“ Behold I am about to do a new thing”. Isaiah 43:19. Metropolitan New York Synod Strategy for Black Ministries Proposal. Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry in the 21 st Century.
Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry in the 21st Century
NarrativeAt its constituting convention in 1987 the ELCA adopted the following goal: “it shall be a goal of this church that within 10 years of its establishment, the membership shall include at least 10% people of color and/or primary language other than English.” As of this date that goal has not been attained. The Metro New York Synod (MNYS) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) presently consists of 232 congregations representing 100,000 Lutherans throughout the metro New York area. The synod also consists of 10 social ministry organizations including Lutheran Medical Center, Lutheran Social Services and 150 schools. MNYS has stood strong on its commitment to build a diverse synod. As a result of this commitment, MNYS presently worships in 18 languages. One key component of this diversity is the number of Black Lutheran congregations. In 1999 the ELCA had 224 congregations with 20% or more Black baptized membership. Forty of these congregations or 18% are in MNYS. These 40 congregations represent close to 20% of the total number of MNYS congregations. Of these 40 congregations 29 are majority black. In 1999, ELCA Black membership was 50,835 representing 1% of the total ELCA membership. In 1999, MNYS Black membership was 8,035 representing 9.65% of the total synod membership and close to 20% of the ELCA total Black membership. MNYS recognizes the synergy between Lutheran theology and the Black experience. This is recognized internationally as well since the fastest growing segment of Lutherans in the world is in Africa, particularly in Tanzania where MNYS has a companion synod relationship. MNYS believes that the Black experience and Lutheran theology present one another with clear gifts and opportunities for new and creative ministries. MNYS believes that the way to build diversity is by providing resources, both financial and technical, to congregations for the purpose of building strong leadership and institutions. Through the building and strengthening of congregations in diverse settings, we empower people to celebrate their distinct contributions to the wider church and broaden our visibility in a larger segment of the population. In keeping with the 1987 ELCA commitment, MNYS has engaged in discussions concerning the development of a Black Lutheran strategy. These discussions which have taken place over the last 2 years have resulted in the following. First the MNYS Black Pastors Group.
The MNYS Black Pastors group has been developed into a resource body which consults with the office of Bishop on strategies for congregations in Black communities. Second, the organizing of the region 7 Black pastors ministerium. This group meets periodically on issues relating to congregations in Black communities. Third, the January 2001 Region 7 Proclaim the Power conference. This conference, which was one of eight conferences sponsored by the ELCA to discuss Black Ministries, was the highest attended conference. This particular conference was organized by the Black Pastors Group of MNYS. The conference, which was attended by over 150 leaders, provided workshops on skills needed for congregation development. Pursuant to these discussions, development of the Black Pastors group, the Proclaim the Power conference and regional conversations, MNYS has developed a comprehensive strategy for the strengthening of ministries in the Black community. This strategy centers on the development of leaders and resources to empower Black Lutheran congregations to further build their ministries. MNYS believes in developing resources so that its leaders can build strong institutions for ministry. This is evidenced by the synods Urban Empowerment Fund which provides resources to congregations working with and for people in poverty. This was also evidenced by the synods Proclaim Jubilee which worked successfully to eliminate the debt of several congregations working amongst the poor, as well as its Women and Children Living in Poverty projects. There are several models pertaining to building ministries. One is to create new congregations which would bring in new membership. Another model is to build on our present success. MNYS has chosen the latter. We make this choice for several reasons
Based on this, MNYS is proposing the Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry in the 21st Century. This proposal is a comprehensive approach which focuses on leadership development. As Black people have a 300 year history within the Lutheran church, the fastest segment of the Lutheran church in the world is among Black people in Africa and as the demographics of New York change, MNYS stands ready to take advantage of this opportunity for growth.
MNYS believes that we must equip leaders with skills and resources that will empower them to build for the church of the future which will increasingly be in communities of color and in particular Black communities.
Bishop of New York for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Assistant to the Bishop for Urban Ministry
Pastors Group-Rev. Jerome Taylor President
Despite the commitment to diversify, the percentage of black parishioners in the ELCA has remained flat over the last decade.
Lutherans are not a major part of the religious population in Black communities
To commit resources on a long term basis for ministry in communities of color.
There is a tremendous number of unchurched people in the communities we are targeting.
MNYS has maintained a steady growth of Black membership which has resulted in a critical mass of parishioners from which to grow.
Black membership within the MNYS is at 9.62%.. With the exception of the Bahamas synod, MNYS has the highest percentage of black parishioners in the ELCA. MNYS however has the highest total number of black members of any synod in the ELCA.
MNYS has a cadre of talented religious leaders who have displayed an ability to develop congregations into strong institutions of ministry
Congregations of color are leading the way in developing liturgies which connect to the local community.Challenges and Opportunities
MNYS Black baptized membership 1990-1999-Total MNYS 1999 Baptized Membership 85,927**Represents less than 100% of returned parochial reports
As we look at the profile of many congregations, we find that they minister in some of the poorer areas of the region. The average per capita income in the communities of the 29 congregations with 50% or more Black membership is $17,516.These congregations represent 13% of the total number of congregations within the synod. In many of these areas you will find high unemployment and other social concerns. Yet congregations such as New Hope Lutheran in Queens and St. Peters Lutheran in the South Bronx minister to the poorest of the poor and are building congregations with an emphasis on serving the most vulnerable. One can look at the work of congregations such as Church of the Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in the Bronx which has built a congregation of over 600 people in a community where little is known about Lutherans. These congregations are building strong institutions for ministry. Many of these congregations are working to rebuild their communities as well. This is evidenced by congregations such as St. Johns Lutheran Church in the Bronx which has been at the forefront in building Nehemiah housing in the South Bronx. Good Shepherd Lutheran in Roosevelt Long Island is working on strategies to provide employment in the community. MNYS believes that these congregations which are building strong institutions without a lot of resources should be the vanguard of a Black Lutheran strategy that builds on the ELCA commitment from more than a decade ago. These congregations have taken that commitment seriously. Leadership and resources are critical if we are to get closer to the ELCA vision. Now is the time to develop the new generation of leaders, create creative evangelistic tools and commit resources to building on our success. MNYS believes that our best hope lies with investing in those leaders and congregations that have proven to be builders. Pursuant to our experience and belief, the Initiatives for Black Lutheran Centers of Ministry are designed to develop leadership and resources for those congregations ready to become mega centers of ministry within their communities.
Purpose: To train and equip congregational teams with skills to lead and grow African American Lutheran congregation.
Purpose-To provide paid intentional ministry teams for existing congregations to assist in church growth
MNYS has put forth a bold vision of a sustained intentional effort for the development and empowerment of Lutheran ministries in Black communities. MNYS believes that if we are serious about ministry in Black communities, resources must be provided. We have the talent, critical mass and the physical plants from which to develop an even more powerful Lutheran presence. We have developed a model which can be transported throughout the ELCA and which every segment of our church will benefit from. Our goal is to combine leadership, resources and technology in a way that enables local congregations to reach the next level of development in their respective communities. It is our goal that by the end of 5 years we will have achieved the following
MNYS now seeks partners to enter into an important endeavor which will have long lasting benefits to the communities we serve and the ELCA at large.