Faithful Work to Affect Policy; Black Church Leaders Want to Focus Their Efforts on Health Care, Jobs and More

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Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

About 1,000 of the nation's leading black pastors, theologians and lay people are in Jacksonville this week hammering out strategies to bring faith more strongly to bear on public policies that impact African-Americans.

Participants in the 2006 Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference hope the ideas generated here will spread across the nation via sermons, Web sites, written articles and word of mouth.

Their goal: To persuade church and government leaders alike to focus more attention, energy and money on the issues that hit minorities the hardest, said the Rev. Rudolph McKissick Jr., senior pastor at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Jacksonville.

To do that, the three-day conference, which concludes today, offered seminars and round-table discussions on topics ranging from HIV/AIDS and health care to jobs, justice, the news media and hurricane relief.

It was all designed to solidify a coherent message for black churches to present to federal, state and local governments, said McKissick, a conference board member and host of its third annual meeting.

Leaders attending the interdenominational conference at the Hyatt Regency downtown also face the challenge of convincing African-American churches to make these issues central to their ministries, McKissick said. …