LCMS Black Ministry History
In July 1877, the Lutheran Synodical Conference assembled at Fort Wayne, Ind., was challenged by its president to begin a program of Gospel outreach to Blacks and American Indians in the United States. The first Black missionary, J.F. Doeshcher, was commissioned the following October. He established the first Black Lutheran Congregation: St. Paul's Colored Lutheran Church in Little Rock, Ark.
Black missionaries moved throughout the South—forming congregations in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Particularly in Alabama, the work flourished in terms of total souls gained, of total professional church workers recruited and of total souls reclaimed after the migrations to the North and West.
By the early 1920's, there were enough mission stations in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi to organize a training school. So, on Nov. 13, 1922, the Concordia Academy and College was founded in Selma, Ala., by Rev. R. Ortho Lynn. The school was started originally to train future teachers for mission schools. Today, Concordia College, Selma, is a four-year college that prepares students with undergraduate education for a variety of careers.
Rural Alabama missions reached their height during the 1930s. However, the industrial revolution and changes in agricultural technology resulted in the decline of the densely populated rural areas of the South. Also, following World War II, Blacks began leaving the South—and the Lutheran Church—in large numbers.
It was not until the centennial of Black Lutheranism in 1977 that definite change was made. The loss of Black membership in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was noticed and a concerted effort was made to restore the Black membership to its past numbers.
The Commission on Black Ministry was conceived and began work at the 1977 synodical convention in Dallas. The commission had a mandate "to plan, develop and administer programs; coordinate resources and mechanisms for expanding and promoting Black Ministry so that the roles of Blacks in fulfillment of the Great Commission would be more visible and vocally impacted within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod."
History of the Black Ministry Family Convocation
The Black Ministry Convocation began meeting bi-annually in 1978 in Selma, Ala. Convocations have since been held in many major metropolitan venues in the United States. In 1986, the Black Ministry Convocation began meeting annually, and, in 1993, youth began to be incorporated in significant numbers and the Convocation began taking its current form as “Black Ministry Family Convocation, a family event.”
The Black Ministry Family Convocation is the forum in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for these functions:
- Developing policies that will assist congregations in reaching out more effectively with the Gospel of Jesus Christ among African Americans.
- Evaluating the effectiveness and administration of plans and programs designed to coordinate and expand Black Ministry in the Synod.
- Representing the concerns of Black Ministry before the boards, commissions, committees and judicatories of the Synod.
- Meeting for fellowship, sharing concerns in Black Ministry.
- Making decisions which direct the path of Black Ministry in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
LCMS Black Ministry Timeline
1930 - 1963 — This was a time of integrating Black Ministry as an integral part of the LCMS.
1967 — This was a time of unrest among blacks in the United States. Riots and burnings were very prevalent all over the nation. The Black Clergy Caucus emerged to address problems in Black Ministry.
1975 —The Anaheim Convention had only a one-line report on Black Ministry, but at the Review Committee level it inserted the resolution which created the Black Mission Models Task Force.
1976 — Black Ministry convened in the New Orleans Convocation as a forum for Black people to speak for themselves.
1977 — The Dallas convention authorized the creation of the Commission on Black Ministry.
1978 — The Selma Convocation hosted the first Black youth gathering and adopted resolutions that set the direction for the Commission. Dr. Richard Dickinson was called as executive director of the Commission on Black Ministry.
1980 — The Chicago Convocation reaffirmed the Selma resolutions and resolved to become self-supporting.
1982 — The Bronxville Convocation addressed the Task Force II recommendation to discontinue the Commission after the 1986 Convention. The response was “LEAVE THE COMMISSION ALONE.”
1983 — The Black District idea emerged due to problems on LCMS college campuses. This idea was seen as people having greater impact and power over their own destiny.
1984 — The St. Louis Family Convocation was credited with saving the Commission. The convocation recommended that the President of the Synod convene a summit conference consisting of Synod and District leaders in Black Ministry.
1986 The Indianapolis Convocation reaffirmed the '84 resolution to "LEAVE THE COMMISSION ALONE.”
1988 — The Memphis Family Convocation emerged with fellowship as the dominant theme. It also resolved to move to annual convocations.
1989 — The Wichita Convocation demonstrated how the convocations could be flexible to meet the need of Black Ministry. It had been rumored that another effort would be made at the synodical convention in Wichita to either discontinue the Black Ministry Commission or to place it under the Board for Mission Services. The convocation decided to meet in Wichita so that if the issue came on the floor of the convention, they could react and respond immediately.
1990 — The Charlotte Convocation re-established our connection with Africa and invited Dr. Nelson Unwene to be the keynote speaker for the 1991 Convocation in Selma, Ala. This is also the convocation when Dr. Dickinson passed the reins to Dr. Bryant Clancy as executive director.