By Nathaniel Lee, Tribune Correspondent
A group of pastors said the Black church needs to return to its activist roots in order to resist the Trump administration, at “The Role of the Black Church in the Trump Era” panel discussion, hosted at Vine Memorial Baptist Church on Thursday.
Organizers said the discussion was a response to concerns from the community and the congregation.
“Everybody is complaining about [Trump]. They’re saying ‘I don’t understand what’s going on; What’s he going to do and he’s crazy,” said Jettie Newkirk, Esq., the event organizer. “The purpose of this [discussion] is to raise questions around this issue that everyone is wondering about.”
Bishop Audrey Brunson, pastor of Church of the Open Door, and the Rev. Gregory Holston, pastor of New Vision United Methodist Church and the executive director of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) served as panelists at the discussion. Both said the answer for the Black church, in the era of Trump, is to be the Black church that was home to the civil rights movement.
“Some of us forgot the days we really had to fight,” said Brunson. “We got a little comfortable when we got into the schools we wanted to....[and] the jobs. God sent Trump along so we can get conscious again. He can take us back 100 years. We have to get something done.”
Holston agreed. “Sometimes [God] allows so he can get our attention, so we can learn to trust him a little bit more,” he said. “It is a challenge to the church to shape us, and mold us to be what we need to be in the 21st century.
“We can get into Trump’s craziness but you’ve got to watch the people behind him because they are worse.”
He labeled Trump’s special counsel “Steve Bannon...a white nationalist” as a problem because “[white nationalists] don’t even want Black people around. You got a man like this in the middle of the White House making policy decisions.”
Holston proposed that Black churches unify, and suggested POWER, a collective of religious activists from all faiths, as an option.
“We need each church to be so organized that [if] we give a call, the [congregation] is organized in a was so your presence can make a difference,” he said. “The liberal moderate white folks are calling us up saying ‘what can I do?’ Trump has waken up everybody to know racism is alive and well in America. We’ve got a great opportunity. If we learn to unite...without tearing each other down, there is a legion of...supporters waiting for you.”
Holston added that the Black church should pay attention to issues such as underfunded education and minimum wage stagnation.
“The economy is not the same like when you were younger,” he said. “The people at the top have been sucking all the money out the community. Unless you fight for a change, the kids will have less than the previous generation to raise their children.”
Brunson said Black churches should keep the community informed and hold elected officials accountable. She also envisions black churches and organizations across the country coming together as a “big convocation.
“We need to write the representatives, call them, find out who they are; be aware of what’s being talked about; be aware of things they are trying to put over our heads. The church should keep us informed. Every Sunday, a pastor should preach something about this,” she said. “I’d like to see a convocation of black organizations and churches. Let’s get him impeached.”
The Rev. Frank N. Moore, senior pastor of the Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, attended the discussion as member of the audience. He shared an opinion from an economical view.
“The Trump era is all about capitalism,” he said. “In order to deal with a Trump era, you cannot support capitalism. There’s a difference between Jesus of Nazareth and capitalistic Christianity. If God wrote the federal budget, what would be at the top? The poor, not the rich.”
Holston and organizers invited the community to the Rally for Racial Justice: Worker Rights = Human Rights, on the anniversary of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The rally will be held Tue, April 4 from 5 to 6 p.m. at Thomas Paine Plaza, 1401 John F Kennedy Blvd. More information go to http://powerinterfaith.org.