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Delegates Honor African-American Members at UM Conference

( [email protected] ) May 01, 2004 12:47 PM EDT

In a Service of Appreciation, delegates to the United Methodist General Conference honored and celebrated African-Americans who remained as members of the denomination and its predecessor bodies since Methodism began despite being denied full participation because of racism in the denomination. The service celebrated God’s presence in the life of the church, recognized wounds and encouraged healing.

In her sermon, Bishop Charlene Kammerer of the denomination’s Charlotte (North Carolina) Area thanked the generations of black Methodists who stayed in an institution that excluded them. "For all those faithful, courageous black Methodists who stayed in an inhospitable place and abusive church, we say, ‘Thank You, God,’" she said.

"Those of us in the white majority confess that we have sinned against you and against God who made us all one family," she said. "We have excluded you from our sanctuaries, schools, colleges, our public domains, our neighborhoods, our homes and, worst of all, our hearts. For that, we are truly sorry."

With gratitude for who remained, Rev. Vincent Harris, a third-generation Methodist and president of Black Methodists for Church Renewal stated, "It is important to be clear that I would not be here if they had not stayed.

Harris added, “I believe in the church, I believe in what Jesus brought to us in the Gospel, and I believe that by staying, we not only make the church better, but we build a foundation for our future."

Today, there are 423,456 African-American U.S. members, including 14 bishops.