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MECM, partners receive GCORR grant for Urban Institute

    The United Methodist agency charged with promoting racial inclusiveness has awarded the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry and its partners a grant of nearly $13,000 to help them provide innovative urban ministry training to seminarians.

    The General Commission on Religion and Race one-year grant of $12,970 went to MECM and the Urban Steering Network--both Northeastern Jurisdictional ministries--along with three United Methodist-affiliated seminaries in the region.Together, they will launch the Urban Institute in 2014 to provide seminary students short-term, intensive, contextual training in urban ministry between semesters.

    The seminary partners are: Boston University School of Theology; The Theological School at Drew University, in Madison, NJ; and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. The institute will begin at Drew next year and then rotate among the other seminaries in succeeding years. Contextual, experiential learning will happen in urban churches and their surrounding communities, including Church of the Village in
New York City and other churches.

    The Urban Institute partners have been planning this new collaborative endeavor for several years in response to the growing need among clergy and laity for more contextual, effective training in this critical arena of ministry.The institute is scheduled to begin in January 2014.

    "Urban churches are struggling to survive and remain relevant and productive in their communities--and many fail," said Dr. H. Ward Greer, MECM executive director. "Our NEJ agencies and seminaries have recognized an urgent need to work together to create innovative educational models that can better prepare pastors and church leaders for new challenges and opportunities in urban ministry."

    GCORR awarded nearly $98,000 in grants from its CORR Action Fund (formerly the Minority Group Self-Determination Fund) to seven projects based in churches, conferences and seminaries. The various projects—located in the Northeastern, North Central and Southeastern jurisdictions—promise to provide or enhance education, strategic planning and direct ministry in support of racial justice, leadership development, multicultural and interracial relationships, and services to refugees.

    The agency will follow and report on their progress in its own media and cultivate case studies.

    "We're excited about the potential of these projects to transform the Church," said GCORR Board of Directors member and CORR Action Fund Committee Chair Joseph Harris. "Over the quadrennium, we look forward to funding more transformative projects that embrace and reflect the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of our global communities."


MECM board begins work on 2013-2016 mission goals

The new president of the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry hosted its 2013-2016 board of directors at his first meeting on March 21 in New York City. New York Area Bishop Martin D. McLee, elected both a bishop and MECM president in 2012, led the board in charting its course for the new quadrennium.

 McLee was absent from the board’s organizational meeting in November 2012, where it elected officers, appointed committees and reviewed its vision and its three overall mission goals for 2013-2016. They are:

  • To equip, nurture and support leaders and congregations for effective multiracial/multicultural ministry appointments.  
  • To assess communities where racial/ethnic populations are underserved by the denomination in the Northeastern Jurisdiction.
  • To help facilitate bridge-building among racial/ethnic caucuses and emerging racial/ethnic constituencies in the jurisdiction through ongoing communication, learning and collaboration.


The center’s foundational vision remains grounded in:

  • collaborating with strategic ministry partners,
  • advocating with and for racial/ethnic and multicultural/multiracial groups and churches,
  • equipping conference and district leaders to attract and retain racial/ethnic pastors,
  • helping churches to align multicultural values with their mission efforts, and
  • resourcing interfaith agencies and organizations with similar goals.


The MECM goals include evaluating church sites and leaders strategically located and prepared to engage in multi-ethnic/multicultural ministry. The board agreed to work closely with four annual (regional) conferences by the end of 2014 and forge a plan to extend its efforts to other conferences in the jurisdiction. The four initial conferences are: Greater New Jersey, New York, Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware.


The MECM board has a particular concern about the closure or merger of a growing number of racial/ethnic and multiethnic churches. Thus, it plans to assess the challenges facing such high-risk churches and the racial/ethnic or diverse communities where many of them are located.


The board will seek information from bishops about closed or merged racial/ethnic churches and how the ongoing needs of their neighborhoods are being, or can be, addressed, especially in communities underserved by the denomination. The board will report its findings and suggestions to the jurisdiction.


Board members also heard an update on the new Urban Ministry Institute that MECM is developing in collaboration with the NEJ Urban Steering Network and the jurisdiction’s three United Methodist-affiliated seminaries.


Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. and the theological schools at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and Boston University are also partners in creating a model summer intensive urban ministry educational experience for clergy and lay students that is scheduled to launch in summer 2013.

Diversity concerns stir mixed reactions to episcopal elections

“At every level of church leadership, we must become more visibly what we say we are: inclusive.” — Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer   By John W. Coleman  For many racial-ethnic leaders yearning to see a more d
New York Area Bishop Martin McLee

While lauding the remarkable diversity of both episcopal candidates and voting delegates at the jurisdictional conference in July, the head of the NEJ Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry (MECM) nonetheless sees the church falling short in moving that diversity up the ladder.


“It is time to represent the diverse demographics of our jurisdiction at the highest levels of clergy leadership,” said the Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer, executive director of the center, whose partnering mission is to identify, equip, encourage and resource racial-ethnic leadership for ministry while advocating for greater diversity. “While we were able to get an African-American elected (Bishop Martin McLee from Boston, Mass.), the College of Bishops in this jurisdiction has a long way to go in order to be fully inclusive and representative of the diverse demographics in this region.”


Of the 19 endorsed candidates vying for three episcopal openings, 12 were racial-ethnic persons: six African-Americans, one Indian-American, three Koreans and two Hispanics. They were endorsed or affirmed by annual conferences, racial-ethnic caucuses and agencies. There were no Native American candidates.


“We believe that those who endorsed these persons were sending a clear message to our denomination,” admonished Greer, “that at every level of church leadership, we must become more visibly what we say we are: inclusive.”

Moreover, an unprecedented 40 percent of the 228 delegates to the NEJ Conference self-identified as racial-ethnic persons.


The center hosted racial-ethnic delegates and episcopal candidates at its quadrennial banquet prior to the conference, on July 16, where it also presented its inaugural Bishop Felton E. May Award for Excellence in Multicultural Ministry to its namesake. Bishop May, a retired bishop since 2004, was the center’s former executive director and now is pastor of a multicultural congregation, Turning Point United Methodist Church, in Trenton, N.J.


“Though we now have a more diverse College of Bishops—including one Korean-American, one Indian-American and two African American bishops—we have yet to elect a Hispanic bishop,” said Greer. “Thus, we believe it is too early to fully celebrate, and the work and mission of the Multi-Ethnic Center is even more necessary today."


The Rev. Lyssette Perez, a New Jersey pastor and new MECM board member, regrets the jurisdiction’s inability to elect its first Hispanic bishop, despite having two highly experienced, well-known candidates: the Revs. Aida Fernandez of New England and Irving Cotto of Eastern Pennsylvania.


“Because we only had six Hispanic delegates, we needed help from others, and we got it,” she said. “We fell short, but this is the first time since we’ve been trying to elect a Hispanic bishop that I’ve seen such strong cooperation from our other racial-ethnic sisters and brothers to make our candidates a top priority. I celebrate that.”


Perez lamented political maneuverings and double standards that seemed to hinder the acceptance of Hispanic candidates by many white delegates. “I just don’t know why members of the dominant culture don’t trust us,” she said, “when we say these are good candidates who will make good bishops for the church.” She cited the need to begin “preparing potential Hispanic candidates and seeking multi-ethnic support” for the next election in 2016.


“I’m excited about the three bishops we elected, but we need a game-changer to move us to where God is calling us to go,” said the Rev. Lillian Smith, a Philadelphia, Pa., pastor and Program Chairwoman of the Multi-Ethnic Center board. “The demographics in our jurisdiction may be the most diverse, but we need to be more intentional—all of us—in diversifying our church’s leadership to help us grow.”


The region’s urban centers is where much of that growth must occur, and with that concern, Dr. Greer expressed satisfaction that three of the largest and most diverse urban areas will be led by racial-ethnic bishops in the new quadrennium. Newly elected Bishop Martin McLee will lead the New York Area, while Bishop Marcus Matthews returns home to the Washington, DC, Area, and Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar moves to the Boston Area. Bishop Matthews is Vice-Chairman of the Multi-Ethnic Center board. Bishop Jeremiah Park, who moves from the New York Area to the Harrisburg, Pa., Area, is Finance Chairman.


Prior to elections, Greer informed the NEJ’s Ebony Bishops and the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee, in a letter to Chairwoman Michele Bartlow, that there are currently no African-American bishops leading NEJ conferences with large, urban African American populations in the NEJ. That will change on September 1 when Bishops Matthews and McLee begin their new assignments.


The Multi-Ethnic Center sponsored an orientation for racial-ethnic delegates to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional conferences last September and convened leaders of racial-ethnic caucuses for a summit in March to establish closer ties and discuss program and legislative priorities. The center will continue to bring caucus leaders together for those and other purposes in the new quadrennium, said Greer. 



MECM honors Rev. William James, leader, advocate, mentor

To The Family of the Reverend Dr. William Marcus James:


The members of the United Methodist Church’s Northeastern Jurisdiction Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry and the Northeastern Jurisdiction Urban Steering Network jointly express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of our dear brother, the Reverend Dr. William Marcus James—a father to many, a brother to all—who departed this earthly life on January 18, 2013.  


We were saddened by this passing, as we remember fondly and gratefully his extraordinary spiritual gifts and his indelible contributions to lives and ministries in all settings but especially in urban arenas. We know with full confidence that he rests now from his labors in the welcoming, radiant presence of our merciful God, amply rewarded for a selfless life well-lived.


We hold you, dear family and friends, in our prayers during this difficult time. Moreover, we celebrate God’s gift to all of us in the noble life and loving witness of this great soul. We offer you this joint resolution of loving tribute in Dr. James’ memory. May God’s Holy Spirit bless you continuously with peace and strength in the days and years to come.  


A Memorial Resolution in Tribute to the Reverend Dr. William Marcus James

Whereas the Reverend Dr. William James, truly a man for all seasons, was a bold, persistent pioneer, prophet and iconic promoter of compassionate, effective urban ministry, who helped save and transform lives not only in New York City but throughout the Northeastern Jurisdiction and beyond, through his undeniable influence,


Whereas the Reverend Dr. William James—a pastor, professor, author and church and community leader—exhorted in his teaching and exemplified in his life and witness the importance of academic education, faith in God and Christ-like commitment to one’s church and community,


Whereas the Reverend Dr. William James took upon his broad shoulders the burden of caring for all God’s people, of all ages, races and backgrounds, demonstrating special concern, however, for young people in urban communities, in whom he always recognized, called forth and helped enable their God-given potential for positive endeavor and achievement,


Whereas the Reverend Dr. William James epitomized the spiritual and social gospel of his Wesleyan heritage, organizing people and prodding his denomination to pursue and embrace justice through the challenging process of spiritual and social transformation,


Whereas the Reverend Dr. William James, with a heart for the poor and the wisdom to foster church growth and excellence, demonstrated to clergy and laity alike the critical importance of learning, knowing and loving one’s community and the people therein,


Whereas the Reverend Dr. William James promoted and defended multiracial, multiethnic diversity in all places, having helped establish, and at one point directed, the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry to address the ongoing critical need to recruit, train, support and deploy young clergy of color,


Whereas the Reverend Dr. William James, having rescued more than 3600 lives from the ravages of poverty,  urban violence and drug addiction, and having aided in developing the nation’s first major anti-poverty program under the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, was a loving, wise mentor, friend, advisor and guide to countless people,


Be it therefore resolved that the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry and the Urban Steering Network of the United Methodist Church’s Northeastern Jurisdiction, on this day, the 23rd of February, in the year of our Lord 2013, join with other hearts and voices in remembering and paying tribute to the Reverend Dr. William James.


Be it further resolved that we together proclaim him as an inextinguishable leading light whose wisdom and contributions will burn ever brightly in our consciousness and whose lessons we will pass on to generations of church leaders in our ongoing work to promote multiethnic diversity and urban vitality in ministry throughout this region and throughout The United Methodist Church.


So help us God!


February 23, 2013


The Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry and              

The Urban Steering Network
Northeastern Jurisdiction, The United Methodist Church


Obituary for the Rev. Dr. William M. James

(from New York Annual Conference Web site)


Remembering Harlem church, community leader

An article by United Methodist News Service (Feb. 7) about preparations for Dr. James' memorial service.


William James: Saving Souls from the Streets

(May-June 2004 Interpreter article)

The Rev. William James, 88, has saved more than 3,600 boys and girls, men and women from homelessness, gangs, poverty or drug addiction. James first helped them complete drug-treatment programs and then enrolled them in courses at church that prepared them to pass high school equivalency examinations.


Afterward he helped them enroll in college and secure housing, part-time jobs and some scholarship assistance.


"People are on the streets because they are uneducated, on drugs and they don't think much of themselves," says James, minister of evangelism and outreach at Metropolitan Church in New York.


"They need to know you don't look down on them and that you are concerned about them."


In 1944, James started Trinity Methodist Church in the Bronx with no members. In only eight years it grew into a 900-member congregation. "It was during that time I learned to minister to gangs and street people," James says.


From 1952 to 1985, James was pastor of Metropolitan Church before becoming executive director of the Multiethnic Center at Drew University and teaching the dynamics of urban ministries.


"The leadership in our great denomination needs to strive toward excellence and not mediocrity," says James. "We need to always reach beyond the middle class to the poor, who are many times forgotten."


James was vice president of the Hayou-ACT in Harlem, the first anti-poverty program in the country under the commission of President Lyndon Johnson, and was one of the founders of the City-Wide Coordinating Committee, an antipoverty organization.


James is a published author and has written several hymns, including "Easter People, Raise Your Voices." He also is chairman of the board of the Harlem Urban Development Corporation that helped save the famed Apollo Theater from abandonment and rebuilt the structure of the Harlem community.


--Heather Peck Stahl, Nashville, Tenn., is a freelance writer and editor.


Multi-Ethnic Center honors racial-ethnic bishops at NEJ banquet

Bishop Felton E. May and Phyllis May (center) accept a painting as the new Bishop Felton E. May Award for Excellence in Multicultural Ministry from (from left) Dr. H. Ward Greer and Bishops Marcus Matthews, Herbert Skeete and Sudarshana Devadhar.
Bishop Felton E. May and Phyllis May (center) accept a painting as the new Bishop Felton E. May Award for Excellence in Multicultural Ministry from (from left) Dr. H. Ward Greer and Bishops Marcus Matthews, Herbert Skeete and Sudarshana Devadhar.

Hosted by the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry, the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference 's racial-ethnic delegates, bishops and their spouses enjoyed a feast, festivities and fellowship together July 16, just before the start of the conference in Charleston, WV.


During the banquet MECM leaders presented a jazz-inspired painting as its first Bishop Felton E. May Excellence in Multi-Ethnic Ministry Award to the award's namesake and former MECM executive director, Bishop May.


"This was the first time we've invited all of our racial-ethnic bishops and their spouses," said the Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer, executive director of the Multi-Ethnic Center. The quadrennial event typically involves Ebony (African American) bishops and delegates.


Also honored, in addition to May, was Bishop F. Herbert Skeete for his four years of sevice as MECM board chairman and Bishop Earnest Lyght, who retired in December 2011 due to extended illness, after serving the West Virginia Conference for eight years.


About 100 banquet guests enjoyed jazz music with their dinner and later heard reports on new program initiatives being planned by the Center.


Of 19 endorsed episcopal candidates at the conference 12 were persons of color, one of the highest percentages since the denomination was formed from merger in 1968. Moreover, 93 of the conference's 228 delegates were self-identified as racial-ethnic persons.



Multi-Ethnic Center exec urges racial diversity in bishops' election

Bishop Felton E. May (2nd from right) and others met with racial-ethnic Jurisdictional Conference delegates in late 2011, an event cosponsored by the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry.
Bishop Felton E. May (2nd from right) and others met with racial-ethnic Jurisdictional Conference delegates in late 2011, an event cosponsored by the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry.

July 12, 2012---When the 2012 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference meets in Charleston, WV, July 18-20, primary on its agenda will be to elect three new bishops for the jurisdiction. Nineteen nominees, diverse in race and gender, have been endorsed by annual conferences and racial-ethnic caucuses.


The Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer, executive director of the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry, will meet with the NEJ Ebony Bishops on July 15 to review racial-ethnic demographics among conference delegates and endorsed episcopal candidates, as well as diversity implications for the upcoming elections.


"We currently have one African American, one Indian and one Korean bishop in this jurisdiction," Greer reports, referring to Bishops Marcus Matthews, Sudarshana Devadhar and Jeremiah Park. "But there is the possibility that there will be no election in 2016, and the probable retirement of the remaining African American bishop (Matthews), would leave only two persons of color on the NEJ College of Bishops."


With 12 persons of color among the 19 endorsed episcopal candidates--six African Americans, three Korean Americans, two Hispanic Americans, one Indian-American--Greer hopes the college will be able to retain its racial diversity. He asked NEJ conference delegates in a recent letter to give "particular attention to persons of color...and remember the marginalized, the left-behind and those for whom the gospel and Shalom are not yet realized."


Greer will voice his concern before the Ebony bishops and possibly again at a banquet on July 16, sponsored by the Multi-Ethnic Center for racial-ethnic bishops and their spouses and racial-ethnic delegates.


MECM chief aims to bolster urban racial-ethnic churches

The Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer
The Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer

Are urban racial-ethnic churches—especially African American ones—at risk of becoming an endangered species? The 34 year-old Multiethnic Center for Ministry (MECM), a leadership resource agency of the United Methodist Church’s Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ), wants to eliminate that risk as part of its core mission.


So says the center’s new Interim-Executive Program Director, the Rev. Dr. H. Ward Greer, a former board member and a pastor in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference. Greer took on the part-time position in December 2011 and is busy working with NEJ bishops, seminary leaders and pastors to explore and implement ideas for developing and strengthening racial-ethnic churches and leaders.


Since 1978 the Multiethnic Center for Ministry has worked with its United Methodist partners on that mission in a region where the church’s presence is declining in urban areas while underserved multiracial populations are increasing.


“We have lost too many churches to closure and too many pastors who have transferred, lost their credentials, died or moved on to other ministry opportunities,” said Greer, the pastor of Mount Joy United Methodist Church in Wilmington, Del. “Morale is as low as ever in many places, and it’s lowest among ethnic minority pastors.”


The General Council on Finance and Administration reports more than 700 African American churches closed or merged in the NEJ from 2000 to 2010, averaging 66 a year.


“Racial-ethnic and multiethnic churches are the ones most affected by what happens economically and politically in our nation and our church,” said Greer. “We need to be concerned about the kind of leaders we recruit and deploy to urban churches and communities and what kind of training they receive. We have to think differently and take this seriously, now more than ever.”


In recent years the MECM has provided training and consultation to help racial-ethnic and multiethnic NEJ churches develop ministries for youth and young adult evangelization and congregational revitalization. Under its previous executive director, Bishop Felton E. May, the center helped launch summer Vacation Bible Schools in Newark, N.J., in 2010 that drew more than a thousand children and youth to participating churches and prompted plans to extend the program into ongoing Saturday schools.


Bishop May also helped the Greater New Jersey Conference develop Turning Point United Methodist Church in downtown Trenton, a new multiracial church formed from two merged congregations. May, who also worked on evangelization and mission initiatives with churches in Harlem, N.Y., left his MECM post to become Turning Point’s full-time pastor in June 2011.


The MECM co-sponsored in March 2011 an innovative, resourceful two-day, dual-site seminar on multicultural urban ministry held at Turning Point Church and St. John-Franklin United Methodist Church in Newark. Participants came in teams from eight of the jurisdiction’s nine conferences to benefit from workshops, networking opportunities and strategic planning assistance.


“We take seriously the urban context of multiethnic ministry in the Northeast because that is where many of our multicultural brothers and sisters are coming,” said Greer, who has developed and led ministries in numerous urban settings throughout his 38 years in ordained ministry. He is currently assisting historic Tindley Temple Church in inner-city Philadelphia in its efforts to rebound from decades of decline.


“We are an excellent resource committed to fostering racial inclusiveness, multicultural leadership and transformational ministry in an increasingly diverse church and society,” said Greer, who holds a doctorate degree in Urban Church Transformation.


The new executive director previously served on the MEC board as treasurer. The board, chaired by Bishop Herbert Skeete (retired), links NEJ bishops and other jurisdictional leaders with representatives from the three United Methodist seminaries in the region: Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.; Drew University Theological School in Madison, N.J.; and Boston (Mass.) University School of Theology.


The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry has been a primary supporter from the center’s inception because of its interest in recruiting and preparing racial-ethnic clergy for leadership.


“This is the only multiethnic center for ministry and leadership development in the denomination,” noted Greer, “and we try to use the influential leaders at our table for leverage in doing what needs to be done. Our partnership is essential to our success.”