Who We Are
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 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 United Methodist Church.
|A Message from BMCR Chairman, Cedrick Bridgeforth
It has been a few weeks since we adjourned the 47th Meeting of Black Methodists for Church Renewal but the responses and reports from the meeting continue to flow with great enthusiasm and vigor. Those in attendance experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that can only come when those gathered do so as Jesus commands and do so in unity of heart and purpose. The local arrangements and hotel accommodations were just what we needed – welcoming and responsive. The program content (Bible Study, Service of Communion and Remembrance, workshops, etc.) were well-executed and all came together as God covered each segment with just the right sinew for the moment. Yet, the meeting was but one step along this lengthy journey to become an advocacy-focused, fiscally solvent and socially relevant organization.
We have heard from the Prophet Isaiah that this is a “new day” and that in the new day God is doing a new thing. That means if we are to be touch with God’s agenda and in sync with the movement of the Spirit, we cannot expect things to remain the same. We cannot look to the old to become the new. We must look ahead with the knowledge of the past and foundations upon which we stand so we remain steady as we move. But, we must be open to the directions and conversations that may not be the same conversations of the past or the same strategies employed by our ancestors.
Black Methodists for Church Renewal has a place within the United Methodist Church, the black community and in every conversation where equity and access is not a reality – whether institution or cause bears a cross, sickle or no emblem. The whole of humanity can be brought closer to a realization of a beloved community if and when Black Methodists for Church Renewal equips and avails itself for the work that is needed in the hoods, barrios, subdivisions, State Houses, and back alleys where decisions are made that impact the world in which we live. To that end, we will continue the work we began in St Louis by working with the Jurisdictions to form Advocacy Councils who will learn, teach and utilize the skills needed to address the ills of your specific communities. This work will need to be done thoughtfully and deliberately so that we have greatest impact across the world. We will join with other coalitions and agencies who do this work well to lead us and to be partners with us. We may not agree on every issue of those who come alongside us, but we will be working toward developing the same skillset so we can advance our mission. We will need the support of every member and non-member who cares about justice and equity to be in prayer about how you will engage and support this great work. In fact, if you want to be engaged in upcoming training in your Jurisdiction, please contact your Jurisdiction Chair (West: Ruth Conley; South Central: Pamela McCullough; North Central: Carolyn Johnson; Southeast: Mollie Steward; Northeast: Dred Scott) or contact the Nashville Office so we can ensure you are connected.
A new day and a new opportunity is upon us and we must capture this moment and all the hope and promise within it. We experienced a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in St Louis – a true manifestation of God’s grace and sign of God’s approval that we are going in the right direction. At least we were those few days, but where will we go from here? What new day experiences are you really open to experience in your local caucus and congregation? Think on these things.
Thank you for your support.
Rev. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth EdD
Black caucus commits to increase advocacy
|At right, the Rev. Cedrick Bridgeforth, chair of Black Methodists for Church Renewal, addresses the caucus about plans for its future. From left, sitting, are
Rev. Danita R. Anderson, the group's secretary, and Deborah Bell, vice chair.
Expect to hear more in the next three years from The United Methodist Church's black caucus on issues that affect the denomination and wider U.S. society.
Black Methodists for Church Renewal at its 47th annual meeting March 28-29 approved a new strategic plan for 2014-17 with a renewed emphasis on advocacy.
Possible issues to tackle
The group did not specifically identify new issues to tackle. However, members in conversations and workshops repeatedly raised certain common concerns they believed the caucus could help address from a Christian perspective.
These concerns included:
- Mass incarceration: According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, based at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, the United States has the highest prison population rate in the world and is neck-and-neck with China in the number of its people behind bars. In 2013, about 2.24 million people in the United States - meaning 716 per 100,000 people -were in a penal institution.
- Violence: A number of members spoke with alarm about gun violence within the black community. They cited the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two unarmed black teens killed in separate incidents.
- Voter rights: Eight states since the start of 2013 have passed "restrictive voting" legislation, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University of School of Law. Laws include stricter photo identification, elimination of election-day registration, and a reduction of the number of days for early voting.
- Immigration reform: Group members, some of whom are immigrants themselves, also expressed an interest in supporting comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.
"If the sum total of our advocacy work is about ensuring that our little church stays on our little corner no matter what the bishop or superintendent says about it, we have failed," Bridgeforth said.
He added that churches need be interested in addressing the needs of the communities where they are located, "or they need to be somewhere else."
He also cautioned group members not to ask denominational leaders to solve problems they aren't willing to help address themselves.
As part of the group's advocacy work, the strategic plan calls for the creation of BMCR advocacy councils in each of the five U.S. jurisdictions "to identify and respond to advocacy needs." The group also plans to develop policy papers to provide education on the issues members are tackling.
Bridgeforth noted that United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race helped provide funding for the group to develop its strategic plan. For that reason, he said, the commission will serve as a monitoring agency "to make sure we accomplish what we say we will accomplish."
"If we do not perform according to the measurable goals we have submitted, we do not receive the funding," he said.
What can ethnic caucuses teach the church?
People of color are the disciples who can bring new life to The United Methodist Church.
That was a recurring theme throughout a historic gathering March 26-27 that for the first time brought together the boards of the denomination's five U.S.-based ethnic caucuses.
Retired Bishop Linda Lee, in her sermon during opening worship, said it was long past time for many in the church - including some people of color themselves - to view The United Methodist Church's racial and ethnic diversity in a different way.
People of color aren't simply recipients of church money and ministry, she pointed out. They are Christian leaders who contribute to and distribute church funds, who bring spiritual insights to church decision-making and who have something to teach a denomination struggling with declining U.S. membership.
"We are the ones who can help the church experience new life through the power and presence of Jesus Christ as it is expressed in us," said Lee, the first African-American woman elected to the episcopacy in the North Central Jurisdiction and now bishop-in-residence at United Methodist-relatedGarrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. "God calls us - each of us- to gain new sight, new voice and new ways."
Her listeners included about 100 leaders of the Black Methodists for Church Renewal, MARCHA (Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa de los Hispano-Americanos), the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists, the Native American International Caucus and the Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists.
The Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group, which consists of the top leaders of each caucus, held the board training event with financial support from the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.
During the two-day gathering, caucus leaders received training to improve their boards' effectiveness and fundraising. They also shared common concerns and hopes for The United Methodist Church - and suggestions for improving disciple-making across the whole denomination.
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