Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II received the 2012 Clergy Unity Award Saturday afternoon. The award, administered by the Values Team, recognizes individuals in the Missouri Annual Conference who have actively promoted the values of inclusiveness, justice and worth.
Cleaver currently is Special Assistant to the Bishop for African American Leadership Development. A native of Waxahachie, Texas, Cleaver arrived in Kansas City as an activist in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference charged with founding a Kansas City chapter of the civil rights organization. In 1974, after the Kansas City Chapter of the SCLC received its charter, he began his pastoral career at St. James United Methodist Church where he grew the church from 47 members to more than 2,600.
He served three terms on the city council of Kansas City and is the first African American to be elected Mayor of Kansas City. He currently serves in the U.S. Congress as the Representative from the Fifth District.
Throughout his ministry and his public service, Cleaver has worked to integrate his values of cultural diversity and gender inclusiveness. It was reflected in all his work as a pastor, including preaching a gospel of hope, love and salvation for all. At St. James UMC he welcomed into membership persons of all races and he maintained a multi-cultural staff and lay leadership. Cleaver mentored nine women (both African American and white) into ordained ministry. The majority of these clergywomen are still serving in the Missouri Conference. He also mentored more than 15 African American men, who entered the ordained ministry, several of whom are serving today in the Missouri Conference.
Cleaver also established relationships with other churches in the Kansas City, both Christian and Jewish, with pulpit and choir exchanges, joint worship services and courageous dialogue sessions in order to promote racial understanding and cultural competence. In 1997, under Cleaver’s leadership and guidance, St. James UMC purchased a 42-acre campground in Kansas City and created 40 acres and A Mule, Inc. which became a ministry oasis in the city for children and youth of all races.
During his tenure as mayor, Rev. Cleaver founded a group called Harmony (in a World of Difference) to help reduce racial tension and create unity across racial and cultural lines. This organization remains in existence today. After leaving office in 1999, Rev. Cleaver was recruited by the Burger King Corporation to serve on its Diversity Action Council where he spearheaded initiatives to help recruit, develop, and support racial ethnic persons and women to purchase franchises.
Cleaver has served as a U.S. Congressman since 2004, where he continues to display his values of inclusiveness and unity amid diversity by reaching out and working across party lines to promote bipartisanship. Cleaver sends out a weekly one page meditation to all 434 U.S. Representatives urging and promoting bipartisanship in approaching legislative issues.
Cleaver was nominated for the Unity Award by the Black Methodists for Church Renewal.