Recently, congregations from the African Methodist Episcopal (AME), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion), and Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Churches met in Columbia to discuss and address issues currently plaguing many communities. For the first time in more than 45 years, the three major Methodist denominations in the African-American community came together for what organizers called the "Great Gathering."
I am a firm believer that the Church and its members have an enormous role to play in solving some of the problems that exist within society. With the number of churches we have in the Holy City, no nonprofit organization should be in need of a meeting place or a location to house their organization. With the number of members that attend these churches, we should have no shortage of mentors for young people. With the amount of money raised in the churches of Charleston, no scholarship fund should be depleted, no church member unemployed, no person hungry or naked should be in need, and poverty should not be a neighbor to any church.
This is not wishful thinking. Collectively, the Church and its members should not confine their moral responsibility to their four walls or only to those who pay their tithes and offerings. If more churches and their members were to work together and not focus on who has more members, more of the educational, social, and economic problems that plague many communities will be problems solved rather than merely patched.
Combining the educational, social, political, and spiritual strengths of the three African-American Methodist denominations — with combined memberships totalling more than seven million — would surely result in solutions and substance rather than false hope and rhetoric. Event organizers say this gathering of three powerful denominations was a major signal to all that the Church will now take an even more proactive and aggressive role in addressing the critical problems that are hurting our communities nationwide. One of the most pressing issues recognized by this group is the state and condition of the African-American male.
Focusing on what is being done and who is doing what to address the state and condition of the African-American male and others in need will extend a greater invitation to faith-based organizations to recruit volunteers and solicit supporters. Gatherings to demonstrate improvements, highlight successes, and lay out a strategic plan are needed.
With seven million people strong, no child should face the option of making crime part of their lives. With seven million people, an endowment must exist to provide scholarships and other educational needs to its students. With seven million people, the recycled dollar must turn more than once in its community. With seven million people, social injustice, educational and healthcare gaps, fatherless homes, and poverty should be on the decline.
There has never been a national effort created and implemented by one of the most influential and powerful segments of the African-American community — the Church. Such a movement to address the many issues affecting and influencing black men will definitely have a major impact. The development of such an initiative, targeting African American males from ages 12 to 25, is one of the major goals the AME, AME Zion, and CME Churches hope to accomplish. Only time will tell if the plan is making a measurable difference.
The Great Gathering was without question powerful. More churches and other organizations may soon follow their lead. AME, AME Zion, or CME cannot address this situation alone. This situation calls for everyone — every person, every church, every Greek, Masonic, and Eastern Star organization — to live up to their original purpose of service and provide for the least. When this happens, the plight of the African-American male and all humanity will improve. If groups stay within their four walls and in their comfort zone, worse days will be ahead.