Step 9 of the Bishop’s Mission Plan: Create Vital African-American Congregations

Arkansas is home to nearly 500,000 African-Americans; approximately 3,000 of those individuals identify themselves as United Methodists. According to Bishop Mueller, this low ratio must be thoughtfully examined, and addressed with urgency, if the church in Arkansas is to accomplish Step 9 of the Bishop’s Mission Plan: Create Vital African-American Congregations.
“When we look at context, there are some unique factors that we must take into account,” Mueller said. “We do not have nearly as many strong, vital, self-sustaining African-American churches in Arkansas as we need.”
Recognizing the historic realities of racism in Arkansas that have played a role in the involvement of African-Americans, Mueller acknowledges that this step of the plan is hard and important work. He also believes now is the time to invest in African-American churches in order to strengthen them—not only for their own sake, but also for the potential they hold for the future.
“Strong churches can create more strong, self-sustaining churches,” he said. “In Arkansas today we have to invest, provide training and lift churches up in prayer so that we can reach out into the mission field.”
Because of the importance of this task that affects not only African-American churches but also the entire Conference, Mueller has announced the appointment of the Rev. Maxine Allen to a reconfigured position of Assistant Director of Mission and Ministry for Mission Field Engagement, a full-time appointment effective July 1. 
“I’m excited to begin this new work in the Arkansas Conference,” Allen said. “I believe that with the guiding of the Holy Spirit, we can move forward in new and exciting ways that will extend beyond African-Americans and deepen our engagement in many of our mission fields.”
The Step 9 launch team has met three times in various configurations. Allen said their discussions have ranged from an examination of the historical background of how African-Americans in Arkansas experienced the 1968 merger that gave birth to the United Methodist Church to envisioning what might be in store for the church in the future.
“A young man on our team was raised outside of Arkansas and was not aware of deep-seated feelings and perceptions some historical events in Arkansas have created for African-American church members,” said Allen. “Our discussions have been wide-ranging and enlightening, and I believe they will bear fruit as we continue to work on this step of the mission plan.”
In her new role, Allen will be responsible for connecting with existing African-American churches in Arkansas, as well as seeking new opportunities to increase ministry with Arkansas African-Americans through the UMC.