America’s Black Clergy Confront Congress, Trump

Dozens of faith leaders from across the country, all members of the centuries-old collective commonly referred to as the “Black Church,” converged on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 18, sending a message of discontent and a prophetic word opposing injustice to President Donald Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress on behalf of the hundreds of millions of African-Americans who comprise the laity of America’s stronghold of the Black faithful.

Joined by just under 150 supporters including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) who served as the spokesperson for the Congressional Black Caucus, the minsters held a press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building to denounce both the “immoral budget” proposed by the Trump administration and the “equally unjust health care bill” most recently put before the Senate for approval and in breaking news, apparently rejected.

Waters, who, along with other CBC colleagues, met later in the day with those leading the clergy, wasted little time in expressing her distrust of Trump and his promises.

“I’m deeply concerned about the direction and future of this country under Donald Trump. When he released his budget on May 23, he promised unprecedented growth, tax cuts for all, the reduction of the national debt and a balanced budget. But instead of supporting working families and uplifting the most vulnerable among us, Trump’s budget is one big tax cut for [the rich]. He continues to treat America’s allies with disdain and disrespect and has shown that he knows nothing about international relations. No matter what anyone says or does, I’m going for his impeachment,” Waters said, also pointing to the alleged relationship between Russia’s Putin and the Trump family as one that’s “all about the dollars.”

One evening earlier, many of those attending the press conference helped fill the pews at the historic Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Southeast, home of the Hill’s oldest Black congregation (founded in 1827) for an ecumenical worship service that organizers say they hoped would serve as a means of inspiration and be a unifying factor prior to Tuesday’s day of events.

Clergy who shared the microphone to express their concerns on Tuesday morning bear the distinction of being among the most powerful and influential African-American faith voices in the U.S., representing national denominations, state ecumenical bodies or local congregations.

The excerpts below should be seen as illustrative of their more poignant words directed to both the president and members of Congress.

The Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins, Director, Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness: “This is a Kairos moment for God’s people to rise up and speak on God’s behalf. There is no separation between faith and politics because if you are a child of God you are concerned about all areas of human life. The issue at hand is a budget presented by a president who does not realize the full impact this bill will have on the lives of African-Americans and on the American people as a whole. It will devastate lives; most important, it is unnecessary.”

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Pastor, Ray of Hope Church, Decatur, Ga.: “I’m honored to lift my voice for those who have no voice – the least of these, the poor, the vulnerable, left out and sometimes shut out. They are American citizens and their children, senior citizens and the disabled. How can a nation that espouses equality and justice for all do this to our people? President Obama expanded health care under his signature health care law to cover 11 million more people bringing the total number to 69 million. Now the Republicans want to reverse that expansion.”

Bishop Frank Madison Reid III, Bishop of Ecumenical & Urban Affairs, African Methodist Episcopal Church: “This budget is what I call a reverse Robin Hood budget. It takes from the needy and gives to the greedy. We say to this government not only must justice roll down but our churches will be here until you vote for a budget that lets the money be released so that the people can be free.”

The Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune, Director, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative: “It was 99 years ago today that a man named Nelson Mandela was born – one who started out boxing but ended his life fighting for justice. Today we stand in his footsteps, the footsteps of Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King, Jr. And like our ancestors did when they prayed for the end of slavery and Jim Crow, we will be back in these spaces and the halls of Congress, knocking on the doors of all who decide that they should rob the poor just because they are poor. We stand here knowing that sometimes as congressman John Lewis said, sometimes you have to get into good trouble.”

The collective of clergy also announced plans to unroll an aggressive social media campaign, #BlackClergyUprising #BlackClergyVoices as a means of persuading Congress to eliminate any health care bills that would result in millions of Americans losing their current health care coverage.

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