The 2017 General Assembly marks several significant milestones in the history of the denomination’s relationship with the National Convocation, a movement of collaboration for African-American congregations and leaders.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Christian Missionary Convention (now the National Convocation), a group of African-American churches, brought together by Preston Taylor, pastor at Lea Avenue Christian Church in Nashville, and others. The group held their first meeting at Taylor’s church in 1917. The founders hoped to to maintain a unified voice, and foster collaboration across congregations and regions.
The Church is also approaching the 50th anniversary of the merger of the NCMC with International Convocation (now known as the General Assembly), uniting the two groups under one institutional structure. In 1969, the two groups officially confirmed a merger, and decided to hold their biennial meetings together, by holding the General Assembly on the odd-numbered years, while the National Convocation convened on the even-numbered years.
The history of the National Convocation is an important reminder that the earliest congregations of the Stone-Campbell Movement (in Kentucky and Pennsylvania) included both European American and African American members. The Colored Christian Church was organized in Midway, Ky. in 1834. Thus, African Americans have been part of this movement from the very beginning.
This history also demonstrates the culmination of hard work and commitment to service of numerous Disciples leaders. Along with Preston Taylor of Nashville, the first convention was established by Henry L. Herod of Indiana, William H. Dickerson of Ohio, and William Alphin of Missouri. That event was attended by African-American leadership from fourteen states, and by several Caucasian church leaders as well: Robert M. Hopkins of the American Christian, Missionary Society; Anna R. Atwater of the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions; Stephen J. Corey of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society; and Joel B. Lehman, Superintendent of Negro Work for the CWBM.