The Black Church has had a long and rich tradition of social thought, which has served to galvanize previous generations of church laity and clergy into social action. Since the waning of the Civil Rights Movement in the later 1960’s, this body of faith-based practice has faded from view as alternative secular approaches to social issues have flourished. More recently new movements, antithetical to Christian thought and practice, have appropriated the Civil Rights Movement to their cause. With the decline of the affirmative action by the state and the growing crisis in the black community, a new generation of black clergy and lay leaders stand in need of the philosophical, moral and theoretical resources to address the cultural decay that contributes to the many problems that are so pressing in black communities. To address this need the William J. Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies will educate and train black church leaders (including clergy, seminarians and lay men and women) as well the interested public, regarding a proper Christian philosophic and theological understanding of the complex questions confronting the Black Church at this period in our history. An uncompromising commitment to the poor inspires the Seymour Institute’s mission because of the greater vulnerability of economically disadvantaged populations to the harms that arise from improper societal action in the areas of concern.
The long-term objective of the Institute is to create and promote a philosophical, political and theological framework for a pro-poor, pro-life, pro-family movement within the ecumenical Black Church both domestically and internationally. The agenda of the Institute is firmly rooted in a philosophical, political and theological foundation on which stand three policy pillars. The first of these is regarding matters of bioethics, abortion, euthanasia, marriage and the family. The second involves urgent social issues of particular importance to the black community: mass incarceration, expanding employment opportunities, improved availability of quality public education, economic development and public safety. The third pillar is explicitly international, promoting an interdisciplinary understanding of the various development and social options available to successfully engage the challenges of poverty in the developing world.