PNBC Social Justice CommissionThe Birmingham Declaration
In various and sundry times throughout its history the Christian Church has been called upon by exigent circumstances in its native context to respond spiritually to social, cultural, economic and political crises. These responses often came up short either because the Church establishment was beholden to the political hierarchies of its day, or the church was anxious about its status in the world or the cultural comfort level of its constituency, or its financial or worldly interests were bound up with the principalities and powers of its age or perhaps it honestly failed to adequately assess prevailing circumstances. Nevertheless, these failures jeopardized the Church’s witness and its spiritual integrity in subsequent generations. This judgment was not always apparent at the time. However, after sufficient time had elapsed the Church’s complicity with oppressive and exploitative regimes became apparent. These titanic forces of systemic degradation wash over history like a tidal wave leaving human lives, hopes, potential and entire races of people ruined in its wake. In America and the West in general, this process of degradation has been sanitized in the master narrative through the claims of progress and moralized to the advantage of the privileged by the spiritually bankrupt profession of the “white man’s burden.”
People of color, particularly those with African ancestry have historically been the most degraded of these peoples in the modern world and, time and again, the larger Church has failed to respond meaningfully except for perhaps in the aftermath. In the aftermath of systemic devastation, the larger Church works at a safe distance from the command of Christ to risk all for the cause of the Kingdom. By dealing only in the aftermath of systemic devastation the larger Christian Church, mainly the White Church (but also those who buy into their flawed theological presuppositions), create a moral loophole where it can leave the assumptions of White supremacy intact, reaping the morally illegitimate harvest of oppressive and exploitative privilege, while at the same time preserving a semblance of Christian commitment; enough of a semblance to reinforce White supremacy through a veneer of moral and spiritual authority.
Here in Birmingham we are faced with a resurgence of this spiritual deformity and moral monstrosity, which even threatens to consume the liberative vision of the African American Christian Church. Recent events have again brought this apparently benign but indeed cancerous malignancy to the fore. We are therefore, as Christian pastors and ministers, compelled by circumstance to respond faithfully to the call of Christ to resist this resurgent moral, spiritual and indeed Christian theological heresy in the living moment. We understand the Church to be in crisis. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to establish and defend its theological perimeter in order to protect and preserve the integrity of its witness.