By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell
The Southeastern Jurisdiction Black Methodists for Church Renewal (SEJ BMCR) 49th
Annual Meeting was held Oct. 19 through Oct. 21, 2017, in Atlanta.
This year’s event theme, “Communion: Holy or Unholy? The Messy Truth!” was undergirded by 1 Corinthians 11:18 which states, “For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent, I believe it.”
The theme appears, at first sight, to be only an invitation to partake, to engage in the dialogue of the Holy Communion, but the invitation is veiled in the scripture text that unveiled a relevant, but “uncomfortable” conversation about “White Privilege” against the backdrop of Holy Communion.
SEJ BMCR Coordinator Byron Thomas conveyed in his greeting the belief that the church of Jesus Christ can address this issue as scripture compels us to do so. He expressed that as we engage in the dialogue that we must do no harm and seek excellence in all that we do.
“…With the help of Almighty God, we will leave from this place having developed the spiritual muscles necessary for us to effectively execute ministry in our local settings,” Thomas said.
SEJ BMCR Vice Coordinator Shirley Corry conveyed the theme as a “call to action” for each of us to fully embrace the founding principles of the organization. She was insightful in saying that the challenges must be identified in order to offer solutions and take steps for actions.
A diverse group of laity and clergy attended the meeting. The program participants included a panel of episcopal leaders including Bishops Sue Haupert-Johnson (North Georgia), Leonard Fairley (North Carolina), David W. Graves (Alabama-West Florida), and L. Jonathan Holston (South Carolina). These leaders provided dialogue for critical examination into “White Privilege,” inclusion, and personal stories of challenges. Their comments included questions and statements:
“Does the ritual of Communion communicate physically and cognizant?” “Communion should bring us together across the lines, but some churches don’t function to accomplish this.” “Today most religions in America abhor racism. Some have apologized for systematic relationships that hold and place others in bondage, but few do anything beyond making public statements.” “The Jim Crow idea of colorblindness is a blocking magnesium for whites. Color consciousness is not colorblind; it should be white people’s goals and ideas to see the injustices. Colorblindness is not the old racism, but being so indicates a lack of awareness of the ongoing effects of racism.” “Issues of racial profiling and unlawful treatment need to be eradicated.” “We ostracize persons when we don’t allow them a seat at the table and hear them.” “Scrutiny is a good thing, and diverse persons need to be at the ‘table,’ bringing different lenses and analysis. Leaders should be open to examination and diversity.” “Were Jesus’ table manners dangerous because he ate at the table with just about everybody? What did and does the dominant culture teach about the table?” “If we ate at the table of our Lord in this manner, it would change how we see others, politics, equality, justices…” “The church is a microcosm of a larger society. If we could get it right in the church, we could get it right in the world.”
How do we move the dialogue forward with one another in a Christian manner? Who will come and engage at the table to help lead the way onward? Maybe a beginning would be to engage in talks and identify some of those comment(s) that nudged you to be open to looking through multiple lenses that move from nudging to budging. In all that we strive to do, let’s remember our Wesleyan roots to do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
The celebration also included a twofold luncheon that served not only food for the soul, but served as a successful fundraiser for the Black College Fund Legacy that featured the dynamic Paine College Concert Choir. The critical thoughts, correlating biblical text and call to action sermons all were impactful and provocative in urging the conversation forward. The event included a Communion Service and concluded with a sending forth with an altar call prayer and a symbolic remembrance of our baptism. All were received and celebrated in the spirit of Christ and unity.
If you are interested in dialogue, program ministry of religion and race, contact Rev. Earnestine Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 888-266-7642 or 912-638-8626.