Mar 26, 2024

Bishop John Schol

Six members of the Eastern PA Conference’s Black Methodists for Church Renewal caucus, plus Bishop John Schol, attended the national caucus’s 57th General Meeting March 6-9 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the caucus’ birthplace. Bishop Schol spoke to the assembly of over 200 members, participated in a dialogue with other bishops about denominational concerns, and was honored, as he prepares to retire this summer, for his two decades of attendance and membership since his election to the episcopacy in 2004.

The Rev. Andrew Foster III, a General BMCR board member and Life and Century caucus member, was also honored as he received his Harry Hoosier membership pin. In addition, the Rev. Eric Carr, who succeeded the Rev. Shayla Johnson in January as coordinator of BMCR’s Northeastern Jurisdiction, led his first NEJ meeting and addressed the full caucus in that new role. Carr is the pastor of St. Daniel’s UMC in Chester.

Chante Love Mason

Chante Love Mason who succeeded Carr in January as Philadelphia BMCR caucus coordinator, also attended and raised a question to the panel of bishops. She is a Certified Lay Minister and lay leader at Janes Memorial UMC in Philadelphia. The Revs. Lorraine Foster and John Coleman also attended the annual meeting.

Read John Coleman’s news account of the BMCR General Meeting, published March 22 by United Methodist News Service: “Black caucus urged to champion change in pivotal year.”

Also, three EPA attendees shared their reflections about the four-day, eventful meeting, which addressed many important concerns of the caucus and its denomination.

Rev. Eric W. Carr, Jr., reports on NEJ BMCR

The Rev. Eric W. Carr, Jr., NEJ BMCR Coordinator, Pastor of St. Daniel’s UMC in Chester:
Going back to Cincinnati, Ohio, where it all began for BMCR, was a reminder of why many Black members left Methodism and why a remnant has remained to this day. Both movements were an act of protest in the face of racism, oppression and injustice. With much going on today in our denomination, our conferences and local churches, I am reminded of one speaker who said “Every church has a back to Egypt mentality.” It is always easier to go back to the norm of how we used to do things when there were 400-plus congregants on Sunday mornings.

God promised His people a land flowing with milk and honey; but God never promised that the journey would be free of challenges. Black people have always been resilient. Black people have always adjusted and “made do.” We are not foreign to trials, tribulations, sufferings and challenges, but we have faced them head on as Methodists.

If we are to live into the newness and the promises of God, we must continue to move forward. As we have been discussing on the local and jurisdictional BMCR levels, we can hold these two things in tandem: staying true to who we are and the foundation upon which BMCR was birthed, while also pressing forward and evolving into what today’s challenges call us to be and do as Black Methodists. This was an overarching theme for me during the General Meeting.

Rev. Dr. Andrew L. Foster III receives his Harry Hosier membership pin

The Rev. Dr. Andrew L. Foster III, BMCR Board Member, East District Superintendent:
There have not been many general meetings of BMCR I have not attended. However, this 57th General meeting was even more memorable because at this meeting I received my Harry Hosier membership pin to accompany my Life and Century pins.

The gathering provided relevant Bible studies, giving insight on how to get outside of the church building to collaborate and build up our faith and church family, and our future. Finally, it was very timely that (closing speaker) Stacey Abrams charged those present to speak up, stand up and show up, because if we don’t, we don’t have the luxury to complain during the upcoming U.S. election.

Rev. Shayla L. Johnson, BMCR board member and former Philadelphia and NEJ caucus coordinator. Pastor of Trinity Garden UMC Lansdowne and New Life UMC Drexel Hill:
I received several affirmations during this 57th General BMCR Meeting that was focused on Self Actualization— regarding the need for a continued teaching and practice of shifting mindsets for effective ministry and serving our communities as God instructed with Holy Spirit-led leadership.  With all the speakers and discussions, there was a common understanding that as Black United Methodists, it is our faith, our families, our communities and our future that are on the line if we don’t “Speak Up, Stand Up, and Show Up” (Stacy Abrams).

Rev. Shayla L. Johnson (left) joins in a prayer of benediction over (seated from left) Stacey Abrams and her mother the Rev. Carolyn Abrams, led by West Ohio Bishop Gregory Palmer (center), a native of Philadelphia.

A question I’ve often wondered about over the past few years was asked by (Louisiana Area) Bishop Delores Williamston: “When did the Black church stop being the Black church that educates and is deeply engaged in its community?”   It’s apparent now more than ever that we stopped being the Black, educating and engaging church but have gone silent with speaking truth to power and instead allowed the world to speak and dictate to the church. We have compromised the mission of the church to appease the political agendas of others. 

It was reiterated and even demonstrated that we as Black United Methodists in Black communities have assets and everything we need to equip our church, empower our communities and minister to new and potential disciples in activating God’s story. While this meeting’s attendance wasn’t as high it has been in the past. in just 45 minutes $25,000 was collected and pledged for Philander Smith University at the annual Black College Fund (BCF) luncheon.

We have to stop letting distracting issues control our narrative, our thoughts and our ministries. We have been equipped by God for what God has called us to do now and always: to “Speak Up, Stand Up, and Show Up” as Black United Methodists and the Black Church.

John Coleman photos