Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon on Tuesday unveiled a new interfaith advisory council, a group of religious leaders that will meet periodically to discuss issues such as homelessness and education.
The formation of the group suggests that Cannon, a Democrat who became mayor in December, intends to give religion a higher profile than the city’s two previous mayors, Patsy Kinsey and Anthony Foxx.
At a news conference, Cannon said his new group would not cross a line separating church and state and that it would be an important tool in solving problems.
“This only helps us,” Cannon said. “It’s not up to any one entity (to solve city problems).”
Cannon noted that Matthews-based Elevation Church recently donated $300,000 to the Social Impact Housing Endowment, a project that seeks to raise $20 million for struggling veterans and families.
He later added that the Constitution protects citizens from government establishing a religion.
“It’s not freedom from religion,” Cannon said, noting that religious groups haven’t always been reached out to by government officials.
The group met Tuesday for the first time and then held a news conference at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.
Rusty Price, a pastor at Camino Church on Ikea Boulevard, said Cannon invited him to join.
“We talked about his vision for the city and how faith could help,” Price said. “It’s in the embryonic stage.”
The group may meet quarterly or monthly, Cannon said.
The first meeting was attended by 23 religious leaders. Cannon said he is working to ensure ethnic and religious diversity, as well as to ensure mosques, temples and synagogues are part of the group.
“I have reached out to all sectors in the faith-based community,” he said.
Representatives from the following churches attended Tuesday: University City Church; Casa Restauracion Latin Harvest; Camino Church; Little Rock AME Zion Church; Madison Saints United House of Prayer for All People; Iglesia de Dios Nueva Vida; Temple of Refuge International Fellowship; Iglesia Nueva Vida; Nations Ford Road Community Church; Temple Church International; Greater Mount Sinai Baptist Church; Iglesia Oasis de Restauracion; Temple Beth El; Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church; The Park Church; Friendship Missionary Baptist Church; Sherman Memorial Church of God in Christ; The Rock Worship Center; Weeping Willow AME Zion Church; Jesus Ministry Inc.; Iglesia de Dios Shalom Adonai; Elevation Church; and Charlotte Chinese Baptist Church.
Cannon is a member of the Park Church, one of the city’s most notable African-American churches. He said he also sometimes attends Elevation Church in south Charlotte with his wife and children.
He speaks about religion more than other city elected officials. During the invocation at a recent City Council meeting, Cannon asked that everyone in the audience hold hands – something that hasn’t happened in at least four years.
Foxx, who was mayor for four years starting in 2009, held an interfaith summit on homelessness in 2012. But he didn’t convene a long-standing religious task force as Cannon has done.