African American Methodists Set New Vision to Rebuild

African-American United Methodists gathered in Dallas for a week to ''rebuild'' the National Black Methodist caucus amid financial struggles.

The 39th annual meeting of the National Black Methodists for Church Renewal last month featured preaching and teaching on how to become visionaries for the future. Following the theme, “Pathways to Faithful Leadership” – based on the story of Nehemiah who faced many problems while rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem – the caucus sent messages of hope for its own members.

"Nehemiah's journey and our journey are the same," said Bishop Forrest C. Stith, bishop-in-residence at Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, according to the United Methodist News Service. "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 Sprit 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. “We have a new vision statement. Our mission is to raise up leaders ... We come from the fleshpots of Egypt.”

“We Black Methodists stand before the enemies of God,” he added. “God provides abundant blessings. It is time to be hope filled. Our churches long to hear a word of hope."

Attendants at the Mar. 21-25 meeting were urged to take on new models of leadership that builds on the strength of the followers.

“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,” said the Rev. Michel Battle, president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

The caucus also elected its new leadership for 2006, including chairperson Cheryl Walker, vice-chair Deborah Dangerfield, and secretary Joseph Crawford.