Whatever happened to the old Ministerial Union?

In nearly every African-American community in America, there is a ministerial union or organization of African-American clergy; every community except Monroe.
That hasn’t always been the case, but a parish-wide organization of African-American ministers has not existed for nearly twenty years. In its place have been sporadic assemblies of ministers who arise in response to or at the behest of those with political agendas.

Today, when ministers meet, it is usually at the call of some politician who wants support for a candidate or cause. The usual tool is a “Prayer Breakfast,” in which politicians hope to lure unsuspecting pastors into a two-hour political meeting that ends with a two-minute prayer.

Think of that; politicians tell the ministers when to meet and not the other way around. Politicians send emails and text messages to assemble the ministers to either in-person or electronic gatherings, always for political purposes.

Very rarely do ministers convene their own meetings without a politician lurking in the background.
It was not always that way.

Some can remember the Twin City Ministerial Union that met regularly on Saturdays at various churches. Discussions were spirited but informative. The outcome, for the most part, was positive.

In many cases, the ministers of varied denominations discussed the Bible, ministerial ethics and offered advice to new pastors. They addressed community concerns: police brutality, employment issues, economic development, and ways their churches could help lift their communities.

Frequently, the ministers called elected officials into their meetings to hear their concerns. The late Mayor Bob Powell was a frequent guest of the minister’s Union. In some instances, the ministers praised him; in others, he was thoroughly raked over the coals until he turned red in the face. Mayor W.L. Howard feared the Union but respected its leaders. Mayor Jamie Mayor ignored the Union altogether and surrounded himself with like-minded clergy.

The ministers called in the District Attorney, Sheriff, police and often supported crime-fighting initiatives. Sometimes the elected officials left Union meetings feeling they had faced the wrath of God.

Out of the united effort of organized clergy came many initiatives as ministers supported the formation of the Community Action Agency, Head Start, and OIC. Bob Powell heard the Union’s complaint about dirt streets on the Southside and responded with a city-wide referendum to pave every street and alley in the city. Today, there are no dirt streets in Monroe due to Powell’s promise to the Minister’s Union.

Some of the Union’s prominent leaders and members included: The late E.T. Martin and Alex Burns.