representatives of the AfAm Missions Strategy Seminar listening to the plenary sessionThe 2007 African American Missions Strategy Seminar at Columbia International University (CIU) on January 19-20 was nearly a Homecoming to 130 African Americans and Euro Americans interested in mobilizing the African American Church for global missions. At least twenty-two predominately White missions organizations were represented, perhaps the widest such representation yet at this kind of event, and ten of these had African American representatives. At least two of the 22 are dedicated to African American mobilization. Another eight predominately African American missions organizations and movements were present. At long last we are moving together on a multi-ethnic front. Missions directors and mobilizers, members of church missions committees, pastors, missionaries, seminary students and various faculty members came to learn and network. At least a dozen Black churches were represented.

The warmth of fellowship flowed in every direction, from the registration desk to the cafeteria to the workshops and throughout the plenary sessions. The registration line became a receiving line. Clusters of friends popped up in lobbies and the dining hall, at workshops and on the sidewalks.

The centerpiece of this seminar was the African American Missions Manifesto. For almost twelve weeks a drafting committee proposed, edited, debated, and then proffered fresh topics. Chief architect was Minister Vaughn Walston, together with Rev. Gary Ham, Rev. Glenn Mason, and Dr. Jim Sutherland. Bill Porter, of Columbia International University, ably facilitated the discussions. The committee honed the document during the 24-hour gathering and after many deliberations presented the Missions Manifesto at the final plenary session. The Manifesto was approved by acclamation and then signed by all who so wished—seemingly everyone. Two delegates leaped for the signup sheet for “first signature” notoriety.

During the first two plenary sessions Rev. Gary Ham and Rev. Glenn Mason passionately presented the need for missions. Rev. Ham shared with us that "It will take wisdom and discernment on the part of leadership to rightly call out and equip the greatest generation of  missionary service," our newest missionaries. Rev. Mason challenged us to “Think like God,” when it comes to missions involvement and to understand God’s purpose of the African American people group. Ten different breakout sessions spoke to a range of missions concerns.  Some of these were “Strongholds and the Lack of Involvement Among African Americans in Missions,” by Rev. David Cornelius (International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Church); “How the Bible Emphasizes Missions,” by Dr. Joseph Jeter (Have Christ Will Travel Ministries) and “An Overview of the Final Frontiers of Missions,” by Rev. Melvin Jackson (Searchlight Global Ministries). The RMNi Director taught on “Best Practices for Recruiting African American Missionaries” to about 60 persons.

One bright outcome of the Seminar is that the Manifesto may become a rallying point for engaging African Americans in global missions. We anticipate a dedicated website to post the document, with the capability to digitally endorse it. Visitors will also be able to request missions updates.  We hope to include suggestions for implementing the Manifesto.

If you weren’t able to attend, CIU intends to host a followup seminar in early 2008. Drs. Joe and Peggy Rayman of Africa on Fire stirred the embers to bring this consultation together. We hope to see you in 2008, so that the many brushfires representing the work of missions large and small will join into a fire-front to spread word of Christ globally from the African American community.