COLUMBIA, S.C. (March 7, 2010) – The African Methodist Episcopal, AME Zion and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches presented their plan to address the plight of African-American males on March 3, the last day of their Great Gathering conference.

Called the Male Investment Plan (MIP), the initiative’s goal is “to dramatically change the lives of participants by exposing them to the awesome gifts given them by God.”

Church leaders say while the concept may not be unique, the combined effort and dedication of the three churches are what will make it successful.

“I don’t know that you’re going to see anything different under the sun,” said the Rev. Staccato Powell, chairman of the event. “But what you’re going to see is an intentionality, will cause it to have the kind of traction necessary to propel us forward.

“Before, “the churches collectively have never said we’re going to take this issue on and I’m confident that the impact will be synonymous to what we saw with the civil rights movement when the churches got behind that,” he added.

Powell and other leaders said the churches decided to work together in light of the barrage of social ills—violence, imprisonment, drug addiction and trade, poor education, joblessness and more—that have befallen Black males, problems they said have persisted for too long.

They hope the MIP’s central tool—a Saturday academy—will address those ills. The academies will be located in the three partner churches on a rotating basis. The workshops will teach life skills, career options, self-esteem, anger management and spiritual enhancement, study habits and financial literacy among other lessons. The plan also calls for mentors, the possible involvement of celebrities and other professionals and for relationships with organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund and the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities.

The Right Rev. Warren Brown, senior bishop of the AME Zion church, said the plan—which calls for 16 regional centers–will be kicked-off in May and will begin in Washington, D.C., where there are congregations from each church and several historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.

The central idea, Bishop Brown said, is to prevent rather than fix problems such as incarceration.

“We’ve been doing prison ministry too long…. We’ve got to rewrite our role in this matter so we’re not just going to visit you in prison, we’re going to try to keep you out of prison,” he said to the assembly. “We’ve got to push that says we’re not going to lose you rather than we’re going to try and find you.”

Joshua Dubois, executive director of White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, praised the Black Methodists for their effort. He attended the event and said while the federal office could not contribute much funding to the effort, it would help in other ways.

“One of the things we’re looking at is how outside of financial resources can we help local churches and other nonprofits—how can we share information, how can we use our convening power to bring them together, how can we attract private resources—that’s some of the things we will be working on with these groups,” he told the AFRO.

Bishop Warren said the churches would not go to any organization or government entity with empty hands. Instead, they were hoping to raise $10 million in seed money by asking 1 million members in the three churches to donate $10 each.

“We’re not asking you to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves…we’re through with that,” he said.

Re-emphasizing the shared commitment and accord of the three churches on this issue, Brown said, he was sure the program would yield the desired results.

“We are going to leave this place united and committed, and I know it’s going to be a success because all of you here are going to do your part to make it work,” he said. “The world is going to feel the impact of what happens when Black Methodists get together.”

 

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO