Racial disparities within America’s criminal justice system are spurring black Southern Baptist pastors to work more closely with the national evangelical Prison Fellowship ministry, a pastors’ group told Baptist Press.
The National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the Southern Baptist Convention is dialoging with Prison Fellowship to study ways pastors can cooperate with the national prison ministry to better serve congregations, NAAF Executive Director Dennis Mitchell said.
“With the staggering number of African Americans incarcerated, the social, educational and economic repercussions continue to adversely impact the communities our churches minister to,” Mitchell said.
“And while many of our churches are making great efforts to address the issues associated with this crises,” he said, “we feel a formal relationship with Prison Fellowship will enable our churches to be even more effective in their ministry to prisoners by tapping into the resources of one of the world’s largest ministry to prisoners, former prisoners and their families.”
NAAF member Darron LaMonte Edwards, pastor of United Believers Community Church in Kansas City, Mo., hosted a Prison Fellowship ministry training workshop April 21. About 50 community and religious leaders attended the event, Edwards said.
“We believe this a perfect fit within the objectives of NAAF as we find ways to improve and empower the communities we serve,” Edwards told BP. “For starters, we will participate in the Angel Tree program. … We will soon after participate in their Second Chance campaign and in prison ministry opportunities.”
Edwards referenced Prison Fellowship’s Second Chance Month campaign for policies and programs to rehabilitate prisoners and help them reenter society as productive citizens. Supporting the campaign are President Trump, the U.S. Senate, at least eight states, and 150 religious and secular organizations including the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Edwards’ church is in Jackson County, where the 1,000 or so children whose parents are incarcerated is the highest concentration in the state, Edwards told BP. Through Angel Tree, the church can began building relationships with families suffering incarceration by giving children Christmas presents and continuing outreach year-round.
With Prison Fellowship, Edwards said he hopes to begin “a movement in the state of Missouri to restore and reconcile families who are impacted by crime and incarceration. With our church involvement and other like-minded congregations who were present (at the workshop), that number should be drastically reduced.”
Edwards and the nearly 4,000 other pastors who comprise NAAF minister to congregations that are overwhelmingly African American and thereby disproportionately impacted by the prison system.
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Source: Baptist Press