VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/5/06)-On August 7th, African American clergy and lay leaders met in Cincinnati for the "Breaking the Silence for the Good of all Families" Conference. Sponsored by the National Council of Churches (NCC) USA, of which American Baptist Churches USA is a member, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention's Women's Department, the conference sought to, "equip African American church leaders and congregations to strengthen Black families and the community as a whole," said Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Associate General Secretary for Justice and Advocacy for NCC.
Knowing that children who do not live with both biological parents are twice as likely to be poor, to have birth outside of marriage, to have behavioral problems and to not graduate from high school, participants addressed the issues that undermine African American families, particularly low-income households, from entering into and maintaining healthy families and strong marriages.
"Going into the conference," said Rev. Dr. Wallace Charles Smith, President of Palmer Theological Seminary and Senior Minister of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington D.C., "the biggest hurdle in my mind was getting African American families to own the challenges they are facing, challenges related to economics and the historical effects of slavery, including self-hatred. Until we face these realities, we can't develop strategies to address them." Smith was one of the keynote speakers at the conference along with NCC President, Michael Livingston, and Judge Mablean Ephraim.
Recent studies show that African Americans are more likely to divorce than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S. and are also more likely to come from single parent homes. In addition, African Americans have higher rates of health problems than other groups.
Commenting on the conference's conclusion, Smith said, "The conference produced a recommitment to the seminal role of the church. I sensed a genuine enthusiasm for how the church can make a substantial difference through its preaching and its ministry programs, especially in the area of education."
Those interested in American Baptist ministry to African Americans, Africans, Haitians, and Afro-Caribbeans in the United States can find more information here.
Andrew C. Jayne American Baptist Churches, USA Mission Resource Development http://www.abc-usa.org/