Jan. 11, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
The Rev. Victoria McKenze of Detroit says the convocation is a chance �to connect with sisters and brothers.�
By Linda Green*
(UMNS) — The real power for ministry doesn’t come from a book or
seminary education but from a pastor’s relationship with Jesus Christ, a
United Methodist bishop told 650 clergy.
ministry comes with myriad challenges, a "power outside yourself" is
needed as well as the knowledge of how to incorporate it into one’s
work, said Bishop James Swanson, in the opening address to a convocation
of pastors leading African-American churches.
is in the relationship with Jesus Christ in the sense that you are able
to surrender yourself and your understanding to his understanding, so
that the questions that are answered are out of your relationship with
Christ," he said, "(and) so that you may convey the messages to your
people in word and in deed."
of African-American congregations from around the United States
gathered Jan. 4-7 for their biannual conference. This year’s theme,
"Tarrying for Power, Living in Power," was based on Luke 24:29, in which
the disciples are asked to tarry in the city until they have been
clothed by power from on high.
in power is dependent upon tarrying for power," said the Rev. Gary
Henderson, pastor of East Shore United Methodist Church in Euclid, Ohio.
Linda Lee explained that God sometimes places people in places where
trouble has arisen so that the person might receive the promise
available through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. "God
positions us, sets us up and arranges things for us," said Lee, who
leads the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference.
Throughout the four-day convocation, speakers emphasized that the ministerial call should not be taken lightly,
is not simply a matter of seeing just a need and saying that since
pastors are not meeting a need, I am going to go to seminary and meet
that need,” said Swanson, leader of the Holston Annual (regional)
Conference. “We believe that anyone who is in representative ministry
has to have had an encounter with God in which God says, ‘I need you and
I am going to use you.’ There needs to be a sense of an unction
(anointing) from God, and you have to continue to cultivate it and
The call, he said, is
an invitation to participate with the Holy Spirit in building up the
body of Christ to transform the world. "There is an understanding that
you just don’t sign up," Swanson said.
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
Bishop James Swanson of the Holston Annual Conference tells pastors how to find power for ministry.
challenge in making disciples is that many people in the ministry don’t
"understand why God called you in the first place," he said.
experience of the call means "being touched by the hand and finger of
God," said the Rev. James McCray, pastor of Jones Memorial United
Methodist Church in San Francisco.
speakers used desert imagery to describe how pastors of
African-American churches sometimes feel isolated and alone within the
United Methodist Church.
United Methodist Church has fewer than 3,000 African-American
congregations among its nearly 36,000 U.S. churches, noted the Rev.
Vance P. Ross, a staff member of the United Methodist Board of
Discipleship, the event’s sponsor. "We are not quite 10 percent, and
when you are in this context in terms of numbers, you can find yourself
alone and isolated in terms of religious cultural expression.
can feel arid," he said. "That can feel dry and desert-like. In order
to have a sense of bloom and a sense of ‘homeness’ and belonging, there
are times we come together, not to enforce the de facto segregation, but
to have power to overcome de facto segregation.
2005 theme of "Tarrying for Power, Living in Power" points pastors to
the Holy Spirit, the source of their ministerial strength, Ross said.
"Because we know of arid dry places, we need to be able to get somewhere
in the presence of God to be empowered not just to go through the
desert, but to make the desert an oasis place, a place where things that
should not grow do grow and blossom."
Started in 1999, the convocation has become a popular leadership and training event.
such as this are important because "you are given opportunities to
connect with sisters and brothers from across the country, and hear from
the great minds and theologians in sermons and lectures on what
ministry is and can be for the black church in the 21st century," said
the Rev. Victoria McKenze, pastor of Henderson Memorial United Methodist
Church in Detroit and Oak Park (Mich.) Faith United Methodist Church.
event fortified and affirmed my call to be a pastor," said Michele
Morton, a divinity student at Gammon Theological School in Atlanta. "I
feel as though I am where I am supposed to be."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.