Episcopal Church Office of Black Ministries announces name change to African Descent Ministries

Contributed by: Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs

As it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023, The Episcopal Church’s Office of Black Ministries is pleased to announce a name change to African Descent Ministries to more inclusively reflect the community it serves.

The new name—and a new logo depicting a West African symbol for abundance—went into effect July 1.

“I believe the name change is timely and brings new energy to the office as we prepare to celebrate our ever-expanding call to ministry and our 50th anniversary,” said the Rev. Canon Ronald C. Byrd Sr., missioner for Black ministries.

In 2019, the Council of Advice for the Office of Black Ministries entered a three-year period of discernment to determine a name change, Byrd said.

“We were aware that many in our community did not identify with the name ‘Office of Black Ministries,’ he said. “‘Black’ in this context has often been considered to refer to African Americans, thus creating a feeling of non-inclusiveness to siblings in this community of faith who are of African descent but whose primary cultural identity is not American.

Council members discussed and considered 14 proposed titles, which were also shared with stakeholders including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Bishops of African Descent, Black Deputies, and participants of the 2020 International Black Clergy Conference.

At its spring 2022 meeting in New Orleans, the Council of Advice voted unanimously to endorse Office of African Descent Ministries as the new name.

The office will also adopt a new logo as part of its enhanced image. The Bese Saka, a symbol for the cola nut or sack of cola nuts, has multiple meanings in West African culture, representing affluence, power, abundance, plenty, togetherness, and unity. The symbol was chosen as it “speaks powerfully to the abundant power of the gospel in the lives of the African diaspora and the togetherness and unity that comes about when true acceptance of the gospel occurs,” Byrd said.

“We wanted a name and symbol that would be inviting to the fullness of the African diaspora and that is representative of those ministries in which we are called to serve with a loving, liberating, and life-giving expression of God’s way of love,” he said.

Learn more about African Descent Ministries programs and initiatives.