Task team calls for greater support for African-American churches

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Task team calls for greater support for African-American churches

May 22, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0857}

NOTE: A headshot of the Rev. Walter Monroe is available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

The Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan believes African-American churches have been neglected, and she is calling for change at the upcoming 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event.

The Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan attending the “Thunder in the Desert: Symposium for Partnerships in African-American Churches,” sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship in January in Nashville, Tenn. A UMNS photo by Linda Green. File photo #08-0744. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0795/Feb. 7, 2008.

“Forty years have passed and the annual conference has not fully recognized the blessings and contributions of the African-American church,” said McClellan, superintendent of the Florida Conference’s North Central District and liaison to the conference's African-American Task Team. “The strengthening of the African-American church is a vital part of making our church one. It is important to have a director of African-American Congregational Development and line item funding.”

The Rev. Walter Monroe, chairperson of the task team, agrees. He will be presenting recommendations from the team, based on its review of the African-American Comprehensive Plan, May 30 during the conference session, which runs May 29-31.

“We’re proposing that we need to fund a position called the director of African-American Congregational Development,” he said. “We’re asking the conference to hear our report, decide the responsibilities of this office and then include line item funding in the budget. We see this as a move in the right direction.”

At last year’s conference session, members approved the African-American Comprehensive Plan. It called for making churches in urban areas more relevant, externally focused and a higher priority of the conference; making worship in African-American churches more relevant through technological advances and training; and the consideration of an African-American Church Redevelopment office.

Of the 722 Florida Conference churches, approximately 75 are African-American, representing about 9.6 percent of the conference’s churches. The majority of them are located in the North East, West and Central districts.

Rev. Walter Monroe

Monroe says the task team held listening sessions in the Jacksonville and Gainesville areas and received some very positive feedback.

“Rev. Geraldine McClellan met with African-American leaders and asked how God is leading the African-American constituency in the Methodist Church,” he said. “I am very encouraged about the conversations we’ve had. They’ve been honest and engaging.”

“The director (of African-American Congregational Development), working in consultation with the director of Congregational Transformation, will provide promising approaches and tools for addressing disparities, as well as identifying appropriate points for change,” McClellan said.

In January, McClellan led a delegation representing 11 Florida Conference congregations to the “Thunder in the Desert: Symposium for Partnerships in African-American Churches” in Nashville, Tenn.

The event was designed to provide church leaders with resources to strengthen and energize African-American churches and was sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

Numerous African-American leaders at the event shared the concern that black churches have lost their identity and culture in worship and become so “Caucasian-ized” that they have forgotten God’s work and miracles in their lives.

“We have our own culture, and God has given us a style of worship that is unique, and we don't have to be ashamed of that,” McClellan said in a United Methodist News Service interview during the symposium. “We have become so ashamed of what God has done for us, and because of that our churches are dying."

Monroe wants the new director position to “become a reality and take effect in January 2009.”

Conference from the comfort of home

The “Living the United Methodist Way” 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event will be webcast live, beginning with opening worship May 29 at 2 p.m. Individuals would like to view the events via the webcast may go to http://www.flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=1339 on the Florida Conference Web site and click on the webcast link.

The entire conference session will be webcast, enabling those not able to attend the annual gathering at the Lakeland Center to see the activities and hear the important news taking place.

More information about the conference session, including a schedule of activities and reports being presented, is also available on the Web site.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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