Leaders from Missouri’s Black UMCs Gather at Conference


Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III, pastor of St. James UMC in Kansas City, opened the evening with a brief explanation of why they were all there. 

“Back in March Bishop Schnase called a meeting of all large church pastors. Since I’m the only African American on the invitation list, I always make it a priority to go to the meetings,” Cleaver said. 
While there, he shared with Bishop Schnase his concern about the decline of the black United Methodist Churches in Missouri. Bishop Schnase agreed that he was also concerned about the decline that he had seen in his tenure and how he was leaving fewer African American United Methodist congregations than was here when he came 12 years ago. 
Overall, African American attendance in the Missouri Conference is going up, though. It’s happening by African American people joining growing predominantly white congregations in the suburbs. Cleaver said he was encouraged by this, but is still very concerned about the decline of the historically African American congregations. 
“I believe the United States of America still needs the black church,” he said. 
In the Missouri Conference, there are currently few black churches that have their own full-time pastor. 

Cleaver introduced Rev. Lia McIntosh of the Missouri Conference Congregational Development staff. McIntosh will be working specifically with African American churches and churches in the urban core. McIntosh said it’s a blessing to come together, and she appreciated the opportunity to extend some radical hospitality. See cited the scripture Acts 1: 8. 

“Our prayer is to ignite that spirit within us to equip one another,” she said. 

McIntosh outlined seven models of community ministry from the book by Joy F. Skjegstad.
  1. Donate Goods or Money – 2 Corinthians 8: 1-4
  2. Mobilize Volunteers - Mark 10: 43 – 39
  3. Partnership With Other Organizations - 1 Corinthians 12: 14, 17 – 18
  4. Advocate Around Public Policy – Amos 5: 24
  5. Engage in Community Organizing – Nehemiah 2: 17
  6. Develop a Ministry Program – Acts 6: 1-3
  7. Create a Church-Based Non-Profit – Isaiah 43: 49

Strengthening the Black Church

Cleaver has been working with the Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) from the General Board of Discipleship, and has been serving as a coach in the California-Pacific Conference, working with St. John’s in Watts. 
The initiative was recently approved to continue with a $1.9 million budget at General Conference. Cleaver hopes that the Missouri Conference can become more involved with SBC21 and that congregations in Missouri will be able to take part in opportunities that SBC21 presents. For more information about the initiative, go to http://www.sbc21.org.
Next steps for African American laity and clergy across the state will include a focus three-fold focus: 
  1. Strengthen spiritual foundations via spiritual retreats to pray, build trust, and heal with one another.  
  2. Collaborate for ministry. For example, congregations are joining together for prayer walks, meeting people in their neighborhoods, and sharing ministry resources to build their effectiveness. Additionally, a Facebook Group or monthly newsletter is being explored.   
  3. Empower congregations using SBC21 (Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st century) coaching and other resources.  
Revs. Emanuel Cleaver III, Cody Collier and Lia McIntosh will lead the efforts to initiate this process with an initial group of churches this fall. Approximately 20 churches have expressed an interest in this process. 
The dinner was a next step towards strengthening the black church in the Missouri Annual Conference. Those who attended are hopeful about the opportunity to grow in grace and fruitfulness together in the coming year. For questions please contact Rev. Lia McIntosh at lmcintosh@moumethodist.org.