The Black Church: Current Challenges and Enduring Hope

James Madison Program Black History Month Event

February 24, 2022
Stained glass

Jacqueline C. Rivers, Executive Director and Senior Fellow for Social Science and Policy, Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies

Historically, the Black Church has played a vital role in the black community, spiritually, socially, and politically.  In the current period the Black Church, like the church as a whole, is confronting unprecedented intellectual, social and political challenges. The decline in church attendance among the young and the drift to alternative forms of spirituality, the powerful influence of a take-no-prisoners culture, the financial hardship of a pandemic are all impacting black congregations in troubling ways. This talk explores the historic strength of the black Church and the current challenges it faces. In light of the resources at the church’s disposal, how does it remain true to orthodox Christian teaching and practice? What might the future hold?

Jacqueline C. Rivers is the Executive Director and Senior Fellow for Social Science and Policy of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies. She is currently a Senior Fellow at The King’s College in New York City and has served as a lecturer in both Sociology and African American Studies at Harvard University. She has presented at Princeton University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, the Vatican, Stanford University, the United Nations and in several other venues. Her publications include “The Paradox of the Black Church and Religious Freedom”, a chapter in the volume Not Just Good but Beautiful and another co-authored with Orlando Patterson in The Cultural Matrix published by Harvard University Press.

Jacqueline holds a PhD from Harvard University where she was a Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy of the J. F. Kennedy School of Government and a Graduate Research Fellow of the National Science Foundation. She graduated from Harvard Radcliffe College (B.A. summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and M.A., both in Psychology).


The Black Church: Current Challenges and Enduring Hope