*The following article was produced by the General Church's Disciples News Service. To subscribe to their informative emails, click here.
"Be Still and Know" ... and act! Biennial Session celebrates past, future
There is an African proverb that says, "A people with no knowledge of their past are like a tree without roots." The board of the National Convocation made sure that participants in the 23rd Biennial Session in Columbus, OH have some roots.
Dramatic interpretations celebrating several personalities from the history of the black Disciples movement were included in plenary sessions. Jocoby Kenoly, the first black Disciples missionary to Liberia, visited through the performance of Rev. Jesse Jackson, telling of his call and the tools he used to carry it out. Several women were portrayed including Rosa Page Welch (Marilyn Williams), Sarah Lue Bostic (Sheryl Nelson) and Lucille Compton (Dee Long). Stories of the Struggle and a celebration of the merger agreement forming the National Convocation were also shared. And beautiful African traditions of dance, drumming and libation offerings were lifted up.
Associate General Minister and Administrative Secretary for the National Convocation Rev. Dr. Timothy James shared his report on the state of the black Church reporting the strength of 479 congregations, remembering Eugene Randall and Raymond Brown and celebrating the current executive leaders of the denomination that include nearly 20 percent of regional ministers, Division of Overseas Ministries President Julia Brown Karimu and the new transitional president for Higher Education and Leadership Ministries, Rev. Chris Dorsey.
And there was preaching! Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, GA, kicked off the lineup that included Rev. Julian DeShazier (a.k.a. J Kwest) from University Church in Chicago and Rev. Dr. Irie Sessions, first woman called to pastor Warren Avenue Christian Church in South Dallas and president of the Disciples Black Ministers Association.
In addition, national staff of the NAACP visited to bring the participants up to date on some of the legislative and educational efforts of the civil rights organization. Hilary O. Shelton, director of the Washington bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy, brought report cards on congressional votes, legislative priorities, a current action alert re: voting rights legislation and an opportunity to join the Quick Response Membership Network. Rev. Keron R. Sadler, HIV/AIDS specialist in the health advocacy branch, shared their three areas of work for institutional and systemic change - the Affordable Care Act, childhood obesity and HIV/AIDS. A grassroots effort to engage churches in the conversation about HIV/AIDS includes faith leader training and curriculum for seminaries (theblackchurchandhiv.org).
And as for action, Patricia Maples presided over reports during the business sessions which followed up on efforts for strategic planning, nurture of clergy, the elder's efforts, a task force to eliminate racist language from Church governing documents, program audit reports as well as accomplishments such as more than 100 Disciples participating in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
The following officers were installed during the final worship service: president - Rev. Jesse Jackson, Oklahoma City; vice president - Pat Penelton, St. Louis; secretary - Felicia Wright, Houston; and treasurer - John Tiggle, Houston.