(FinalCall.com) — A very important conference occurred in Detroit on Feb. 9. Radio commentator/activist Tavis Smiley convened “The State of the Black Union IV” with the theme “The Black Church: Relevant, Repressive or Reborn?” It was a lively discussion on the role of the Black church in today’s society.

Co-convened with radio broadcaster Tom Joyner, a total of 26 clergy participated in two panel discussions, offering frank commentary on issues such as the government’s Faith-Based Initiative, materialism in the church and the loss of morals and values in the community, the absence of men in the church and the need for people to think as well as pray.

More animated discussions occurred when the issue of gender equality in the church came up. The panels were well represented with outspoken female clergy who left no doubt that women, who already are in the church in overwhelming numbers, are well qualified to lead their congregations.


The first panel discussion was broadcast live over C-SPAN cable network. It probably was the first time that America got an earful from a wide range of Black clergy on the problems of the country.

And while the second panel was more energetic on the topic of the war against Iraq, both panels voiced their overwhelming disapproval of a pre-emptive strike on the Muslim nation.

The pastors noted that the notion of going to war against Iraq for the reasons stated by the Bush administration is totally contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. And this is a Judeo-Christian nation.

The national audience heard Black preachers reveal that they believe the motive for war is oil and an imperialistic desire by the United States to impose its capitalistic values on others. They said those motives are wrong.

Clergy who participated in the panel discussions thanked the conveners for calling them together, admitting they could not have done it themselves. Why? Perhaps it’s an issue of egos. Perhaps it’s more than that.

We remember in the early ’90s when Rev. Benjamin Chavis, then head of the NAACP, tried to convene a meeting with a diverse group of national Black leaders to discuss strategies for solving the problems of Black America. Those outside the Black community derailed that effort because it was viewed as dangerous.

How dangerous would Black America’s enemies view Black clergy deciding to drop denominational and religious barriers and convene meetings behind closed doors to construct an agenda for Black liberation?

What would happen if Black pastors got together and put the monies collected on Sunday toward a united economic development plan? Would there be less of a need for the abundance of foreign-owned stores in our communities because we would be opening more of our own?

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan for years has encouraged Black clergy to develop food cooperatives and produce such things as “Second Baptist Peas” and “Church of God in Christ Corn” and numerous other products that would take the Black community’s mouth out of the kitchens of other people.

We must produce for ourselves, and the responsibility of good spiritual leadership is to make the Black community productive.

The panel discussions that occurred in Detroit were a good beginning if Black ministers aren’t too proud to now convene amongst themselves for the good of the community.