Wednesday, July 05, 2000

AME church seeks action

Meetings focus on helping community

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Rev. James McLaughlin sings during the Christian Men's Freedom Forum at Firstar Center.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        African Methodist Episcopal church members from around the world celebrated Independence Day here by declaring that their religious convictions cannot be independent of community action.

        Thousands of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churchgoers spent the holiday Tuesday gathering in Cincinnati for a week of seminars, church elections and speeches as part of the AME's 46th General Conference.

        More than 20,000 AME members are expected, and most will pack into the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center tonight to hear a speech by Vice President Al Gore, who is courting the church for African-American voters.

  • What: African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church's 46th General Conference. General conference is held every four years to elect church officials; determine church, community and political policies; and conduct religious, educational and business seminars for AME members.
  • When: Today through July 12.
  • Where: Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, downtown.
  • Information: 784-6035.
        More than 20,000 AME members are expected, and most will pack into the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center tonight to hear a speech by Vice President Al Gore, who is courting the church for African-American voters.

        Even before the AME conference began, a gathering of the Christian Men's Freedom Forum 2000 at the Firstar Center launched the conference Tuesday with an emphasis on carrying out religious convictions through community action to help disadvantaged black males.

        “This is an excellent opportunity for men in general, and black men in particular, to commune together to try to address the critical issues with which we are faced,” said U.S. Rep. James Cly burn, D-S.C., and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

        “In these times of school violence and a lack of community communication, in addition to the need for minorities to advance themselves technologically, it is imperative that we act in the common good to ensure everyone's inclusion in the mainstream,” said Mr. Clyburn, who was one of a number of black congressional leaders to address the forum.

        The Rev. James McLaughlin from Houston was among the thousands of men and women to attend the day-long forum at the Firstar Center.

        “We are developing a teaching concept here ... so that as we go back to our districts we'll be able to teach our young people how to survive,” said the Rev. Mr. McLaughlin, who is pastor of the Greater Ward Chapel AME Church.

        “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Here we're pulling the fisher men together,” he said.

        On the forum's agenda were commitments to:

        • Develop substance abuse programs within local congregations.

        • Expand AIDS aware ness and attack insensitivity to the disease.

        • Establish neighborhood crime watches and begin training sessions for fathers.

        “This is an action conference, not a feel-good thing,” said AME Conference Communications Director Mike McKinney. “There's a lot of positive energy here ... but it's nothing if we don't move out and make it happen in the community.”

        AME Church Bishop and conference Chairman Vinton Anderson said: “We are committed to reaching across economic and social divides to jointly formulate constructive solutions to problems confronting the black community.”

        Rosemarie Rhodes-Miller arrived with her family early for the conference and praised conference officials for choosing the Queen City for its once-every-four-year gathering.

        “Cincinnati has really shown a good welcome to all of us,” said Ms. Rhodes-Miller, who traveled from home in Blue Bell, Pa., near Philadelphia.

        Founded in 1787, AME is the nation's oldest black church, with about 2.5 million members and more than 8,000 churches in the United States, the Caribbean and Africa.


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