The Council of Elders was born out of a vision that Dr, Vincent Harding, Rev. James Lawson and his brother Rev. Phil Lawson shared. Each was responding to their sense that the nation and current leaders in the 21st century could benefit from the wisdom and failures of the great non-violent movements for justice and democracy of the 2oth century.
Each of these leaders had mentored young people who were drawn to their commitment to non-violent resistance and the deep spirituality that undergirded their movements. In California, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice had built their organizing model out of these roots under the guidance of Rev. Jim Lawson and was excited about being a place to incubate the vision of a national Council of Elders that brought together leaders from the diverse movements of the past such as the Civil Rights, Women’s, Peace, Environmental, LGBTQ, Immigrant Justice, labor rights and current movements striving to address racial, gender and economic inequalities.
Their vision was shared by many others and an organizing committee was formed to be the launching point for a national gathering, a platform for commentary on the state of the nation and a structure for providing mentorship to young leaders.