At the business meeting on Aug. 1, members of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus elected new leaders and heard from a national staffer of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The caucus held its 40th convention on the campus of Stillman College, a historically black Presbyterian college. The theme of the meeting was “Saved to Serve: Equipping the Saints for the Work of Ministry,” focusing on Ephesians 4:11-12.
Elected to continue as president was the Rev. Gregory Bentley. Bentley is also pastor of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, which is adjacent to Stillman.
The Rev. Karen Brown was elected to continue as vice president. Brown is the executive director of the Family Life Center at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore.
Marvella Lambright, of the NBPC’s Dayton, OH, chapter, was elected secretary.
The Rev. Arthur Canada was elected treasurer. Canada is pastor of McClintock Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC.
Also part of the meeting was a visit from the Rev. Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women.
Hunter spoke to the caucus about the continuing need for social justice work, pointing to the recent arrest of Harvard professor and African American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the refusal of a Philadelphia swim club to allow black children to enter the pool.
This need for justice also applies to the church, Hunter said.
“We have had great successes as a people ... but even so, the 11 o’clock hour is still the most segregated hour in the United States,” she said, adding that the church needs leaders who see the need for transformation.
“We have to have some visionary leaders who are going to do some tough work,” Hunter said. “We have to face the reality of what things are today.”
One thing that leaders can do is to reach out to younger generations, she said. Mentoring relationships have long been an important part of the African American community, but such relationships are not as prevalent as they once were, she said, encouraging listeners to lift up younger people.
“Some of us have become a little comfortable and a little complacent,” she said.
Also important is addressing clergywomen, Hunter said, adding that it’s important to have parity between male and female clergy.
To address such social justice issues, the Office of African American Congregational Support has outlined three focus areas: growth, leadership and transformation.
“I don’t have to tell you how important African American leadership is in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” Hunter said.
It’s important for presbyteries and synods to get involved, Hunter said. These middle governing bodies should look for new ways to engage, including new ways of developing churches.
Hunter ended by praising the NBPC’s ability to unite and inspire.
“We get to celebrate who we are as a people,” she said. “God still has work for us to do.
“I want to thank you for the tough role that many of you play, for the hard jobs that many of you have.
“On behalf of the PC(USA), I’m grateful for you, I thank you, and I love you,” she said.