“I hope when you leave you know the urgency of this time,” BMCR President Deborah Dangerfield said on Wednesday in her opening comments,
with a long table of clocks and timepieces assembled behind her.
It was the opening of 53rd General Meeting of the Black Methodists for Church Renewal, an organization focused on the mission, advocacy, action, education and unique needs of black people within the United Methodist Church. The theme of the event is “It’s time. Our time under God is now!” The guiding scripture is “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation,” 2 Corinthians 6:2.
The focus on time was not one about anxiety, but rather opportunity.
Kansas City Fifth District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw addressed the group during their first meeting time. She has been part of St. James UMC in Kansas City since her early teens, and is s newly elected member of the Kansas City city council. She said the theme, “It is Time,” applies to the city as well, and she appreciates the church’s support.
“We just had a budget hearing, which in the past have been poorly attended, and this one was standing room only, with 200 people there,” she said. “I’m proud of the black church, and the role it has played in galvanizing community advocates and calling out elected officials to listen to the people.”
Missouri Bishop Bob Farr welcomed the crowd, echoing Shaw’s reminder that Kansas City is home to the 2020 Superbowl Champion Kansas
City Chiefs, as did every other Missourian who had a turn at the microphone. Bishop Farr told the group that the Missouri Conference is home to 30 black churches and many multi-cultural ones.
“Union Memorial in St. Louis was the mother church for many other churches,” Bishop Farr noted, also mentioning that St. James UMC in Kansas City is vital congregation that produces many leaders.
One of those leaders is Yvette Richards, who is BMCR coordinator for the South Central Jurisdiction. She thanked the group for having confidence in them to host the meeting in Kansas City. She also invited everyone to participate in a community service project, in which they are asking participants in the meeting to donate socks that would be given to homeless people at Grand Avenue Temple in downtown Kansas City.
The meeting is taking place at the Hilton Kansas City Airport Hotel, north of the city, but on Friday night they are featuring a reception with a jazz band and barbeque.
“We’re bringing 18th and Vine (the jazz district) to you all Friday night,” Richards said.
Dr. James Salley, associate vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement at Africa University enthusiastically shared an abundance of numbers from Africa University in his report to the group. It has students from 25 countries. It has 49 buildings and a 97 percent graduation
rate. It has 2,800 conventional and part-time students, and 9,860 alumni. Alumni are in 32 of the 55 African countries. The average gender ratio at a university in Africa is 23 percent female. At Africa University it is 58 percent female. Bishop Tracey S. Malone lead the East Ohio Conference to donate $1.5 million to Africa University to build and furnish new female dormitories.
Rev. Michael Bowie was introduced as the new director of Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century. Rev. Bowie currently serves in the North Texas Conference as Senior Pastor of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. He accepted the director
position on March 1, following the retirement of Rev. Fred Allen in December.
“Like Dr. Martin Luther King, I believe the black church is the hope for the world,” Bowie said.
Rev. Junius Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries, reported that the “amazing team” of people he has been working with for the past three and a half years have been on a “strategic journey” focused on equipping disciples.
“Regardless of what happens at General Conference, the main thing the church will always need is a
focus on discipleship,” Dotson said.
The meeting continues through Saturday. For more on BMCR, go to www.bmcrumc.org