Promoting the Understanding of a Black Theological Perspective

Black Theologian Day is October 14

By Will Jones*

Bishop James S. Thomas,
The late Bishop James S. Thomas, A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

The late Bishop James S. Thomas initiated the first Black Theologian Day, during his time as episcopal leader of the East Ohio Conference, to promote the understanding of a Black theological perspective to a primarily Caucasian denomination in the United States.

All East Ohio Conference clergy and laity are invited to dive deeper into their faith and broaden their understanding by participating in Black Theologian Day 2017, to be held at Aldersgate UMC (North Coast District) in Warrensville Heights on October 14.  This year’s theme is Overcoming Fear, based on Romans 8:31.

“One of the main hindrances to doing ministry is fear.  It paralyzes us.  We have to remember as clergy and lay that if God if for us, who can be against us,” said EOC Director of Connectional Ministries the Rev. Steve Court.

Ms. Erin Hawkins
Ms. Erin Hawkins, General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race

Erin Hawkins the General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race is this year’s guest scholar.  She is dedicated to building the capacity of The United Methodist Church to be contextually relevant and reach more people, younger people, and a more diverse people by providing practical resources and support to leaders throughout the Church to help them engage and embrace the cultural diversity present in our congregations and communities.

The ministry model of the Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) helps our conference to have vital conversations with people different than us and to deepen our ability to be culturally competent.  Black Theologian Day is an opportunity for that to happen.

The Rev. Darlene Robinson of Willard First UMC (Firelands District) has participated in several past Black Theologian Days and encourages all clergy and laity in East Ohio to attend this year’s event.

“A lively, Spirit-filled and energized time of worship will be had in the midst of an informed theological presentation, informative teaching and an opportunity for great dialogue,” she said.  “One gets to see, hear, and dialogue with an African-American scholar that one may have not known about or may never get an opportunity to see in person.”

Cost is $15 and online registration is required to attend.  Register here.

 *Will Jones is director of Multicultural Vitality for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Young people encouraged to take the bold, faith step

MRI is a fun, action-packed, intense spiritual retreat, designed to assist youth ages 12-18 to hear, ponder, and answer God’s call to ministry. Held at Baldwin-Wallace University, Berea, OH. from Sun, July 16 to Friday July 21,  the week will offer intense Bible study, spirit-filled worship, intentional small group time, focused prayer, workshops specific to teen issues, recreation and mission work.

Through a trained staff of pastors, teachers, adult mentors, music ministers, and others, young people will leave the Institute with a sense of transformation and empowerment to live out his/her divine calling.

Guest theologians include: Rev. Troy Benton, senior pastor at St. John’s UMC,  Edwardsville, IL; Bishop Gregory Palmer, resident bishop of the West Ohio Conference; and Bishop Tracy Smith Malone, resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference.

Bishop Malone shared, “Enjoying my visit with the youth and leaders of the East Ohio Conference Ministerial Recruitment Institute (MRI). The theme is “Called By Name, Redeemed, and Not Afraid!” (Isaiah 43:1). I had the joy of sharing my “call story” and I encouraged our youth and leaders to take the bold, faith step to listen and not be afraid to respond to God’s calling on their lives.”

Bishop Malone also shared these photos and a video of the large youth gathering in praise.

Stand up and Fight

By Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson

Editor’s Note: Sunday, April 30 is Native American Ministries Sunday in The United Methodist Church.  Your generous contributions to the special offering on that day support, equip, and empower.  Funds given by East Ohio Conference congregations to previous Native American Ministries Sunday offerings sponsored a group of Native women from Ohio for a one-week trip to Standing Rock. 

Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson, MFA, MA, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of English at Kent State University and a member of the Yankton Sioux tribe, shares her accounts and photos of that trip.

Mni Wiconi: mni translates from Lakota to English as the word water and wiconi translates from Lakota to English as the word life. This explains the term “Water is life,” a simple yet powerful mantra water protectors use to stand against big oil to help protect drinking water for 17 million people when the Dakota Access Pipeline malfunctions.

The question is not if the pipeline breaks but when. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) will be drilled under the Missouri river: the only drinking water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota. Most people reading this will heave a sigh of relief and think it does not apply to them, and feel unconcerned but the bigger picture.  When one considers how many pipelines crisscross our United States and the number of them that fail, oil shows no partiality to any of the living things in the areas where it leaks into the soil or water.

In April 2016, I learned about the DAPL, and that the initial planned route went through Bismarck, North Dakota. Once the officials of Bismarck realized the catastrophic results of water contamination and found the consequences unacceptable, the pipeline was re-routed to less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

A year ago, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard posted a video where she gave a call-to-action to her people and all others interested in saving the water to stand with her in solidarity to fight the progress of DAPL. Allard is a Lakota historian and activist who founded the first resistance camp of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Sacred Stones, which is on Allard’s private property. She informed the viewer how the creation of the pipeline would desecrate burial grounds of the Sioux Nation and disturb places where artifacts exist. There was undeniable despair in her voice. The youth had also been active in raising awareness for this threat-to-life and were concerned how this would affect future generations.

Each day I checked my newsfeed and witnessed as the Sacred Stone camp, a place of prayer, grew. Then the Oceti Sakowin camp formed near the Sacred Stone camp and this was the first time since the Battle of Greasy Grass in 1876 (aka Little Big Horn, or Custer’s Last Stand) that representatives from all the bands of the Great Sioux Nation gathered.

Oceti Sakowin means the Seven Council Fires and includes the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota Sioux and the bands that comprise them. Something of great significance was happening. History was unfolding, and I felt a strong pull to be there. It was a spiritual draw I could hardly ignore. It kept at me and I did not know then how I could get there or how long I could stay but I clearly felt my people were calling for me to join them and the allies to stand together in unity and prayer.

I remember with clarity the first few actions the water protectors did as I watched the live-feed on social media. They were unarmed. Some of the direct actions were simply standing at a certain place and praying and singing songs passed down by the ancestors. I felt deep respect for my people. Then one day I saw the DAPL police oppose the water protectors with intimidation tactics and I did not understand the push back but I felt the sickening fear as I watched unarmed women, some of them children and grandmothers, flee. All the while, the live-feed was going, and always, whoever was documenting, said, “The whole world is watching,” while attempting to reason with the aggressors. Something was dreadfully wrong.

Throughout history, white and Native relationships have ranged from dysfunctional to genocidal with the white race acting as the oppressor and the Native people engaging in self-preservation to survive the countless attempts of removal, but we are still here!

All the attempts to disconnect us from our connection to Creator have failed to varying degrees. Standing Rock was proof that we are still here, and that we can unify by standing together armed only with our prayers to bring awareness to the environmental injustices humans have committed against the only planet earth we have. In truth, this is a spiritual battle we fight against powers and principalities and not flesh and blood although the flesh and blood of the water protectors were at stake, as it is for anyone who stands in the front lines against big oil/big business.

Read entire article here …