.
The 2015 Consultation came together in the midst of the grief following the slaughter that took place in a prayer meeting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. That consultation opened the door to authentic conversation and relationship among those present. It initiated a process aimed at rooting out the deep-seeded causes of racial hatred and violence as well as the vestiges of racism that appear in education, housing, employment, health, the criminal justice system, and in many other aspects of our lives.
In 2016, the CNBC Annual Consultation came together under the theme “From Anger to Answers: Race and Reconciliation in America — Part II,” guided by the biblical texts of Habakkuk 1:1-5, Luke 3:1-6, Mark 3:1-6, and Mark 1:40-42. We came together in an extremely divided time in our nation: a time characterized by racial toxicity. The grief of the previous year permeated the gathering as the trial of Dylan Roof was underway during the Consultation. We also gathered in the midst of a post-election season that has stirred deep concern about our public life and policy trajectories that challenge the moral imperative of a reconciled nation and world.
Called to Confession
As members of the mainline denominations, we confess that we recognize and condemn past and continuing racial sins and failures, and pledge to love brothers and sisters from all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds in accordance with what the Gospel requires. We confess that we have missed opportunities to overcome racial sins and demonstrate deeper understandings and appreciation of these communities in order to commit to a more racially and ethnically diverse church, in obedience to the Great Commission and mandate of justice with and for all people.
As members of the Conference of National Black Churches, we confess that we have not done all that we can to realize the vision of racial reconciliation. We confess that we have not always moved from justified anger to the prayerful mobilization of intergenerational Christian partnerships — and partnerships beyond our churches — that would push towards racial equality, reconciliation, and self-determination. We have not fully engaged in advocacy for public policies aimed at criminal justice reform, education and health equality, gun reform, economic justice and equality, policing reform, and the protection of voting rights — all of which are requisites for the achievement of racial justice and reconciliation.
(Adapted from the 2015 “And Justice and Liberty for All” movement of Historic African American Methodists.)
Our Joint Call to Action
The 2016 Consultation facilitated both the collection and dissemination of racial justice strategies, catalyzed by the face-to-face “truth telling” that continues to be so essential to authentic action. Therefore, we covenant together to implement the following call to action, which affirms the imperative that our churches offer moral leadership toward racial reconciliation.
We commit to:
1) Continuing the dialogue and deep conversation that has begun in our local churches. We call on our member congregations to reach out to churches in their communities from multiple racial and ethnic backgrounds and initiate honest and thoughtful dialogue, corporate worship, fellowship and collective ministry efforts. In doing so, we hope to replicate the best practices of this ministry;
2) Convening regional sacred conversations addressing racial reconciliation, in order to energize and animate the broader churches and their communities;
3) Advocating for public policies that reflect the values of racial justice and reconciliation while resisting policies that roll back progress toward a just and inclusive nation and world. We realize that we have an urgent mandate to address this during the first 100 days of the new Presidency, and in the midterm season of Congressional elections;
4) Accompanying and actively supporting younger generations of leadership that align with the vision and values shared in this covenant.
The Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC) held its National Consultation in Charleston, SC, December 13-15, 2016. We are appreciative of our sponsors and all who participated in this gathering that sought answers to race and reconciliation in America.
On behalf of the Conference of National Black Churches and attendees at the 2016 National Consultation in Charleston, SC, we present to you the agreed upon Covenant Statement. This is our Covenant. This is our agreement moving forward. These are our action steps.