Black Theologian Day: Teaching from a Different Cultural Perspective

By Rick Wolcott*

“This is a day of learning, engaging, and gaining new perspective,” Bishop Tracy S. Malone told the 75 clergy and laity gathered at Church of the Saviour UMC in Cleveland Heights for Black Theologian Day.

“Perspective is how we show up in the world, how we show up in the church.  Perspective informs how we think, how we behave, how we relate, and how we make judgements,” she said.  “Perspective is a matter of perspective.  It informs our attitude toward our neighbor, how we see, how we regard, and even how we interact with people who are different from us.  Perspective matters.  Perspective informs how we see and how we seize opportunities to make a difference for Christ in the world.”

Faith in Action: Beginning a Good Work was the theme of this year’s Black Theologian Day, an event begun by the late Bishop James S. Thomas and held annually since 1978.  This year’s day of learning was the first offered by the East OhioConference office of Multicultural Vitality under the Perspectives umbrella of events that will assist participants in learning from another perspective.

Guest theologian the Rev. Dr. Joseph Daniels, Jr., lead pastor at Emory UMC in Washington, D.C., said, “I am coming today from an urban perspective because that is my ministry background but I also come from a suburban, a rural, an ex-suburban background because I’ve done ministry in those settings.  What we’re going to talk about applies to all of those settings.”

In June at Annual Conference, Daniels was the keynote speaker for the Thursday morning learning session.  That day he challenged clergy and laity that if they truly want to bear real fruit, they need to be involved in, and make differences in, the lives of people in their communities.

He expanded on the topic during his presentation at Church of the Saviour.

“Unless you embrace the reality that you are the catalyst for congregational and community change where you are, things are going to go on just the same as they are right now,” he said.

Daniels offered that we begin good works and make a difference in the lives of others when we better understand, and connect with, our mission fields, and when we listen to the cry of our own hearts.

“When you respond to your own heartbreak, you know where you need to go and who you need to reach.  Without this step, churches are irrelevant,” he said.  “This work requires divine anointment, appointment, and assignment.  We must understand as the people of God, whether lay or clergy, that we are on assignment to build the Kingdom of God.”

Daniels’ church heard the heart cry of a community in need of affordable housing and responded by creating The Beacon Center development project. During his presentation, Daniels emphasized steps that are key to vital community ministry – steps his congregation followed in creating The Beck Center.

  • Step 1: Feel your heart break.
  • Step 2: Pray as if life depended on it.
  • Step 3: Give it your all.
  • Step 4: Take the risk.
  • Step 5: Inspect your mission field.

View Rev. Dr. Joseph Daniels’ Black Theologian Day presentation.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.