Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., pastor of Hope Christian Church, a 3,500-member charismatic congregation in Lanham, Maryland, has become one of the leading voices in an emerging movement of black religious conservatives. His High Impact Leadership Coalition has mobilized thousands of black evangelicals to "protect the moral compass of America." Last year, he introduced his ambitious "Black Contract with America on Moral Values," targeting such issues as same-sex marriage and abortion (which he calls black genocide). His goal is 1 million signatures by 2008.
While some traditional black leaders are critical of his conservative message, National Association of Evangelicals president Ted Haggard told Religion News Service last year, "He's building a bridge between white evangelicalism and African American evangelicalism that we haven't had in 20 years."
CT editor at large Edward Gilbreath recently spoke to Bishop Jackson.
You're a registered Democrat who pastors a predominantly black church, yet you're now a leading voice for conservative causes. What happened?
I voted for President Bush, but here in Marylanda primarily Democratic statein order to vote in the primaries that affect the election, you need to be a Democrat. That's where I started. Over time, however, I've found that I have very little in common with the Democratic Party in terms of national moral values issues. Still, being able to say I'm a registered Democrat disarms many of the people who want to write me off as an "Oreo" or an "Uncle Tom."
How do you convince African Americans that Republicans can care about their issues?
I tell them that one party has taken us for granted, because they feel like we've got nowhere else to go. And if the other party thinks ...