The Rev. Anthony Evans, president and founder of NBCI, has faced backlash over his organization’s stance on gay rights. (Courtesy photo)
The National Black Church Initiative, which says it is made up of 34,000 churches across America, has been in the news recently resulting from a series of bold statements and stances taken on a number of controversial social issues.
In addition, the organization has published repeated press releases expressing their disdain with various public figures, politicians, community leaders, social groups and religious leaders.
According to its website, the NBCI’s purpose is, “to partner with major organizations and officials whose main mission is to reduce racial disparities in . NBCI offers faith-based, out-of-the-box and cutting-edge solutions to stubborn economic and social issues. NBCI’s programs are governed by credible statistical analysis, science-based strategies and techniques, and methods that work.”
The Rev. Anthony Evans is the president and founder of NBCI, which was established in 1991. As the spokesman and representative of the organization, Evans has been under scrutiny by various prominent figures for his outspokenness on a number of issues, particularly on the topics of same-sex marriage, LGBT rights and race.
“We don’t dislike them . We don’t hate them. We love them, but we want them to know that there’s two sides to the story and we’re not going to let them set the cultural morality of the Black Christian Church,” Evans told the AFRO, the associate pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
“We have not faced any criticism within the church because we are compatible with scripture,” Evans said, “but certainly the gay organizations around the country… want us to be silent, and we won’t.”
Evans is a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont and holds a master’s degree in divinity from the Howard University School of Divinity. While he is known as a conservative pastor in the mainstream media, he has protested apartheid in South Africa and the genocide in Sudan, mobilized his organization to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake.
Evans recently launched initiatives in the areas of financial literacy, educational obtainment and health and wellness. Nevertheless, it is his opposition to same-sex marriage and his advocacy of the traditional role of the family in which the woman has a defined role that has gotten him a lot of attention.
Despite his wariness toward gays, Evans recently voiced his stand with the gay community in the horrific killings that took place in Orlando on June 12.
“On this issue nothing separates our humanity and we stand together against anyone or even any religion that would disrespect the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in any way,” Evans said in a letter to Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the leading gay advocacy organization. “What we know that no one can change is that you are just as much a child of God as we are.”
Moreover, Evans has led protests and press conferences decrying the actions of well-known officials such as President Barack Obama, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Alton Pollard, the Dean of Howard Divinity School, for their endorsement of homosexual marriage.
“We vehemently disagree with the president’s stance and we believe he promotes gay rights over Black people all the time,” Evans said of Obama.
“The president – in one scope of his presidency – destroyed the Black family by illegitimating marriage between a man and a woman… So there’s no way we’re going to support this administration. And that’s why every single time this administration promotes gay rights, we will promote Christian rights.”
Israel Baptist, a Baltimore-based ministry, has been a part of the NBCI since 2013.
“It’s not a matter of fearing or hating anybody or being homophobic, but the fact that we’re just simply standing on the word (The Holy Bible). People have differences of opinion, but you can’t change what the word says. The bible says man and woman in marriage – not man and man, and not woman and woman,” said Greg Allen, a minister from Israel Baptist Church.
Allen said his responsibility as NBCI’s “Maryland faith command leader” is to connect with as many area churches as possible to inform them about NBCI’s objectives and its efforts in bringing advancement to underprivileged communities and the church community.
Allen said Israel Baptist partnered with Evans on several projects in Baltimore, including a health initiative promoting healthy eating and exercise, and an initiative urging Black men to go to church.
Not all Black ministers agree with NBCI. A D.C.-based minister who requested anonymity spoke with the AFRO to express his disagreement with Evans and the NBCI.
“I’m not comfortable with his stance,” he said, adding, “I don’t agree with him on any of those issues .”
The minister also said he’s skeptical of the amount of member churches the NBCI alleges to have.
Comparatively, Mark McCleary, the pastor of Liberty Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Windsor Hill, Md., said he is affiliated with the NBCI, but has “mixed” views on some of the controversial matters Evans has spoken on.
McCleary, who was born in Baltimore City and raised in Philadelphia, pastored at First Church of Seventh-Day Adventists in northwest D.C. until January 2014, when he relocated to his current church. He said when he was at First Church, he was heavily involved in NBCI and recalls traveling with Evans from state to state, and working with him on several initiatives.
“I wanted to be more socially conscious,” said McCleary of one of his main reasons for joining the faith-based group. McCleary estimated that he and his former church joined NBCI in 2003 or 2004. In recent years, however, McCleary said hasn’t been too involved in the organization.
McCleary, whose views are more liberal than Evans,’ said he was opposed to the gay lifestyle but also believes “in the separation of church and state.”
Despite of the backlash the organization receives, Evans said that the NBCI is a multidimensional group working to bring upward social mobility to oppressed communities throughout the nation. He also emphasized NBCI’s commitment to holding those in power accountable.
“Every African American has a responsibility to the African-American community, and if you are in a position to public policy, and you vote against the Black community every time, the National Black Church – morally – will come after you,” said Evans.
Though homosexuality is a topic covered quite frequently by the NBCI, Evans said that isn’t the organization’s sole focus.
“We’re not just after the gays. Or after Black politicians. We’re after anybody who’s not going to do what we believe that the Black Church has traditionally stood up for,” he said.