GERMANTOWN, MD -- An interdenominational group of African-American pastors has united to ignite a movement to renew marriage and fatherhood in the African-American community.
The movement, led by 10 pastors in partnership with National Fatherhood Initiative, Urban Ministries, Inc., and The National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting, has been initiated by a "Call to Action," which educates and inspires the black church to address the declines in marriage and father involvement that plague the black community. Clergy around the country will be recruited to sign the Call to Action, indicating their desire to join the movement to reverse these destructive trends.
Since the 1960s, marriage and fatherhood have declined faster in the black community than in the rest of the population. In 1970, seven out of 10 African Americans between the ages of 20 and 54 were married; today, just four in 10 are (compared to nearly six in 10 in the general population). Today, one in three children in the country live apart from their biological fathers, but two of three African American children do.
Social science research over the past several decades has showed that children who live outside of a married, two-parent home face significantly greater risks across nearly every measure of child well-being: poverty, delinquency, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, school performance, and emotional and behavioral problems.
Roland C. Warren, president of National Fatherhood Initiative, said, "It is no coincidence that while the state of the black family has declined, that the state of the black community – in terms of poverty, incarceration, school failure, and other measures – has also deteriorated. Marriage and fatherhood must be renewed in order for these problems to be reversed."
Recalling the African-American church's central role in the civil rights movement, the leaders of this Call to Action recognize the power the church can have in creating positive change in the black community. The Call to Action states:
"Similar to how the church had a central role in the civil rights movement of the 20th century, we believe that now is the time for the African-American church to lead the way in reversing the alarming decline in marriage and the exponential increase in father absence that we have witnessed in the African-American community over the past several decades. The consequences are too great for the church to accept anything less than a leadership role in joining the national movement to renew marriage and fatherhood, starting in the African-American church."
Jeff Wright, CEO of Urban Ministries, said, "African-American clergy are uniquely positioned to lead this revival of marriage and fatherhood in the black community. They have the influence, reach, and most importantly the trust, to lead the African-American community in a movement that has both spiritual and societal implications."
The 10 pastors leading the movement met earlier this year to discuss the current state of marriage and fatherhood in the African-American community, what the church's role should be in reversing the negative trends, and to outline the Call to Action document that will serve as the catalyst for culture change.
Through the Call to Action, the pastors are calling upon their fellow African-American clergy to take on these five broad strategies: acknowledge and eliminate the barriers to promoting marriage and fatherhood in the church; be a voice and a guide for God's plan for marriage, fathers, and families; advocate for strong marriages and help others to enjoy them; help and encourage men to be the fathers their children need; and enlist and guide the community in strengthening marriages, fathers, and families.
The Call to Action provides several specific tactics for each of the five strategies and will be distributed nationally to clergy, along with a Pastors' Toolkit containing sermon notes and information about programs provided by the movement's partners. For example, National Fatherhood Initiative provides several fatherhood skill-building resources that churches can use to help men be better dads, such as the 24/7 Dad™ Power Hour, a small group discussion kit for fathers.
The leaders of the movement are encouraging anyone who is interested, not just fellow clergy, to sign the Call to Action to demonstrate their support for the mission of renewing the African-American family through the church's leadership.
The leaders and founding signatories of the Call to Action are: Edwin Bass, Founder and Senior Pastor, The Empowered Church (Church of God in Christ) and President of COGIC Urban Initiatives, Inc., St. Louis, MO; Alex Gee, Founder and Senior Pastor, Fountain of Life Family Worship Center, Madison, WI; David Guy, Associate Pastor, Life International, Research Triangle Park, NC; Rob Harrison, Founder and President, 4ever Marriages & Families; Ray Johnson, Senior Pastor, Calvary Revival Church Peninsula, Newport News, VA; Bernie Miller, Founder and Pastor, New Covenant Fellowship Church, Chattanooga, TN; Johnny Parker, Men's Ministry Director, First Baptist Church, Glenarden, MD; John Penton, Founder and Pastor, Greater Roosevelt Heights Church, Tacoma, WA; Clarence Shuler, President and CEO, Building Lasting Relationships; and Sherman Strong, Pastor, Restoration Temple (Church Of God in Christ), St. Louis, MO.
"With African-American churches and clergy working together and becoming voices for and guides to God's plan for families," said Edwin Bass, founder and senior pastor of The Empowered Church in St. Louis, MO and President, COGIC Urban Initiatives, Inc., "we will lead an historic reversal of the destructive trends that prevent us from realizing our potential as a people."
As a leading fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 5.7 million resources, and has trained over 7,400 practitioners on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 1,200 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.
Urban Ministries, Inc., is the largest independent African-American-owned, Christian media company in America, supplying thousands of churches. It is a resource for small-group and self-study materials, sermon resources, curricula for Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, books, movies and web-based materials, all with a Christ-centered perspective on faith and life.
The National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting at Hampton University offers leadership, research, resources, national advocacy, and guidance on best practices pertaining to the institutions of marriage and parenting. The Hampton University Ministers' Conference, offers, through its annual conference, training on subjects related to marriage and family ministries and a forum for networking and collaboration with others engaged in this work.