By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE— What mission are you on for God?
That was the question posed by Dr. Rosetta Ross, professor of religion at Spelman College and keynote speaker for the 25th anniversary of the African-American Clergy Women at their luncheon gathering at Annual Conference June 4.
Lifting up the Book of Acts, on how the disciples stepped up to carry out the mission of the church after Jesus ascended, Ross preached on how that is what we, too, need to be doing for our Lord.
“The calling of all believers is to be on a mission for God, and that means not simply to be good people but to be focused—with all our emotional, intellectual, physical energy—in a way that always presses toward the mark of the high calling of Jesus Christ,” Ross said to applause.
Ross congratulated the clergywomen and others gathered on the remarkable growth they have achieved since the very first luncheon 25 years ago. Then, the AACW had 16 clergywomen. Today, they have more than 100 including elders, deacons, local pastors and candidates.
Even the milestone of 25 years is an honor. As Ross said, “That is half the life of The United Methodist Church.”
But, she said, it is never enough to simply reach a milestone.
“What is the connection between what has gone before and what will be the future of this now-25-year-old organization?” she asked the crowd. “What mission will you be on for God?”
Ross noted how Acts was written around A.D. 80-90, at a time when the Roman Empire was emerging—a world of empire building, bondage and dominance supported by a pervasive ruling class.
“Today resembles the Roman era and the Colonial empire insofar as the political leaders look out for interests of oligarchs and wealthy and elites, paying little attention to God’s people,” Ross said.
In fact, she said, the current struggle for the soul of this nation—while race is a factor—is a struggle for the super-elites against the rest of us without regard for race, color or creed.
“It’s about the wealthy, that few percent, and the rest of us.”
But then and now, God is creating a new world reality through the message of Jesus Christ. And to make that happen, she said we need to focus on the mission of God.
Ross ticked off some of the highlights of the last 25 years of the AACW, from the first black clergywomen appointed as a district superintendent to, now, the first generation of AACW elders have begun retiring.
“This was founded because they believed there were more possibilities working together than in standing separate in isolation,” Ross said.
After the resurrection, she reminded the crowd, the disciples huddled up, and took care of business, but after the Holy Spirit burst through them, “They were directly responsible for developing a movement that took on such grand significance its message spread across the earth.”
It’s time to get out of the huddle, she urged the AACW and all gathered at the luncheon, circling back to the title of her talk: “Let’s go.”
Also at the luncheon, Bishop Jonathan Holston praised the AACW for its tremendous work over the past quarter-century.
“What you have done is effectively given a sense of purpose for young women seeking to find a way forward in allowing God’s claim on the life to be evident,” Holston said, but noted the task is not yet complete. “We still live in a world where all you have to say is, ‘A woman is coming your way,’ and I’ll get petitions.”
Holston said that this year, the South Carolina Conference added one more African-American face to the Cabinet: the Rev. Cathy Mitchell.
“Now there are five African Americans in our Cabinet,” Holston said. “There is no other conference in the connection that has five folk who look like you.”
At the end of the luncheon, each of the AACW “trailblazers,” those who founded the initial group, were presented with a portrait as a way to say thank you for their forward-thinking endeavor.