From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
National Black Presbyterian Women adopt resolution
George Conklin <email@example.com>
30 Jun 1996 23:08:33
National Black Presbyterian Women adopt
resolution condemning black church burnings
LAKE TAHOE, Nev.--Responding to the series of burned African American
churches nationwide, the newly-organized National Black Presbyterian Women
(NBPW) adopted a statement of concern condemning the fires and directing
the appropriate agencies to continue to take action during their June 21-23
Nearly 40 black churches have been burned since January 1995, with 25
of the blazes determined as arson, according to the Center for Democratic
Renewal (CDR), an Atlanta-based human and civil rights organization.
Meeting in conjunction with the annual retreat of Presbyterian Women
in Northern and Southern California, 150 NBPW members discussed the church
burnings and other issues pertinent to the lives of African Americans and
black Presbyterian women.
In the one-page statement, the group calls upon church leaders to
"speak upon the ashes" as anti-slavery activist Sojourner Truth did, and to
"continue to speak out with love and compassion against the evil forces
which would try to hold back God's people."
The statement calls on the Justice Department, the FBI, ATF and local
law enforcement agencies to aggressively investigate the church fires. It
also asks that particular entities cease investigating church leaders as
the perpetrators of the blazes and casting defamations against the black
According to Amy Sweet, NBPW moderator, this is because historically in
the African American community, the church is paramountly respected and the
sanctuary offers a solace to all.
"[The burning of churches] is foreign to our very being," Sweet said.
"It is the church that has provided our nurture in times of trouble."
The NBPW statement praises the efforts of the CDR, the National Council
of Churches, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations that
have been working to bring the church burnings to the public's attention.
NBPW also expressed gratitude to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for its
pastoral concern to the victimized congregations and assistance through
Presbyterian World Service.
"We acknowledge the present climate in this country which gives
credence to racist behavior which provokes white supremacist groups and
individuals to fire bomb African American churches," Sweet said. "We will
continue to use our resources to engage the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
and the ecumenical community in justice issues and thereby help to create a
climate of acceptance of all people.
"As people of faith, we stand by the African American church leaders
and offer our support," Sweet said. "May this test of our faith bring us
closer in these special days ahead."
On June 26 in Washington, the Senate unanimously approved legislation
to stiffen penalties for arson at places of worship and expand federal
authority to investigate. The 98-0 vote sent the measure to the House June
27, where it was passed and sent to President Clinton for his signature.
The legislation doubles the maximum prison term for church arson to 20
years and extends the statute of limitations from five to seven years. The
measure envisions additional funding for federal law enforcement agencies
designed to help them train local and state authorities in investigating
suspected arson at churches. The measure also authorizes $10 million in
federal loan guarantees for reconstruction of arson-gutted, underinsured
Further fighting arson, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has
launched an arson-prevention initiative to protect houses of worship. Up to
$45 million in public funding has been allocated for the plan. A toll-free
telephone number (1-888-603-3100) has been established for information on
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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