Annual Report of
The African American Methodist Heritage Center
The 51h Annual Meeting of the Black Methodists for Church Renewal – March 2018
To forget the past is to rob the future. Anonymous
The year 2018 marks fifty years since the 1968 Uniting Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church met to unite and become The United Methodist Church. An important aspect of the uniting agreement was the approval of a resolution that by 1972, the Central Jurisdiction structure of the Methodist Church would be eliminated and the previously all African-American annual conferences would be merged with the appropriate geographical annual conferences. In retrospect there is much to learn about the process and the results of that momentous action. Such a “look-back” is essential if the denomination is not to forget the past struggles that gave birth to the present reality.
Such a consideration has been a part of the journey during 2017 of the African American Methodist Heritage Center (AAMHC). The Oral History Project, first reported to BMCR in 2016, has been an exciting and a challenging opportunity for uncovering that experience. As of the end of 2017, AAMHC has completed 40 video interviews with African American clergy and laity who were active beyond the local church during the period of the existence of the Central Jurisdiction and its subsequent merger with the geographical jurisdictions. Great benefits were gained from this initiative. It was possible to capture the insights, in their own words of people who were intimately involved in by the merger process. We were fortunate enough to capture the experiences of two interviewees, a bishop and a lay-woman, who have since died – but, their voices remain with us forever. The project continues during the coming year. These videos will be available for use, by request from AAMHC.
A major learning from the video project is that the technique is one that, in this age of technology, can be readily used by local churches and other groups to capture and preserve their histories. AAMHC will be sharing this methodology as a part of its outreach efforts.
A partnership with Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina, came to fruition with the dedication of the Claflin University African American Heritage Center on Methodist Clergy and Laity in May 2017. A small grant from AAMHC helped the University to embrace the idea of establishing its Center. It also encourages AAMHC to continue its outreach to Methodist-related institutions to recover and promote the histories of their African American heritage.
In 2017, AAMHC awarded its first Bishop Forrest C. Stith grants. Mother African Zoar United Methodist Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Dr. Rosetta Ross, Atlanta Georgia, each received a grant of $2,500 for projects. The purpose of the Zoar Project is to recover and restore original historic documents that have deteriorated or badly damaged. The recovered documents will be used to create digital versions accessible on line. The purpose of the Ross project is to do historical research and reporting on African American Methodist activist laywoman, Ruby Ruffin Hawkins Hurley, who played a major role in the United Methodist Church and in the NAACP. The grant of up to $5,000 will be offered every two years as a way of encouraging more persons to engage in the recovery of the history about the participation of African Americans in Methodism.
An important aspect of the AAMHC mission is to promote interest in local churches for the recovery of history. Toward that end, a feature story about AAMHC and its ministry appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of the Interpreter magazine. This was the final print edition of the United Methodist Communications publication which aimed to resource local churches in their various ministries. An ongoing presence in By Faith Magazine has been an important way of helping to get the message promoted. The AAMHC Journal will continue to be published in 2018. It contains news, historical vignettes and other information related to being an effective ministry of recovering and presenting history. It is distributed via e-mail because of the cost of postal distribution. If you do not receive the AAMHC Journal, you should contact Carol Travis, Executive Assistant at the address in the letterhead.
As of 2017, the General Conference is no longer providing funding to AAMHC. We are receiving a small grant from The General Commission on Archives and History; however, that will end in 2020. That means we are solely dependent on individuals and other interested organizations for funding for this ministry. We hope you will begin or increase your support for this ministry.
AAMHC is deeply grateful to the General Commission on Archives and History for its generous and much needed support. In addition to the symbolic financial support, The Commission provides both technical and substantive guidance. AAMHC deeply appreciates Black Methodists for Church Renewal for its on-going support of this ministry.
The Board of Trustees of AAMHC is a working Board, not just a Board that meets to make policy and leaves the work to its Executive Assistant to get done. The year 2017 saw the completion of the terms of several long time Trustees – Dr. James Ferree, Ms. Cecelia Long, Mr. Donald Lusk, Dr. James Shopshire, and Dr. Barbara Ricks Thompson. AAMHC is grateful for their contribution to our ministry.
Looking to the future, AAMHC anticipates further work on the video project – reaching out to more African American Methodists who have been pillars of leadership in the denomination. Also, it is anticipated that there will be expansion of partner relationships with denominational agencies. Of great importance is the efforts to expand the collections of memorabilia that helps to tell the story of African Americans in Methodism and to reach out efforts to reach out to local congregations in their endeavors to recover, and appreciate their histories.
Please share with us any ideas on how we might better protect the future because we have not forgotten our past. Your prayers and support will continue to sustain us.
Ms. Mollie Stewart, President Bishop Forrest C. Stith, President Emeritus
Carol L. Travis, Executive Assistant