Sunday, July 30, 2006

African American Church Leaders Prepare to 'Break the Silence' by Jennifer Riley

African American clergy and church leaders will gather next month to ‘‘break the silence’’ about the dismal statistics affecting African American families.

The National Council of Churches (NCC) USA and Progressive National Baptist Convention Women’s Department have partnered to sponsor “African American Congregations: Breaking the Silence for the Good of All Families,” on Aug. 7 in Cincinnati. The ecumenical leadership conference will focus on the role of African American congregations in promoting strong families and healthy marriages.

Participants will address the issues that undermine African American families, particularly low-income households, which keep them from entering into and maintaining healthy families and strong marriages.

One issue of particular concern is the divorce rate among African Americans. Recent statistics show that African Americans are more likely to divorce than any other racial or ethical group in the U.S. and are more likely to come from single parent homes. In addition, African Americans have higher rates of health problems than other groups.

"The African American Church has always played an important role in improving the lives of African Americans. It is appropriate and significant that we begin to deal with the breakdown of the family in the church," said the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, associate general secretary for justice and advocacy at the NCC, in a statement released by the group. "This conference will equip African American church leaders and congregations to strengthen Black families and the community as a whole," she said.

The conference will include training for clergy and Christian leaders to help them address family issues in ways not taught in Sunday school or seminary. The conference will also focus on the development of tools and messaging around support for low income families.

Conference speakers include NCC president Michael Livingston; “Divorce Court” Judge Mablean Ephriam; and president of Philadelphia’s Palmer Theological Seminary and the Rev. Dr. Wallace Charles Smith, pastor of the historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

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