The nation’s three largest Black Methodist denominations, the AME, AME Zion and CME Churches, with combined memberships of more than 5 million, will convene at a historic gathering next month in Columbia, South Carolina. The ultimate goal of the gathering is to “Address the plight of the African American male and his critical role in America’s families and communities.”
Under the chairmanship of Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell, Pastor of the Grace AME Zion Church in Raleigh, NC, this strategic summit has been titled the “Great Gathering” and will be held March 1-3 at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia. It is the first meeting of the African Methodist Episcopal (headquarters in Philadelphia, PA), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (headquarters in Charlotte, NC) and Christian Methodist Episcopal (based in Memphis, TN) churches in more than 45 years.
This unprecedented effort will seek to alter the troubling history of African American males by identifying and seeking unified solutions for the key issues that are devastating the African American community.
According to Bishop John R. Bryant, Senior Bishop for the AME Church, the motivation for the Great Gathering was to “Send an image and model of unity. Together, all our denominations represent a people and a community with many ills and problems… but we feel strongly that we can overcome all that might separate our churches so we can all focus collectively on what we can do to make things better for our people.”
Adds Bishop George W.C. Walker, Sr., Senior Bishop for the AME Zion Church, “The African American male is noticeably absent in the church. He is also absent in the home. If we can find answers to what is happening with the Black male in this country, these solutions will have a positive impact on Black family life in this nation.” The organizers of the Great Gathering believe that a solid plan of action and the unified power of the faith, beliefs and commitment of the participants can bring significant change to the Black Community.
Says Bishop William H. Graves, Senior Bishop for the CME Church, “We have the collective resources within our own denominations to address the problems in our communities… We can’t look for the government or other agencies to do this for us.
We can do it ourselves.”
Thus, the “Great Gathering” in Columbia, S.C., will bring together the Senior Bishops of the three Black Methodist denominations, politicians, church leaders, civic leaders, educators and others to develop initiatives to combat the problems facing the Black community, with a special focus on African American males ages 12-25.
Organizers of the event expect more than 6,000 people to attend. Great Gathering activities will include worship services, seminars, panel discussions and entertainment provided by gospel sensation Hezekiah Walker. Other leadership community organizations are welcome and are invited to join the Black Methodist denominations in this initiative.
Speakers include: U.S. President Barack H. Obama (invited); U.S. Representative James Clyburn (D-SC) (invited); Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President, Children’s Defense Fund; Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, author, Reducing the Male Drop Out Rate; and Rev. Teresa L. Fry, Ph.D, Director of Black Church Studies, Emory University.
Details and ongoing updates about the “Great Gathering” can be found at www.greatgathering.org.