AFRICAN AMERICAN METHODIST HERITAGE CENTER
“… when your children shall ask their parents in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean’? then you shall let your children know, “Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground’” (Joshua 4:21b-22; NRSV)
The idea for the African American Methodist Heritage Center (AAMHC) originated with Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) in 2001. Bishop Forrest C. Stith was asked to take the leadership in providing a way for assuring that the contributions of African Americans to Methodism were recovered and remembered. At Bishops Stith’s invitation, Anne F. Williams, President of BMCR, Betty Henderson, Executive Director of BMCR, and Barbara Ricks Thompson gathered to consider developing a way to respond to the challenge. With Barbara Ricks Thompson as co-chair, Bishop Stith assembled a Task Force to think through the possibilities and to develop a plan of action.
With the blessings of BMCR, the African American Methodist Heritage Center (AAMHC) was organized and incorporated in 2001 with an independent Board of Directors. The mission statement: The African American Methodist Heritage Center provides research, preserves artifacts and other memorabilia, and protects and promotes the stories of African American people in Methodism.
AAMHC was granted IRS status as a 501 (c ) (3) status not-for-profit organization. It should be noted that the organization intentionally used the generic name Methodist. It was in hopes that there may come a time when the Methodist denominations of African Americans which split with The Methodist Church because of issues of racism may choose to work with AAMHC in this historic endeavor.
AAMHC was able to begin operation with the financial support of the Task Force, its Board and some friends. Eventually Charter Members and other friends, along with small grants from some of the United Methodist general agencies made it possible for AAMHC to begin its ministry.
A partnership was formed with the General Commission on Archives and History for the archives facility at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey (where AAMHC is incorporated) to be the repository for the AAMHC collection, and to be the location for the AAMHC office. AAMHC sponsored several jurisdictional level workshops for African American local churches to help encourage and provide resources for recovering and promoting their histories.
In 2008 The General conference of the United Methodist Church approved a $100,000 per year for the quadrennium 2009-2012 grant to AAMHC for its ministry. Also, Advance Special program status was obtained. The 2012 General Conference made a grant, through the General Commission on Archives and History of $35,000 a year for the quadrennium 2013-2106. Since its organization AAMHC has sought financial contributions to undergird its ministry.
AAMHC is governed by a Board of Trustees of thirteen to fifteen persons, lay and clergy, elected to provide representation from the five jurisdictions. Also, there are five ex officio members named by BMCR and the General Board of discipleship and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Because of their related ministries, these agencies began the journey with AAMHC and have continued to be particularly supportive. (The other UM agencies have provided support such as grants, information, etc.) During some of the time, staff have been employed on a part time basis. Currently the Board of Trustees’ programmatic thrusts have included, in addition to the workshops, publication of historical calendars for 2012-2014; production of videos of the history of African Americans in Methodism; and publication of a newsletter and a journal. The Board sets strategic goals to guide its ministry.
Board of Trustees 2016 : Rev. David W. Brown, Dr. Angella Current Felder, Rev. Fred Day, Rev. Dr.
James Ferree, Rev. Dr. Hilly Hicks, Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson , Rev. Rita Howard, Ms. Ruth Lawson,
Ms. Cecelia Long, Mr. Donald Lusk, Rev. Dr. Walter McKelvey, Dr. Arnold Parks, Dr. James M. Shopshire, Sr., Ms. Mollie M. Stewart, Bishop Forrest C. Stith, President Emeritus, Dr. Barbara Ricks Thompson, Dr. Cheryl Walker, Ms. Anne Fleming Williams, Member Emeritus, Dr. John Wright, and Carol L. Travis, Executive Assistant.