From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodists pay homage to African Americans who stayed

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 1 Apr 2004 12:23:27 -0600

April 1, 2004  News media contact: Linda Green 7 (615)742-5470 7 Nashville,
Tenn. 7 E-mail: 7 ALL-AA-AF {148}

NOTE: Photographs are available at

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*

Delegates to the 2004 General Conference will both celebrate the African
American witness and presence within the United Methodist Church today and
recognize "those who stayed" in spite of racism.

On April 30, the nearly 1,000 delegates to the denomination's top legislative
assembly in Pittsburgh will participate in a "Service of Appreciation"
recognizing, honoring and celebrating those African Americans who remained as
members of the former Methodist Episcopal Church and other predecessor
Methodist bodies in spite of the racial indignities that occurred in a
segregated structure.

The service will celebrate God's presence in the life of the church,
recognize wounds and encourage healing, according to a purpose statement.  It
will be one of many activities for delegates attending the April 27-May 7

In 2000, General Conference delegates participated in an "acts of repentance"
service, acknowledging the racism that caused blacks to leave the
denomination in the 18th and 19th century. But no mention was made of the
African Americans who stayed, said Black Methodists for Church Renewal, a
37-year-old national caucus that promotes advocacy and leadership

The caucus expressed its concern about the omission to the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, which organized
the 2000 service and related resources for annual (regional) conferences.

It also created a document, "The Problem with Repentance," with four
recommendations, including the idea of the service of appreciation.

"While we (the church) recognized the injustice done toward those who left,
we did not recognize the injustice done to those who stayed in the acts of
repentance service," said the Rev. Renita Thomas, associate director for
church development for the North Georgia Annual (regional) Conference and a
caucus member.	 "If we are going to get our house in order, then we ought to
start in the house."

"The purpose of this service is an appreciation of the gifts and
contributions that blacks have made since the beginning of our church because
blacks were there at the beginning," added Bishop Melvin Talbert, interim
chief executive for the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious

Organizers call the service of appreciation an opportunity for the church to
repent of its racism and move toward community and reconciliation as it works
to eradicate isolation and oppression.

Another goal is to add to the church's history. "There is nothing that talks
about the blacks who remained and continued to give leadership in the
church," Talbert explained. "We are hoping collect information on those
who stayed that will be added to the history of blacks in Methodism."

The Rev. Vincent Harris, president of Black Methodists for Church Renewal,
noted that those who stayed "were led by faith that God would not leave or
forsake them as they fought for inclusion, equality and justice. They deserve
all the honor, respect and gratitude we can offer for their tumultuous

Harris said the service should serve as a "clarion call for a spiritual
transformation and conversion" in all the church, but especially in the black

Jerry Ruth Williams of Columbia, Mo., a member of the Commission on Christian
Unity and Interreligious Concerns, said it is hoped that holding the service
during a high-level meeting would make more United Methodists aware of the
contributions African Americans have made to the church. 

"The goal is to show appreciation and honor to people who have provided
leadership and staying power under some very unpleasant circumstances," she
# # #
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville,


United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home