Nov 30, 2021 | By Jim Patterson | UM News

When the leaders of Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century declare that ministry going forward needs to be done from the “right side,” they’re not referring to politics.

The full, mildly irreverent title of SBC21’s Dec. 1-2 conference in Houston is “Shift Happens: Doing Ministry from the Right Side.” It will take place during the 25th anniversary of SBC21 as an organization.

Think right side of the brain and the Gospel of John.

“We have to shift to do ministry in unconventional, creative and innovative ways,” said the Rev. Michael L. Bowie Jr., national executive director of SBC21, “and that happens on the right side of the boat.”

In John 21:1-6 in the New Testament, Jesus tells his disciples to switch to the right side of the boat when they aren’t catching fish from the left side.

The Scripture reads: “(Jesus) said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”

At United Theological Seminary, Bowie was taught that the boat was a metaphor for the church.

“This is not left-wing, right-wing, liberal, conservative — it has nothing to do with that,” Bowie said. “It’s all about the mindset, and how you are seeking to do ministry. The left side would be more traditional. The right side would be more innovative and creative.”

About 200 in-person attendees are expected alongside virtual participants to the conference at St. John’s Downtown United Methodist Church. Conference details and registration information are available on the SBC21 website. Partners for the conference include the Black Staff Association of The United Methodist ChurchBlack Methodists for Church Renewal, The Convocation of Black Pastors, Gammon Theological Seminary and Black Clergy Women of The United Methodist Church.

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