Unconditional love: UMMen ‘Teaching Church’ in Taylors helps men love God, self, others

By Jessica Brodie

TAYLORS—When Derek McGowan says there were a lot of tearful moments at the “teaching church” event at St. Mark United Methodist Church Aug. 15, he’s not exaggerating.

“It was all so powerful,” said McGowan, the president of St. Mark’s local United Methodist Men unit, ticking off what he calls standout moments: Dr. George Howle, a white man, publicly apologizing for the privilege of his demographic; McGowan’s own pastor, the Rev. Telley Gadson, speaking honestly from a woman’s perspective about unbiased love among men; and Dr. Walter Kimbrough, keynote, bringing it all back to Scripture and encouraging men to trust God and love as He does.

“It was more than we could have imagined,” Gadson said about the event at her church, which was the first of several UMMen “teaching churches” slated for late summer and fall for men across the conference.

The St. Mark teaching church, with the theme “Unconditional Love,” focused on diversity, biases and discrimination and how men can come to love God, self and others through hope and a call to action. Kimbrough brought a message on having a heart of responsibility and repentance for our biases so all can move forward. The four other speakers each represented a different demographic: Howle spoke from a white male perspective, Dr. Timothy McClendon spoke from a Native American perspective, Gadson spoke from a female perspective and Jim Salley spoke from a black male perspective. (Dr. Ellis White Jr. had been scheduled to speak but had a death in the family.)

“The focus was on how Christian men can come together and love one another beyond color, culture and upbringing,” McGowan said.

And it was a hit, according to organizers, men’s ministry leaders and attendees. Attendees came from all over the Upstate and even into the Midlands.

“It was one of the best ones I’ve seen done,” said Herman Lightsey, president of the conference UMMen, who is presenting the teaching churches as a way to continue the wisdom men got at the UMMen spiritual retreat in February. “What they did in that teaching church last weekend the Methodist church needs to talk about!”

McGowan said momentum began to build in his church about the event after they started having honest discussions about their own biases and apathy. After all, he said, “Bias and discrimination are condoned by silence and apathy.”

Now, McGowan hopes each man who attended will go back to their own church and impact their family and community.

“That's where the message will really spread,” McGowan said.

Two more opportunities on Aug. 29

On Saturday, Aug. 29, men have two more opportunities to come together for focused learning through a UMMen teaching church. From 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Belin Memorial UMC, Murrells Inlet, will host “STOP: An Effort to Stop Human Trafficking.” The event will feature local elected officials, law enforcement, theologians and representatives from the U.S. Senate. Attendees will learn what they can do to put an end to what organizers call “this modern-day form of slavery.” Attendees are asked to bring toiletries/personal items that help support Sea Haven, a residential home for homeless teenagers, in Little River.

And from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Grace UMC, North Augusta, will host “Awaken the Warrior,” drawing from Romans 13:11-14.

Two more later in fall

Two other UMMen teaching churches are also slated for the fall. In September, the men’s conference “In Search of the David Within You,” will be held Sept. 17-19 at Stewart Chapel UMC, Huger.

In October, “Going Above and Beyond the Familiar,” is set for Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Journey UMC, Columbia, featuring wisdom on leadership, worship, growth and funding your dreams.

For more information and to register for any of these events:

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