By Fitzgerald Lovett
Strengthening The Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) is an initiative of the general church. On April 27 at the General Conference, in Forth Worth, Texas, the initiative was continued for the 2009-2012 quadrennium. The SBC21 initiative passed 739 to 15. This is an excellent indicator to the importance of SBC21 to the church and the great support it continues to receive. The petition at General Conference included the following:
“The General Conference actions in 1996, 2000, and 2004 approved Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) as a major program initiative. As a result, there is fresh hope and energy within African American congregations in The United Methodist Church; they are being transformed and revitalized for mission and effective ministry in their communities. The African-American church is uncovering its historical role in a time of crisis.”
Congregation Resource Centers have trained 220 local churches, a total of 670 lay and clergy. By the end of the 2005-2008 quadrennium, it is estimated that 360 congregations and 1,100 people will have participated in innovative training models designed to renew and develop strong, vital, effective congregations.
The goal of SBC21 is to offer The United Methodist Church the gift of a transformational learning model that enables one congregation to share its gift of vitality with other churches that are seeking growth, vitality and transformation and wanting to expand their gifts in mission and ministry and, in the process, to revitalize Black congregations and The United Methodist Church. “
The Mississippi Conference SBC21 Team has focused on the following items for the past year.
• African-American Pilot Program — Six churches moving from part-time to full-time worship services.
• SBC21 Coaching Team — 10 pastors and one lay person were trained by Dr. Douglas W. Ruffle, author of, The Discovery Church Journey. They will coach churches on The Discovery Church Journey and help develop Ministry Action Plans (MAP) in response to the A2 survey (partnership with New Church Development).
• Rev. Tyron Gordon of St Luke UMC in Dallas, provided leadership training for several pastors (partnership with New Church Development).
• Several churches attended the National Training offered by SBC21.
• Cheryl Stevenson, SBC21 national coordinator, was one of the key presenters at the Convocation on The Black Church. A covenant agreement was also initiated between Mississippi SBC21 and the national SBC21.
• Four pastors attended the “Embracing God’s Diversity” conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward was one of the speakers and the Rev. Theodore Williams of Pass Christian participated on one of the panels.
Here are some goals for the Mississippi SBC21 for 2008-09:
• Reduce the “0” churches on apportionments
• Increase the number of churches with at least one profession of faith.
• Increase the number of district that host events at African-American churches.
• Increase the utilization of African-American leadership.
• Support and increase the African-American covenant groups
• Provide leadership training for pastors, laity, youth and young adults
• Every African-American pastor will have an e-mail address
• Identify churches which will be a part of The Discovery Church Journey
If you believe that your church has the potential and desire for growth, apply for the Discovery Church Journey. Call or e-mail the conference office for an application. Deadline is Aug. 31. This is designed for churches that are ready for “the next level of ministry.”
Lovett is Connectional Ministries team leader for Strengthening the Black Church and racial reconciliation.