Editorial: United We Stand
By Bishop Staccato Powell, AME Zion Church
Prior to the unjustifiable killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Black Lives Matters, and the election of the 45th President of these United States, the Nation’s three largest Black Methodist denominations—AME, AME Zion, and CME Churches—with combined memberships of more than five million, convened a historic gathering in Columbia, South Carolina, March 1-3, 2010. The ultimate goal of the gathering was to “Address the plight of the African American male and his critical role in America’s families and communities.” This unprecedented convening of historic African American Methodist gave birth to the Black Methodist United.
This strategic summit was titled the “Great Gathering.” It was the first meeting of the African Methodist Episcopal (headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina), and Christian Methodist Episcopal (based in Memphis, Tennessee) Churches in more than 45 years.
Since the initial meeting seven years ago, the general and connectional officers of the three communions have held annual meetings and the senior bishops of the three denominations have had two face-to-face meetings annually to discuss strategies for confronting the challenges which continue to plague our communities. Whether it is mass incarceration of African Americans in disproportionate numbers, the perpetual proliferation of violence across the landscape, toxic water in Flint, Michigan, or a political climate which attempts to establish draconian policies, Black Methodist United seek to alter conditions for our people by identifying and seeking unified solutions for the key issues that are devastating the African American community.
According to immediate past Senior Bishop John R. Bryant who passed the baton to the present Senior Bishop McKinley Young for the AME Church, the motivation for the Black Methodist United is to “Send an image and model of unity. Together, all our denominations represent a people and a community with many ills and problems…but we feel strongly that we can overcome all that might separate our churches so we can all focus collectively on what we can do to make things better for our people.”
Bishop George E. Battle, Sr., Senior Bishop for the AME Zion Church, who grew up without the presence of his father in the home echoes the sentiment of his immediate predecessor Bishop George W. C. Walker, “The African American male is noticeably absent in the church. He is also absent in the home. If we can find answers to what is happening with the Black male in this country, these solutions will have a positive impact on Black family life in this nation.” The plight of the African American continues to be the principle plank in the Black Methodist United efforts. During their last meeting in Columbus, Ohio hosted by AME Senior Bishop McKinley Young, Dr. Aaron Crutison was designated to give leadership to the Male Investment Plan.
The organizers of the Black Methodists United believe that a solid plan of action and the unified power of the faith, beliefs and commitment of the participants can bring significant change to the African American Community and the nation. Confident of the imperative nature of its collective witness in this chaotic culture of racial intolerance and lack of diverse inclusion this corporate consciousness cultivates a committed and concrete course of action to speak with a cogent voice to the perceived powers to be.
It is the contention of the CME Church Senior Bishops past William H. Graves and present Senior Bishop Lawrence R. Reddick, “We have the collective resources within our own denominations to address the problems in our communities…We can’t look for the government or other agencies to do this for us. We can do it ourselves.”
The Black Methodists United continue to issue the clarion call to the congregants and communities of African ancestry to stand united for the cause of liberty and justice. In the lyrics of the gospel balladeer, Donnie McClurkin, we are determined to “STAND” convinced that God has a purpose and God has a plan!
The Right Reverend Staccato Powell is Presiding Prelate of the Western Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.