The Conference of National Black Churches hopes to mitigate problems associated with racism.
In June 2015, nine African-American people were shot dead while they were attending a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The act of violence is believed to have been a hate crime and it has brought white and black churches together in an effort to improve the strained race relations in the region.
Yesterday, December 15, the Conference of National Black Churches hosted an interracial religious gathering in the same city where the shootings occurred six months ago. The conference, scheduled to be held until December 17, expects the attendance of more than 300 community leaders and clergy members. It also includes a worship service at the Emanuel church, the same place where the Bible Study was held during the shootings.
— Matt Alba (@mattalbaWCBD) December 16, 2015
Emanuel is considered to be one of the largest and also one of the oldest black congregations in the region. One of the founders of this historic structure was Denmark Vesey, who was executed in 1822 for trying to organize a massive slave rebellion. The Conference of National Black Churches was created in 1978 to bring African-American worshipers of the community together. But considering the situation, the president of the Conference, Jacqui Burton believes that they will need to join forces with predominantly white groups to combat racism and hate-crimes. One of the speakers at the meeting, Reverend Marvin McMickie, believes that it is not possible to solve the issues related to racism by functioning alone, whether it is the white church or the black church. “I think both hands have to be on the plow,” said the president of Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School.
— Dr Jack Sullivan Jr (@JackSullivanJr) December 16, 2015
The 21-year old gunman who was responsible for the shootings was charged with nine counts of murder after he confessed to the crimes. According to sources, he wanted to start a racial war and specifically chose the historic church at Charleston after finding out that the region had a majority of its population as African-Americans. Instead of driving the community apart, the crime galvanized individuals and groups of the surrounding region towards improving racial relations. President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of Southern Baptist Convention believes that the commission has benefited hundreds of white and black leaders as they prayed for forgiveness and repentance at the previous summit that took place in March. The move has been welcomed by a majority of white churches and some intellectuals agree that small gatherings and simple activities like sharing Bible studies are more powerful than apologetic statements made by churches.