African American Methodist Heritage Center (AAMHC)
The history, heritage, and hopes of United Methodists of African American descent are inextricably intertwined with the history, heritage, and hopes of John Wesley's Methodism since its beginnings in North America. Yet, the whole church has been slow to celebrate that linkage, perhaps due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of that story of trials and triumphs.
It is not widely known that:
- in 1760 the first person of African heritage to be converted to Methodism was Peter Denis;
- in 1765 when Robert Strawbridge preached in Baltimore one of the speakers was a man of African heritage, Caleb Hyland who later became a member of Sharp Street Methodist Church, one of Methodism's oldest African American churches;
- the first Methodist class meeting in New York included a Black woman named Betty, a servant of Barbara Heck;
- John Wesley himself chided a group at Fells Point in Baltimore for failing to include a group of Black persons as full participants; and
- Black Harry Hosier was a great preacher and colleague of Francis Asbury and, along with Richard Allen, was among the attendees at the Christmas Conference of 1784, when the Methodist Church in North America was organized.
The full and rich history of African Americans in Methodism is still to unfold.
African American United Methodists are seeking to recover and preserve the stories and the artifacts of the celebrations and the calamities, the accomplishments and the adversities, the connection and the separation, and the whole gamut of experiences encountered over the nearly three hundred years of the church's journey in America. The hope and the dream is to establish a first-class African American Methodist Heritage Center.
The African American poet, Langston Hughes raised the question in his poem "Harlem," ". . . What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? . . . or does it just explode?" The question is very relevant to the initiative to establish the African American Methodist Heritage Center should there not be adequate support from the total denomination to implement the dream and maintain the Center.
But, we know that God "makes a way out of no way," and reality out of dreams. An African American Methodist Heritage Center that is affirmed, supported, and sustained by ALL of United Methodism, will be a living testimony to how those who were victimized and those who caused their victimization have been able with God's help to make of trials and tribulations, everlasting triumph! The Center will tell the story of the rocky road Methodism has traveled, but it will also be an expression of how a people who believed and trusted when there was no reason to believe and trust sustained themselves and made visible, the "Amazing Grace" of God.
As people with a memory and as people of hope, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church affirms the need to remember the past and to live through the present into a future that is richer and stronger because of our journey together. Therefore:
WHEREAS, Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR), and other interested United Methodists, had the vision that there be an African American Methodist Heritage Center to recover, preserve, and share the rich history and invaluable contributions of African Americans in The United Methodist Church and its predecessor denominations; and
WHEREAS, the initiative was taken to create a Board of Directors that established the African American Methodist Heritage Center, which was properly organized and incorporated as a nonprofit organization under the laws of the state of Maryland and approved as a 501(c)
3 tax-exempt organization by the Internal Revenue Service; and
WHEREAS, the 2004 General Conference of The United Methodist Church approved a resolution, "African American Methodist Heritage Center" [#71, Book of Resolutions, 2004], that affirmed the concept of the Heritage Center and authorized the Board of Directors to pursue funding through the United Methodist Development Fund; and
WHEREAS, the General Commission on Archives and History has agreed to partner with the Board of Directors in the development of the African American Methodist Heritage Center by officially accepting the center to be housed in the Archives Building where the collection will be protected by proper scientifically controlled systems for preservation, catalogued, maintained by staff to enable the research into the story of African Americans in Methodism; and
WHEREAS, the Board of Directors continues to plan to develop additional programming and Exhibit/Display space in one or more of the historically African American institutions related to The United Methodist Church; and
WHEREAS, the fund-raising efforts to date have not yielded adequate resources for the housing, staffing, equipping, and maintenance of the collection; and
WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church, in its entirety, desires accelerated realization of the African American Methodist Heritage Center;
Therefore, be it resolved, that permission is continued for fund raising by the African American Methodist Heritage Center and for the development of an endowment through the United Methodist Church Foundation; and
Be it further resolved, that the General Conference recognize that the General Board of Discipleship, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, and the General Commission on Religion and Race have been cooperative in the undergirding of this project and encourage all of the general agencies to determine ways and means whereby they can undergird this task; and
Be it further resolved, that all United Methodists work, study, and pray for the recovery, preservation, and sharing of the unique story of African Americans in Methodism, recognizing that to do so is embracing and remembering the WHOLE story of Methodism.
RESOLUTION #3063, 2008 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.
From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2012. Copyright © 2012 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.