Superintendent's Call to Prayer & Action
With the news that all three of our Bishops were going to step aside allowing space for a new generation of leaders to take their place, there was much hope and expectation that the FMCUSA would shift to a Board of Bishops representing greater racial diversity. Each Annual Conference elected General Conference Resolutions teams which convened in this past year and nominated up to three candidates we felt were qualified for the office of Bishop. The Southern Michigan Conference delegation nominated ICCM Director Linda Adams, African American Pastor Curtis Fleming and Superintendent Keith Cowart as our nominees. These three candidates probably represent the most diverse slate of nominees in the history of our conference.
Subsequently, the Bishop Search Committee (BSC) was given a robust vetting process as they began their work of narrowing down the field of 17 nominees from the 24 annual conferences to just 5 candidates. These five individuals; Superintendent(s) Keith Cowart, Brad Button, Matt Whitehead and Pam Braman combined with ICCM director Linda Adams are gifted apostolic leaders who will serve the church well as Bishop.
It is important to note however, that this particular slate of nominees while diverse in terms of gender does not represent the racial diversity that currently exists within the FMC. This fact has generated significant pain and disappointment among many of our brothers and sisters of color who faithfully and fruitfully serve in the FMCUSA. In recent weeks, the African Heritage Network (AHN) has pressed our denomination's Board of Administration (BOA) for consideration to add an additional qualified nominee of color to the ballot for our July General Conference gathering. As of this date, the BOA has not granted this request.
Yesterday, SMC Pastor Jeff Harrold responded to the chairman of the Board of Administration in response to the BOA’s letter of response to the African Heritage Network. Pastor Jeff wrote an excellent personal response asking for reconsideration by the Board of Administration to nominate a 6th candidate of color to stand for potential election.
I am calling our conference to serious prayer about this matter. Friends, this is one of those critical moments in the history of the FMC where we are close to achieving a significant milestone regarding how we include all people, regardless of gender or race into leadership at the highest level of our church. We cannot afford to miss this moment and if we do, it will grieve God’s Spirit and cause harm to the Body of Christ.
Pray for our Board of Administration to have real wisdom and to understand the time. Pray for courage for our leaders all across the church to stand together for needed change toward greater diversity. Pray for those who are angry, discouraged or who feel excluded because of their race. Pray that the Spirit will accomplish much in the current tension of the moment causing us to come together, talk and listen to one another, work together and achieve Christ’s vision for great diversity at all levels in His church.
-Superintendent Bruce Rhodes