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49th General Meeting of the BMCR
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Who We Are
BMCR is the organized Black caucus of the United Methodist Church. We are one of the United Methodist denomination's five
U.S.-based ethnic caucuses.
BMCR represents and is dedicated to more than 2,400 Black United Methodist congregations and approximately
500,000 African American members
across the United States.
The BMCR caucus is vital because of its:
-Keen concern for the future of African Americans in the denomination;
-Ability to advocate for the interests and inclusivity of Blacks in the general church structures,
-Exceptional nerve to serve as the spiritual agitating conscious of the church,
-Determination to raise up prophetic and spiritual leaders who will be advocates for the unique needs of Black people in The UMC.
Thank You for Joining us in Baltimore
49th General Meeting of BMCR
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BMCR Gathers for "Harvest Time"
*By Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr.
"Does anyone have a watch?" was the question posed by the Rev. Dr. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth during the opening of the 49th general meeting of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) in Baltimore, Maryland. More than 330 people gathered for the theme, "It's Harvest Time," based on Galatians 6:9-10. "If we are to reap a harvest, then every one of us must have a watch," said Bridgeforth.
Bridgeforth, national BMCR chair, grew up on a farm in rural northern Alabama. "On the farm, if we wanted a harvest, we could not just expect one, we had to plan for it…reaping a harvest only comes when you have sown seeds and tended to them-by having a watch." He added, "If we reap anger, malice, jealousy, and mistrust, it's because that is what we planted, or the weeds have snuffed out our goodness while we were distracted…we must watch over one another in love, we must seek justice rather than speak judgment on God's children."
Bridgeforth said, "We must put aside our own agendas, undiagnosed and damaging conditions, and our unexamined notions that keep getting in the way of us reaping the harvest God intends for us."
BMCR is one of The United Methodist Church’s five U.S.-based ethnic caucuses. It represents more than 2,400 predominantly African-American congregations, translating to about 500,000 African-American members across the United States.
United States Representative for Maryland's 7th Congressional District, Elijah Cummings, was the advocacy keynote speaker. Congressman Cummings, who now represents downtown Baltimore, told those gathered he could not come downtown Baltimore as a child because of segregation. "The thought today that I represent every square inch of these blocks and help to make policy for this city, and this nation…only God could make my life," he said.
Congressman Cummings, the son of two former share croppers, preached from the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke's Gospel. His theme was, "When Holy Meets the Hurting." He challenged the gathering to think about the people they come into contact with on a daily basis and, "see them," and "respect them." He said, "Our compassion comes through our experiences." He added, "So often out of our pain, comes our passion to do our purpose."
There were several panel discussion throughout the two a half day event that included a focus on General Conference legislation, a Black College Presidential panel, Episcopal candidates session, young people discussing prophetic preaching and political action, and a conversation with the U.S. Ebony Bishops (African American and African UMC Bishops).
For the second year in a row, the caucus partnered with the United States Postal Service for the unveiling of a stamp in the Black Heritage series. This year, a stamp of Richard Allen was unveiled. Allen was a minister, educator, writer, and one of America's most active and influential black leaders. In 1794 he founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first independent black denomination in the United States. He opened his first AME church in 1794 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- The caucus elected new officers for next three years: Deborah Dangerfield, Northern Illinois Conference, Chair; The Rev. Antoine Love, Baltimore-Washington Conference, Vice-Chair; Audrey Pankey, Western North Carolina Conference, Secretary; and, Diane Johnson, Missouri Conference, Treasurer;
- Honored Rori F. Blakeney, staff of the General Board of Discipleship Young Peoples Ministries for the Southeastern Jurisdiction and staff of East Point First Mallalieu UMC, with the Black College Fund Servant Leader Award, and Dorothy Bacon Stubbs, a member of Gethsemane UMC in Capitol Heights, Maryland, with the H.O.P.E. (Heritage, Opportunity, Preparation, Education) Legacy Award;
- Honored five retiring Ebony Bishops during the Spirit Awards: Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., Bishop, Bishop Robert E. Hayes, Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, Bishop James R. King, Jr., and Bishop Marcus Matthews;
- Raised $10,000 for the Meharry Medical Gospel Choir during the annual Black College Fund Luncheon;
- Collected more than $27,000 during the annual festival of giving offering;
- Collected more than $2,700 during the communion offering;
- Raised $3,360 for Paine College in Agusta, Georgia; and,
- Passed a 2017 budget of $170,000.
Prior to the start of the annual meeting, participants who arrived early were encouraged to participate in service opportunities in the greater Baltimore region that included reading in local elementary schools, and light construction work at local churches.
The group’s work includes advocating for the interests and inclusion of black United Methodists in the general church structures; serving as a spiritual agitating conscience for the denomination; and raising prophetic and spiritual leaders.
As the denomination gets ready for General Conference 2016 in Portland, the caucus will again be an active participant with the Love Your Neighbor Coalition in pushing for passage of legislation. BMCR will be working in this regard with the other four US-based ethnic caucuses (Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa de los Hispano-Americanos (MARCHA), the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists (NFAAUM), the Native American International Caucus, and the Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists (PINCUM).
Since its 1967 inception in Detroit, BMCR has consistently been the voice of black United Methodists and an advocate for the growth and development of black churches. When The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968, the caucus effectively lobbied for the creation of the General Commission on Religion and Race and the desegregation of The United Methodist Publishing House.
BMCR also helped the denomination launch numerous other landmark mission initiatives, including the Black College Fund in 1970, the churchwide missional priority on Strengthening and Developing the Ethnic Minority Local Church (1976 to 1988), and Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century in 1996.
The list of ministries created, and continued, with the aid of BMCR include: Community Developers Program, Africa University, Black College Fund, Gammon Theological Seminary, and the Minority Self-Determination Fund.
The national organization encompasses sub-groups operating as local, conference, jurisdictional, and youth caucuses. These groups function as advocacy, ministry, and leadership development organizations addressing the needs and concerns of the members they represent.
Next year, BMCR will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The group will meet in Cincinnati, Ohio, the site of the first meeting. During this year’s meeting, the Rev. Dr. Walter Kimbrough encouraged 50 churches to pledge $1,000 each in honor of the anniversary. Currently, the caucus is more than halfway towards that goal with the pledges from the churches present at the Baltimore meeting.
*Hygh is director of communications for the denomination's California-Nevada Conference overseeing communications for the 360 churches and 78,000 United Methodists in the region. He also serves on BMCR's communications team.