National Black Presbyterian Caucus holds virtual 46th Biennial Convention
January 23, 2022
In opening remarks of the virtual 46th Biennial Convention of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus, the organization’s president, the Rev. Dr. Thomas H. Priest Jr., said, “In the preface of the Revised Edition of ‘Black and Presbyterian: The Heritage and the Hope’ by Gayraud S. Wilmore, former president of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus, Jesse C. Swanigan, wrote, ‘Black Presbyterians, North and South, are still asking the questions about cultural differences, identity and ethnic-specific mission that they asked before the reunion — asking these questions with even more urgency in a church and nation where racism seems unabated. Is it possible or more difficult than in 1980 to experience what Black Presbyterians United (BPU) President Claude C. Kilgore called ‘unity within diversity’?”
“Those comments were made in 1998,” said Priest. “Unfortunately, those questions are still relevant today and requires a response. The NBPC 2021 Biennial theme, ‘The Black Family, Congregation and Community in the Presbyterian Church USA: Navigating Identity, Equity and Economics,’ is an opportunity to discuss and discern how the unity of the Black family, congregation and community lives out its calling in the predominantly white Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”
According to Priest, this year’s convention was historic. “It was historic because we are in unprecedented times,” he said. “We could have easily canceled because of the pandemic, but we are a living organization. And, as a living organization, we must navigate through difficult times. Our work continues no matter what.”
Priest acknowledges that successful engagement of the NBPC theme requires the participation of all generations and says it indeed takes the whole village to raise a child and become the people God created us to be.
“We have been given a great opportunity in 2021 to come together in unity to participate in God’s mission in the world as Black Presbyterians. Black Presbyterians recognize that racism has not been abated in our church and society,” he said. “We know this because of the under-representation of Black Presbyterians across all governing bodies and the declining membership of our congregations The communities where our churches are located continue to be marginalized by the effects of racism. Black and brown people continue to absorb the brutal blows of injustice and exclusion.”
Priest’s term as president ended at this convention and the organization selected the Rev. Dr. Charles C. Heyward Sr. who is honorably retired and currently serving as the supply pastor at The Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island in South Carolina, as the new NBPC president.
When asked about his vision for NBPC, Heyward said, “I see the sessions becoming the basic unit of the caucus. The sessional leadership. The active session members of our local [Black Presbyterian] congregation needs to be the basic membership unit of the caucus.”
“Our primary constituents are our African American congregations and others who support the mission of the Caucus,” Heyward said. “So, because the session is the council of decision-making in the life of Black Presbyterianism, and therefore it is the active pastors and active elders that, in my opinion, need to be the principal leaders of all of the chapters. So that actions of the chapter represent the collective sharing of ministry among the active congregations and all the active sessions. You can get a whole lot done if you did that. Nothing happens without sessions.”
Heyward noted that the caucus needs to address what is biblical first. “We need to address the spirit of worship, really to share in the call to worship God,” he said. “What does that mean? Together, not individually as a separate congregation. We do that and we organize our worship separately, but how can we share in what worship is? Training our leadership, using the best of the technology. Some congregations have the resources, others don’t.”
“Next to our worship is we need to fellowship together,” Heyward said. “We need to know each other. We’re challenged with the same need for effective ministry, whether it be ecclesiastical, corporate, social or political. And once we fellowship together, then we also need to disciple together, which is training.”
Heyward says it is important that Black Presbyterians and the NBPC come celebrate together “what we know, how we learn and power.”
Gail Strange, Director of Church and Mid Council Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, January 23, 2022, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Today’s Focus: National Black Presbyterian Caucus
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Dear Lord, thank you that no matter who we are, you love us. Thank you for your presence with us today. Amen.