In March of this year, the board of the General Commission on Archive and History (GCAH) of The United Methodist Church (UMC) unanimously voted to resume their annual gift of $30,000 to the African American Methodist Heritage Center (AAMHC) for the next five years in honor of the late commission member and colleague, The Rev. Dr. William Bobby McClain.
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The concept for the AAMHC originated with the Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) in 2001 when Bishop Forrest C. Stith challenged the BMCR leadership to provide a way for assuring that the contributions of African Americans to Methodism were recovered and remembered.
The Center was organized and incorporated with an independent board of directors that year. Their mission is to provide research, preserve artifacts and other memorabilia, and to protect and promote the stories of African American people in Methodism. The AAMHC has a formal partnership with GCAH to be the repository for the AAMHC collection and is located at the United Methodist Heritage Center on the Drew University campus in Madison, New Jersey.
“Given the bishops' call last summer to dismantle racism within our own ranks and in society at large and given our emphasis on Methodist efforts to dismantle racism throughout history,” said GCAH General Secretary Dr. Ashley Boggan Dreff, “it is time that we, to be frank, put our money where our mouth is!”
“In one of his last acts, Bobby McClain called on the church to press forward in the struggle to dismantle racism,” stated Bishop Jeremiah Park, chair of the GCAH. “Preserving and promoting the stories of the contributions of African Americans to the denomination is such a large part of his legacy. This commitment from GCAH, in his honor, will help to ensure this legacy remains vital through the mission the AAMHC.”
“Realizing that ‘when an elder passes, a history perishes,’ AAMHC aims to document the presence and contributions of African Americans in Methodism,” is stated on the AAMHC website. “Collections of memorabilia and writings need to be gathered, preserved, and archived in one place, so that all can come, see, celebrate, witness and learn how God delivered and delivers the faithful.”
"My predecessors did an outstanding job forming and sustaining our relationship with the AAMHC as well as beginning conversations within the commission and denomination on dismantling racism through honest engagement with our past,” said Dreff. “Conversations necessarily need to lead to action. Our increased financial support of the AAMHC during a time when our agency, and others, are facing decreased annual budgets and unknown financial futures, is the first step in acting to dismantle racism. Through our partnership with the AAMHC, we are encouraged to find the next steps to not only dismantle racism, but to continue to promote and preserve the various histories of the Methodist tradition."
excerpt from a Press Release by United Methodist Communications
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