Q+A: Harry R. Jackson Jr.

Senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in College Park, Maryland, and coauthor (with George Barna) of a new book, High-Impact African American Churches, on trends in black churches.

There seems to be a new awareness on the part of black church leaders about their ability to lead the whole church, not just the black church.
Historically, the clergy and the education professions have been where the brightest African American minds have gone. The next Oprah Winfrey, the next Denzel Washington, the next chairman of American Express, and the next chairman of Time Warner all are probably being trained in the black church.

How will this make a difference in how the church approaches social and moral issues?
In the future, you will find more of the new black church and its leaders redefining the political debate. The African American church has been much more of a pro-justice group … we need fairness according to God's standards. The emphasis now is that the black church has also taken up righteousness. Abortion, for example, is an issue of personal holiness. We are going to shape a new dialogue.

In the 1960s Daniel Patrick Moynihan said the black family was in crisis. Have we made any progress?
Only in certain pockets, such as the middle class. In the book we talk about two-thirds of black children being born out of wedlock.

And yet the black church doesn't seem to have any impact there.
This is probably the major crisis for the black church. There has to be intervention at the high-school level where you have such a high African American dropout rate. We must bring together churches, school boards, and maybe some policy help. We have to put together coalitions and ideas that come from conservative parties about righteousness and the Democrats' justice issues.

Related Elsewhere:

High Impact African American Churches: Leadership Concepts from Some of Today's Most Effective Churches is available from ...

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