AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson and other Black Methodist clergy join in the fight against racism. (Courtesy Photo)
The leaders of three Black-based Methodist denominations based in the District announced recently that they are joining forces to fight racism and encourage fairness for all Americans.
On Sept. 2, Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, chair of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church Social Action Commission; Dr. Staccato Powell and Senior Bishop George Battle of the AME Zion Church; and Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Bishop Lawrence Reddick, along with other clergy and public figures, called on the country to confront and take action against unfair racial practices. Jackson said the killings of nine Blacks at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June encouraged the Black Methodist denominations to work together on this issue.
“Racism, hatred, and discrimination will not end solely because of executive and legislative action,” Jackson said. “They are problems of the heart and mind, they are sinful and ending them will require confession, repentance, and commitment. In other words it will require divine intervention.
Jackson said destroying racism can’t be done by people of color alone. “We need God’s help,” he said.
It was racism in the White Methodist Episcopal denomination in 1794 that led Richard Allen, a Black clergyman, and other African Americans, to create the AME denomination and form Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia on July 29 of that year. Black members of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, looking to determine their own destiny, formed the AME Zion Church in New York City in 1821.
The CME started in 1870 in Jackson, Tennessee, by African-American ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who wanted to maintain control of their own congregations. In 1968 The Methodist Episcopal Church evolved into the United Methodist Church, and is still, according to 2008 statistics, 87 to 90 percent White.
Powell said it is time America faces up to its legacy of racism. “We see it in every area of American life, yet the nation continues to be in denial about it,” he said. “Racism by Blacks is just as sinful and wrong as racism by Whites, and we must destroy it no matter whom or wherever it is.”
Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell, pastor of Grace AME Zion Church in Raleigh, N.C. (Courtesy Photo)
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) attended the press conference and commended the Black Methodist leaders for joining the fight for racial equality. “I am speaking on behalf of the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus to say that we are with you,” Norton said.
Norton said much needs to be done on behalf of racial equity. She quoted statistics, indicating the poverty rate for Blacks is more than 30 times that of Whites, that the Black median income is $34,000 while the White median income is $58,000, and that Black college graduate unemployment rate is 5.2 percent while the White unemployment rate is at 2.9 percent.
The Black Methodists action agenda encompasses criminal justice system reform, improving educational opportunities for Black students, economic justice for people of color, gun reform in the form of gun control instead of gun rights, and voting rights for all eligible Americans. The Black Methodists want leaders of Congress, governors, and state legislative bodies to look at their agenda and move positively to enact their concerns into law. To hone that message, the Black Methodists encouraged ministers of all denominations to designate Sept. 6 as “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday.”
In November, the Black Methodists will host a Presidential Justice Forum at AME-managed Allen University in South Carolina for the 2016 presidential candidates to discuss criminal justice issues.