From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Caucus seeks church education on black Methodism
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 13:34:43 -0500
Sept. 28, 2001 News media contact: Linda Green7(615)742-54707Nashville,
By M. Garlinda Burton*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The black caucus of the United Methodist Church
has asked the denomination's ecumenical agency to help educate the whole
church about the historic and current contributions of African-American
In response, the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and
Interreligious Concerns has assured Black Methodists for Church Renewal that
it plans to create task forces to address concerns raised by the caucus, and
that it will work cooperatively with BMCR leaders on those.
Leaders of BMCR further recommended that:
7 A black United Methodist heritage center be created;
7 The history of African-American United Methodists be compiled in a
series of print and audiovisual resources and presented to General
Conference, all annual conferences and the church's general boards and
7 Church-related seminaries teach the history of African Americans in
the church to pastors in training; and
7 The denomination counsel President Bush and members of Congress on
the issue of reparations for descendants of black people who were held as
The caucus made the recommendations in response to concerns by its members
that last year's denominational "act of repentance" for racism addressed
historic exclusion of black people in black Methodist churches, but ignored
the racism endured by blacks who stayed with the United Methodist Church and
its predecessor denominations.
At their annual meeting last spring, BMCR members expressed disappointment
with a special worship service at the 2000 General Conference and subsequent
study materials. Caucus members contended that the focus was on the schism
that created the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal
Zion and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches, without acknowledging the
racial segregation and discrimination experienced by blacks that stayed with
the mother church.
BMCR commissioned a task force to draft and forward the concerns formally to
the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns in New York,
which led the church in the "act of repentance." In their message to the
commission, BMCR leaders offered a brief history of African-American
involvement in the mother church, and proposed ways for the commission to
engage black United Methodists. The formal document notes that black
Christians are committed to bringing inclusiveness into the United Methodist
Church, but not at the expense or through the demise of the history and
traditions of black Methodism.
"We need to clean up our own house and reconcile with our own folks before
we go calling on other folks," said Betty Ann Henderson, BMCR executive
director in Dayton, Ohio. "Black people have been a part of the United
Methodist Church since it first hit the shores of the United States, and
some of us never left, despite being segregated, separated and plain
mistreated. We are not begging to be participants; we are participants in
The chairman of Christian Unity, Bishop Fritz Mutti of Topeka, Kan.,
expressed appreciation for the black caucus' candor in a Sept. 24 letter to
BMCR. "It is helpful to be reminded of the past which blights our history.
Even more important is the statement about our present commitment."
# # #
*Burton is editor of Interpreter magazine.
United Methodist News Service
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