CHICAGO (UMNS) — A new Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) was born March 15 when members attending the 2013 annual meeting approved a major restructure of the official United Methodist caucus.
The Rev. Cedrick Bridgeforth, chair of the restructuring task force, urged BMCR members to be daring enough to confront the future.
Members voted to eliminate the use of “national,” limit the use of “African-American” tags from literature and promotions, and to use “BMCR” in terms that reflect the greater diversity of the denomination.
In approving the change, the caucus is taking a stand to be intentionally inclusive through effectively implementing its organizational purpose, goals and objectives.
“To remain relevant, we must readily acknowledge and intentionally build linkages beyond the shores of the United States of America for the cause of justice in every place and for all people,” the restructuring proposal said.
General meeting instead of annual
Among the major changes approved in the restructuring plan was to change from an annual meeting to a general meeting. According to the new plan, the general meeting will be in collaboration with other agencies and entities that could strengthen BMCR’s presence and voice.
Among the major changes approved in the restructuring plan was to change from an annual meeting to a general meeting.
“There is a residual and relational effect of programs with that emphasis, and BMCR is positioned to partner with those entities and rely on their expertise and resources to help with congregational and leadership development.
BMCR needs to partner more with the General Commissions on the Status & Role of Women, Religion & Race, the General Board of Church & Society and community-based groups that share its values, according to the plan.
The members approved a plan for the next meeting to be in 2015, ahead of the next United Methodist General Conference, which meets in 2016, but far enough in the future for the board of directors to give attention to the transition plan and reorganization.
The restructuring plan calls for the general meetings to be centered on building partnerships and calling The United Methodist Church to a place of greater accountability in areas of justice and equality for all people instead of emphasizing fundraising.
The members asked the board to be more proactively engaged in the jurisdictions in years when there is not a general meeting of the membership.
The membership meeting has been in place in the past to fund BMCR’s overall operation, but has not done so.
The members also removed the budget and costs for the general meeting from the operating budget. They asked the program committee to generate a budget for each meeting that will enable it to pay for itself.
The membership meeting has been in place in the past to fund BMCR’s overall operation, but has not done so. “It [the previous form of budgeting] skews the budget that ends up being supplemented by several external entities without expanding the brand or advocacy core to BMCR,” the plan pointed out.
In terms of programming, the members voted to assist each jurisdiction in establishing advocacy and training initiatives in the years when there is no general meeting. They also approved the creation of BMCR Advocacy Councils throughout the connection.
Members agreed that BMCR does not have a comprehensive or responsive mechanism in place to share issues and respond in a timely fashion. By creating a network that reports up-and-down-and-around the connection in an open forum, the hope of the members is to create “buzz” and a flow of information to inform agendas in annual conference, jurisdictional caucuses and in the general meeting.
As part of the programming, members agreed to establish a revitalized Harambee Program and to work in collaboration with the Division on Young People and other partners to accomplish this task. Every other year, BMCR sponsors the Youth Harambee, which is to be a celebration of gifts, talents and willing hearts of ethnic United Methodist youths.
BMCR also voted to request regular reports from the top executives of the church agencies.
The Rev. Bridgeforth, superintendent of the Los Angeles District in the California Pacific Conference, was elected BMCR chair during the annual meeting. He takes over from the Rev. Ronnie Miller-Yow of Arkansas.
Deborah Bell was elected vice chair. Bell is the director of Community Development for Better Community Development of Little Rock, Ark.
Two board members were elected unopposed: the Rev. Danita Anderson, pastor at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Homewood, Ill. (Northern Illinois Conference), as secretary, and Angella Current-Felder as treasurer.
Lay and clergy slots on the board were filled by Michelle Whittaker, director of Communications & New Media for the General Board of Church & Society; the Rev. Jacqui Rose-Tucker, Rome-Carrollton, District superintendent in the North Georgia Conference; and the Rev. Paul Thibodeaux, associate pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Ga.
Sally Vonner, an executive with United Methodist Women, was elected president of the National Black Staff Forum. The forum is dedicated to serving the needs of black staff working for United Methodist boards, agencies, conferences, jurisdictions and districts.
New officers for National Black Staff Forum include: Vice President Maidstone Mulenga, Upper New York Conference; Treasurer Bobby Smith, General Council on Finance & Administration; Assistant Treasurer Jeri Lillian McKie, General Board of Global Ministries; Secretary Marva Usher-Kerr, United Methodist Women; Assistant Secretary Michelle Whittaker; Program Committee chair Royya James, United Methodist Communications; Communication chair Rori Blakeney, General Board of Discipleship – Young People; Nominating Committee chair Elaine Jenkins, Africa University Development Office; Chaplains Gloria Brown, East Ohio Conference, and Lekisha Reed, Indiana Conference.