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Black Methodists to raise prophetic, spiritual leaders

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Bishop Forrest C. Stith
April 3, 2006

By Denise Johnson Stovall*

DALLAS (UMNS)—African-American United Methodists converged in Dallas in a week of prayer, praise and preaching that resembled an old fashioned revival.

The 39th annual meeting of National Black Methodists for Church Renewal held March 21-25 was also a resource outlet and a family reunion for “the children of God.”

The focus for the 2006 meeting was “Pathways to Faithful Leadership,” which was based on the story of Nehemiah who initially struggled with problems, but eventually accepted the task to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem that was destroyed. The caucus also struggles with issues and financial problems and also wants to “rebuild.”

“Nehemiah’s journey and our journey are the same,” said Bishop Forrest C. Stith, bishop-in -residence at Asbury United Methodist Church, Washington. “It always begins with prayer. The difficulty is how we discern God’s will for us. So to be a leader, discerning God’s will is not to say, ?I’ve got God in a capsule.’ But to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to all of us and work together.”

“This is a day of renewed hope for the people called United Methodists,” said the Rev. Vincent Harris, pastor of Love United Methodist Church in Houston, in his final address as chairperson.

“We have a new vision statement. Our mission is to raise up leaders ? We come from the fleshpots of Egypt,” he said. “We Black Methodists stand before the enemies of God. God provides abundant blessings. It is time to be hope filled. Our churches long to hear a word of hope.”

During plenary sessions, members were challenged to acquire “visionary leadership.”

The Rev. Hilly Hicks, director of media production for United Methodist Communications, set the stage for a panel discussion by presenting a video of the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston.

“Vision is God’s preferred state for the future, Caldwell said. “The shoe never tells the foot not to grow,” said the pastor of the denomination’s largest African-American United Methodist Church. He said he understands how congregations love their churches, but “the building is just the conduit.”

Venita Fields, an investment banker for Smith Wiley, based in Evanston, Ill., said “a visionary leader must have the traits of Jesus, like being humble, submissive, a risk taker, a delegator, and a team builder.”

A leader “must assemble a team but allow the team to set its goals,” she said. An active laywoman at Sherman United Methodist Church in Evanston, Ill., Fields said, a leader “must be a good listener, must be brutally honest, but tactful.”

In a session on transformational leadership, Larry Ray Hygh, director of communications for the California Pacific Annual Conference, said this leader has a clear vision; is a social architect, creates trust in an organization and uses creative deployment.

“We must ask the question, ?Who are we? Where are we going?’ ?How are we going to get there?’ But first, in order to be a driving force we must hear a word from the Lord,” he said.

The Rev. Michel Battle, president of the Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, said, “Transformational leaders must have empathy, be listeners, have healing awareness of the congregation, foresight, stewardship, commitment, strength and persuasion. But, more importantly, they must be community builders.

“We have failed to prepare transformational leaders who have the agility, adaptability, alertness, and alignment with God,” said the Rev. Sherry Daniels, director of congregational development for the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. “We know what our mission is: to make disciples of Christ,” said Daniels. “We fully understand our core vales. But can we be transformative to do it.”

In business sessions, the caucus also:

  • Elected its 2006 leadership: Cheryl Walker (Southeastern Jurisdiction), chairperson; the Rev. Dennis Oglesby (North Central Jurisdiction), vice-chairperson; Deborah Dangerfield (North Central Jurisdiction), secretary; and the Rev. Joseph Crawford (Southeastern Jurisdiction), treasurer;
  • Expressed gratitude to the Coordinating Committee for Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century for continued training of partner congregations who want to grow;
  • Thanked the fellowship of Black District Superintendents for a donation of $6,150;
  • Received an update on the proposed African American Heritage Center slated for Atlanta, with an appeal for artifacts, historical photos, and books.
  • Celebrated the continued service and witness of United Methodist Black Clergywomen.
  • Received a grant of $4,000 from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
  • Witnessed the legacy of Gammon Theological Seminary.
  • Learned of continued support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, especially those at Gulfside Assembly; and
  • Welcomed the creation of a new worship book, “Zion Sings,” as a companion to “Songs of Zion.”

*Stovall is a free lance writer based in Dallas.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources
Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Inc.