NASHVILLE (7/13/11) – Before a capacity crowd at tonight’s dinner cosponsored by the Council on Christian Unity (CCU) and Reconciliation Ministry, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Bishop John F. White proclaimed that now is the time for a “new order for a new day!”
Elected three years ago, White is the 130th bishop of the AME Church. He serves as ecumenical and urban affairs officer and as the denomination’s chairperson of the Commission on Seminaries, Universities, Colleges and Schools. He is the official AME representative to the executive committee of Churches Uniting in Christ and the governing board of the National Council of Churches in the United States.
The evening began with a welcome from Laura Evans Mahn, chair of the board of directors for the CCU, and invocation led by Sekinah Hamlin-Sullivan, director of Reconciliation Ministry for the Southeast Regional Fellowship.
Following dinner, April Johnson, executive director of Reconciliation Ministry, greeted those in attendance and thanked Robert K. Welsh, president of the Council on Christian Unity, for his “diligence and detail and being sure we do what we say we’re going to do.” In her brief remarks, Johnson modeled unity.
In turn, Welsh opined that the partnership between CCU and Reconciliation Ministry “is going to stick” to the applause and appreciation of the audience. Welsh then read a greetings from President Barack Obama, which ended with the president’s hope that “faith unite us in the common cause to serve one another.”
Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the USA and Canada, congratulated CCU and Reconciliation Ministry for their joint dinner. According to Watkins, “we’ve gone through a period of in our history where we’ve specialized, specialized, specialized in our ministries. This won’t move us forward, especially in hard work such as unity and reconciliation.”
“We cannot have unity if we don’t have justice,” said Watkins. “True unity is only meaningful when we bring our differences to the table. This work is hard work; it’s committed work. It takes perseverance. So let’s keep at it!” concluded Watkins.
Welsh introduced White with words of appreciation for White’s two loves: his family, which includes and extends beyond his biological family; and his church, which includes and extends beyond the AME Church.
White wasted no time: After retelling the Humpty Dumpty story, White said, “We think Humpty was clumsy, but maybe he got pushed or maybe the wall gave way.”
White went on to detail societal challenges that call for a broad and united church response. “In a time when there is much in the show room and little in the stock room, we (church people) are to celebrate God’s gift of unity.”
“Somebody’s calling our name,” said White, “and it sounds like Jesus. We should facilitate deep conversations in our churches so we can become the Christians God is calling us to be.”
Claire Frederick, MDiv student at Hazelip School of Theology at Lipscomb University, led the audience in a song she wrote titled “We Are One.”
Margie Pride, minister of Memorial Boulevard Christian Church in St. Louis, offered the benediction.
By Nathan Day Wilson