The Words of the Reinig Family
Some of the speakers at the CAUSA Convention with the convention organizers.
"When the call of CAUSA comes, you've got to drop everything and come together. Don't let anybody turn you around."
These words of Rev. Dr. David Licorish, world famous lecturer as well as editor and publisher of The Baptist magazine, summed up the essential message of the first New York CAUSA Ministerial Alliance Convention, held April 11-12 at the Manhattan Center.
Under the theme of 'A Call to Unity:' approximately 500 pastors, religious leaders, and evangelists were brought together from the five boroughs of New York. About 100 of them were new contacts, but the majority had been to one or more national or local CAUSA seminars before. The purpose of the convention was to revitalize the faithful friends of CAUSA by presenting a high standard program combining regular CAUSA lectures, famous speakers, lots of gospel music, and a chance to address issues of vital interest especially to the black Christian community in New York.
A tremendous amount of preparation was put into this convention. According to William Peat, executive director of CMA of New York, "Many of the ministers expressed that this time they really felt the spirit of CAUSA. Many of them already knew each other. It gave them an opportunity to feel that CAUSA is really their own movement"
Bishop D. Ward Nichols, senior bishop of the AME Church of the United States and lifetime member of the NAACP, spoke congenially and optimistically on Friday evening. "The world situation is so bad that it is frightening to even fly a plane anymore," he said. "But all we need is a little bit of love, a little bit of fellow- ship, and a little bit of Jesus Christ to come into our minds'.' He emphasized that with unity in Christ, all things are possible. "I have never seen the righteous forsaken," he said. "God made the world, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!"
Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, senior minister of the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ and former close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then spoke on the topic "What Price Freedom?" He said that Rev. Moon was the symbol of the erosion of religious freedom in this country. "We must not be apprehensive about coming together with people of other religions' he said. "There are no Methodists in heaven. You go to heaven by what you are, not by what you believe."
"I will have to pay a price for being here, but this is important. There are risks some of us must be willing to pay. You don't have to answer to your church board that you were here tonight 'associating with the Moonies: You only have to answer to God. The Baptist Convention isn't going to convene on Judgment Day. You've got to stand before the judgment seat yourself. No one else is going to stand there for you!"
The next day Rev. Dr. James Cokley, pastor of the Abraham Thompson Memorial Church, presented the lecture on the CAUSA Worldview of Man, succinctly, eloquently, and powerfully.
Almost 500 guests attended the first New York CMA Convention at the Manhattan Center.
The most unique and insightful aspect of the convention was the workshop sessions, which covered six key issues that clergy need to be concerned about -- the fractured family, the situation in Nicaragua, religious freedom, liberation theology, the church and social action, and alternatives for American youth. For each workshop session, several experts were invited in.
The featured speaker at the session "The Fractured Family" was Dr. Lorraine Hale, daughter of the famous Clara "Mother" Hale, who founded Hale House in Harlem, a home for children born addicted to drugs. Her main topic -- the appalling lack of parental authority today. "A child will forgive a parent for being wrong;' she said, "but he will never forgive a parent for being weak" When parental authority is absent, a child flees to the peer group, she explained, a group that provides immediate gratification but takes no responsibility for consequences. Because of this, the family is losing its ability to be a continuing structure in society today. She recounted how her own mother was very serious about making God and the church the center of their family life, and she feels that the only way to stem the dissolution of families today is to bring our communities back to God.
In the same session, the founder of BMAD, Black Mothers Against Drugs, and the head of Resurrection House, a family advocacy center in Harlem, spoke about the appalling problems facing families in Harlem today and how their groups are dealing with them. Dr. Billy Johnson, president of CMA of New York, added that CAUSA should be a vehicle to provide training for clergy to deal specifically with these difficult family issues.
A question-and-answer period on the second day allowed participants to address a panel. The main issue brought out: How can the clergy actually bring the communities back to God? The combined advice of the panel: through contacting your local, state, and national representatives. Prayer can get back into the schools in the same way prayer was gotten out of schools -- through legislation. If enough clergy make their voices known, anything can be accomplished. It just takes committed voices willing to speak out. "The devil's side is so much more organized," said William Peat. "Let us be unified on God's side."
Rev. Ken Sudo, vice president of CMA [CAUSA Ministerial Alliance] of New York, spoke at the luncheon banquet on Saturday on the frightening aspects of God-denying communism. "When you deny God, you deny all love, life, purity, and goodness," he said. "Somebody's calling from upstairs. It's time for all Christians to unite and take responsibility for what is happening in the world today. We are all brothers and sisters of one God. If we are united, we cannot be broken by any evil force:'
Rev. Dr. David Licorish said in his speech that followed that when he was invited to speak he was amazed that CAUSA had invited "the most controversial preacher in Harlem" to talk about unity. "My critics stay away so I won't disturb their equilibrium," he said. "They are afraid because they know something important is going to happen here"
He spoke about the need for prayer. "Prayer puts you in shape to be one of accord," he said. "The most important thing is for all the churches to get together. Ministers should not listen to other people talking CAUSA down and telling us not to go. The important thing is to get back to one accord and take these problems and sit down with one another and try to solve them together. Don't let anybody turn you around!"
At the final meeting of the convention, Mrs. Lynette Williamson, president of the New York Council of Small Churches, who was being challenged by the city for violations of the building code on her headquarters building, was presented with a gift of $536 dollars, which had been spontaneously collected after lunch from the participants, to help in much-needed repairs. The gift was a monument to show that CAUSA cares.
This convention gave the ministers a deeper understanding that the CAUSA worldview can be applied not only to educate people about the evils of communism but to help solve the real, immediate problems in our own communities.
Many smaller, in-depth conferences dealing with the specific issues that were touched on in the convention are planned for the New York area in the near future. These seminars will deal with the breakdown of the family, the crisis in South Africa, and the conflict in Nicaragua. The New York Chapter of CMA hopes that this convention and other conferences like it will continue to inspire the clergy of New York to roll up their sleeves and get involved.
As Rev. Dr. David Licorish put it, "It's not what we get out of CAUSA that's important; it's what we give to CAUSA."