Three major Black Methodist denominations will come together from March 1 to March 3 to discuss issues facing Black males and their roles in Black families and communities.
Representatives from the African Methodist Episcopal, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion and the Christian Methodist Episcopal churches held a press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C on February 19 to preview what they called a “Great Gathering.”
“We will come out of that meeting with an initiative focused on African-American males and confronting some of the challenges that they face on a daily basis,” said Rev. Staccato Powell, pastor of the Grace AME Zion Church in Raleigh, N.C. and chairman of the summit.
Bishop George W.C. Walker Sr., senior bishop for the AME Zion Church believes that the three denominations have always had a strong presence in the African-American community, and so their involvement in this gathering is natural.
“These three denominations have always been sensitive to the plight of all people, particularly the African-American people and the African-American male,” said Walker. “We believe it is time for the Church to once again come together and address the atrocity in which we find ourselves.”
Bishop John R. Bryant, senior bishop for the AME Church said the commonality of the three denominations also contributed to the creation of the summit.
“We felt that since these three denominations have so much in common that its very natural thing for us to come together, reflect together and study together,” said Bryant. “The key issue will be for us to look at the landscape of the country today and see what it is we can do better, collectively, then we have done separately.”
The conference will be held in Columbia, S.C. and organizers expect over 6,000 people to attend. Activities will include panel discussions, seminars, worship services and gospel performances given by Hezekiah Walker, Byron Cage, and Marvin Sapp.
Among the confirmed speakers will be Cornel West, Ph.D. and Marian Wright Edelman. President Obama and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) have been invited to speak.
There is also an effort being made to include historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, in the process, as many of them were founded by the churches.
“We’re going to link young boys up with HBCU’s in their communities, particularly with the science faculty of those schools,” said Powell. “We want to see if we can somehow lift the science literacy among African-American males as well.”
Organizers are hoping to leave the gathering with mandates and initiatives that they will implement in various cities around the country. The three denominations will initiate the transition, but they hope to involve whole communities in the effort, including politicians, non-profits, and public school systems.
However, the organizers said they are still confident that the three churches can effect change themselves.
“We have the collective resources within our own denominations to address the problems in our communities,” Bishop William H. Graves, senior bishop for the CME Church, said in a statement. “We can’t look for the government or other agencies to do this for us. We can do it ourselves.”