COLUMBIA -- Bishop John Hurst Adams thinks a new document that outlines African Methodist Episcopal Church beliefs can guide the denomination toward its central mission of serving Jesus Christ.
"We are trying to re-energize the church in what it believes," Bishop Adams said.
"What does it means to be a Christian? What does it mean to be a Methodist Christian? What does it mean to be an African Methodist Christian? To us, it is not enough to go to church."
The 19-page position paper was distributed this week at the Seventh Episcopal District's 1998 Leadership Development Congress.
It defines the scriptural underpinnings of the faith and tackles some thorny modern issues.
"We have to be able to enunciate what we believe," the Rev. Carl Jackson, who serves the Helena circuit in Newberry County, said Wednesday.
"This is a starting process. It's fuel for further discussion."
The document, "What A.M.E.'s Believe," outlines the theology that undergirds the church, which is rooted in the American Methodism of John Wesley and the liberation philosophy of Richard Allen, who founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
It also says the Word of God prohibits abortion, homosexuality and sex before marriage.
Bishop Adams has said the church is losing ground to the secular world and must work to combat permissiveness and greed.
"We live in a society where faith is not the dominant factor anymore," he said.
The document had its skeptics among the 2,500 delegates and visitors this week at Allen University.
"If they believe in the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ, they ought to know" what the church stands for, said the Rev. Henrietta Cummings, assistant pastor of Olive Branch African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant.
But the Rev. Gertrude Haynes Trescott said the document, the first of several the church plans to issue, provides a starting point.
"Some of us know this, but a lot of us don't," said the Rev. Trescott, who serves the New Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Summerville.
"We need to be on the same page, united."