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May is National Military Appreciation Month

Posted on Sat, May 24, 2014

Pentecost Sunday: June 8, 2014

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Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Chair, Commission on Publications
The Reverend Dr. Johnny Barbour, Jr., Publisher
The Reverend Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, the 20th Editor, The Christian Recorder


May is National Military Appreciation Month
Pentecost Sunday: June 8, 2014

 
1. TCR EDITORIAL –ADVICE FOR A YOUNG PASTOR IN HIS OR HER FIRST OR SECOND PASTORAL APPOINTMENT:
 
Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III
The 20th Editor of The Christian Recorder
 
The last two editorials of The Christian Recorder Online focused on advice I would give to persons entering the ministry and things I would do differently if I could start my ministry over again. I also invited our bishops and general officers to share the advice they would give a young pastor with his first or second pastoral appointment.
 
Some of our retired and active bishops and general officers were kind enough to share their thoughts. And, what wonderful comments they all shared.
 
Bishop Adam J. Richardson and retired General Officer, Dr. Jamye Coleman Williams are sharing their thoughts in this editorial and my comments will follow their comments. My comments focus upon the advice I would share with young pastors in their first or second pastoral appointments.
 
 
-- Bishop A. J. Richardson, Presiding Prelate of the 11th Episcopal District
 
“I would remind them to remember the details of their ‘calling’ and why they said ‘Yes.’ And specifically, I would say to each of them, ‘Remain faithful to the theology of God in Christ; it is presumed to be the theology out of which you were ‘called.’ Try to keep the ‘zeal and fire’ of your ‘calling’ lighted, like an eternal flame that is never extinguished. Never feel entitled. While the “servant is worthy of his/her hire,” we work for God. Try not to be too overly influenced by ministries seen on television. Rather than television, be inspired by God's vision. Stay prayerful; lead a disciplined life, which includes daily devotion. This is the hallmark of Methodism. Stay in the ‘Word,’ read widely, understand the theology you espouse. However high you climb, try, as best you can, to take your family with you. Never put yourself in position to be an embarrassment to the Kingdom. In your preaching/teaching, worship, and song, remember Calvary and the meaning of Christ and see where God will take you and your ministry.”
 
-- Retired General Officer Jamye Coleman Williams
 
“The advice I would give to a person entering the ministry: Seek guidance daily through prayer and meditation and seek the counsel of a person whose advice you value when considering a course of action.
 
My advice to a person getting his or her first pastoral appointment would be to seek guidance daily through prayer and meditation. Encourage the official family to be candid when offering suggestions.   Study the church and its people to understand its ‘culture’ before making changes. Make changes prayerfully. Make decisions prayerfully and always seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
 
Such great advice
 
What great advice for young preachers.
 
I remember some of the advice that was given to me when I started out in ministry.  I particularly remember the comments of my presiding elder, the Rev. D.M. Owens. One of the things he said was that as a pastor, tears and disappointments would be a part of ministry. He said to me, ‘Young man, you will shed some tears…’  I remember thinking, ‘I won’t be shedding any tears,’ but I discovered he was ‘right on-target.’  Every bit of advice he and others gave helped me to deal with the issues of ministry that surfaced and resurfaced.
 
The recurring theme of the advice of the bishops and general officers shared was the need to be prayerful and to stay in the Word of God.
 
In my ministry, I got off to a good start, but over the long haul I had to really work hard to stay prayerful and in the ‘Word.’ I discovered that ministry, done effectively, keeps pastors busy and requires time and patience and those things can get in the way of a meaningful disciplined prayer-life and staying in the Word. Pastoral responsibilities, family, just being busy were things with which I had to contend.
 
I never appreciated the comment that I assumed was jokingly said, “You only work 20 minutes a week.”  I knew better.
 
Let me get back on task
 
I ‘second the motion’ of Bishop Richardson and Dr. Jamye Coleman Williams’ focus on prayer, discipline, study, seeking guidance and mentorship, understanding the culture and remaining faithful and diligent in ministry.
 
I would say to young preachers, “All of the sage advice about ministry is easier said than done and mastering all of the advice doesn’t come easy; and it takes constant work, tweaking, and prayer.”  
 
If you see a …
 
Now, here is something to remember, “If you see a turtle on a fencepost, you can be assured that someone put it there, it didn’t get there by itself.” 
 
Always remember and never forget, if you have any modicum of success, you didn’t there by yourself.  Someone helped you and that should put you in a posture of a willingness to help others.
 
Anybody can be tempted and no one is so holy that he or she cannot be tempted, which is why almost every bishop and general officer alludes to prayer, “calling,” discipline, vigilance, keeping the “zeal and fire” of your “calling,” to understand the church "culture," ethical and moral bearing, responsibility to family, and never allowing yourself to be put in a position to be an embarrassment to the AME Church, to you or your family or the Kingdom of God.
 
I believe that I can safely say that no pastor says to him or herself, “I think I will go out and do something wrong or maybe do something stupid so that I can bring embarrassment to myself and others.”  Clergy have to be diligent.
 
Sometimes, no, many times, you will have to encourage yourself and in ministry it can be years later when you will see the “fruit of your ministry.”  And, sometimes the very parishioners you are trying to help the most will be the most contentious and disruptive to your ministry and the ministry of the local church. 
 
And, in ministry no matter how effective you are, people will talk about you. Ministry is not a popularity contest. As in the case of bishops, many of the decisions you make as a pastor will almost always make some people happy, and others angry.
 
Transparency in the ministry is better than keeping things secret.
 
You must be committed to do the priestly functions of ministry, i.e., visiting and communing the sick and shut-in members, hospital visitation, pastoral counseling at your level of competency, sermon preparation and delivery, understand and articulate the theology you espouse, baptise, bury the dead, perform marriages, be compassionate and love the people.
 
You must also be committed to the prophetic ministry of Christ and the Church. If you are faithful to the priestly functions, the people will be more attentive when you speak the prophetic word; even when you have to give a hard word.  
 
Always respect authority. It is not a matter of liking or disliking those in authority. If parishioners observe you disrespecting authority, subliminally it gives parishioners license to disrespect authority and most often, you, the pastor will be the object of their disrespect; not the bishop or the presiding elder.
 
Respect authority and honor your ordination vows. In order to be a great leader, you have to be a great follower. Whoever is or has the responsibility of the bottomline has the last word! 
 
In the episcopal district and the annual conference, it’s the bishop, in the presiding elder district it’s the presiding elder and in the local church it’s the pastor and in a local church organization it’s the president. Respect of boundaries enhances the function of any organization.
 
Every job and every profession has a dark side and the ministry is no different.  You can either succumb to, or become a partner of the “dark side” or you can maintain your integrity and always take the “high ground” when confronted with negativity. Stay above “the mess.”
 
Do not hang with complainers, because if you do, you will become a complainer. “Hang” with positive pastors and you will probably be positive too. If you hang around “dirt,” you will get dirty too.
 
I have a motto, “I will stick with you through “thick and thin” as long as you are trying to do the right thing, but if you are doing wrong, when things get thick, I will thin out.” 
 
Follow the rules of ministerial ethics and etiquette. We have written some of them in this column-space, but in reality, common sense is a great guide for your behavior. As my grandmother said, “Common sense and treating people right will get to most places where you are tying to go.”
 
And, if you are successful, “don’t get the “bighead,” ministry is not about you; it’s about God.
 
Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  (Proverbs 16:18)
 
Remember the story about a turtle on a fencepost, it didn’t get there by itself; someone put it there. Always thank God for the people in your life that helped you to reach some of your goals. Be humble and always in a posture to help others.
 
If you need to do so, reread the advice that the bishops and general officers shared in last week and today’s editorial; they gave some great advice!
 
2. READER RESPONSE TO EDITORIAL AND OTHER ISSUES:
 
-- To the Editor:
 
RE: TCR Breaking News - NAACP has selected a social justice activist and minister to lead the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization
 
Let me be among the many celebrating the announcement of the Rev. Cornell Brooks as the new president of the NAACP. I was pleased to be his bishop while serving in the Second District. He was pastor of the St. Luke AMEC in the Washington Conference on the Capitol District. He was a very creative and dedicated pastor, well connected at the highest levels of Virginia politics. He and his wife are very devoted parents to their sons. The sons were very much involved in church. I served as preacher one year on Resurrection Sunday at St. Luke, with music provided by professional jazz musicians. I count that experience among my treasured memories. He was the noon day preacher in the Washington Conference held at Metropolitan, Washington. With everything else he has going for him, he's also a preacher (spelled with a capital P). Mrs. Richardson and I will be praying that his service to the NAACP will be extraordinary, garnering great support in continuing its effective civil rights advocacy all across the United States.
 
Congratulations, Mr. President!
 
Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Presiding Prelate, 11th Episcopal District
 
3. AME LUNCHEON AT THE HAMPTON UNIVERSITY MINISTERS' CONFERENCE – TUESDAY JUNE 3, 12 NOON: 
 
The AME Luncheon at the 100th Anniversary of the Hampton University Ministers Conference will be held on Tuesday June 3, 2014 at 12 Noon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 700 Settlers Landing Road in Hampton, Virginia.
 
The cost of the Luncheon is $25.00 and it is always a great time of fellowship and a significant event at the HU Ministers’ Conference. 
 
The HU Ministers' Conference and Choir Directors' and Organists' Guild will convene June 1 – 6, 2014
 
If you need further information call Bethel AME Church (757) 723-4065. 
 
The Rev. Andre Jefferson, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Hampton is the coordinator for the AME Luncheon.
 
Bishop William P. DeVeaux is the Presiding Prelate of the 2nd Episcopal District.
 
Senior Bishop John R. Bryant is the convener of the AME Luncheon.
 
4. VIDEO – HOMECOMING - BRING OUR GIRLS BACK:
 
Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis has produced exciting video about the kidnapped young ladies in Nigeria:
 
Watch "Homecoming" video on YouTube:
 
http://youtu.be/G_1wA8KKqfo
 
5. NAACP SELECTS ACTIVIST LAWYER AND AME ITINERANT ELDER CORNELL BROOKS AS NEW PRESIDENT:


The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has selected a social justice activist and minister to lead the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.
 
Formed in 1909, the NAACP has maintained its mission “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.” The name alone symbolizes the tradition typically associated with the organization, as it has retained the now taboo term “colored’ in its name since it’s inception.
 
This tradition has lead the organization’s board of directors to overwhelmingly select Cornell William Brooks out of a select group of 450 applicants, to replace interim NAACP president Lorraine Miller, who stepped in once president Benjamin Todd Jealous resigned last September.
 
Brooks comes with all the credentials, accolades, and social status connections typically associated with these leadership positions. Brooks is a former senior counsel member with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Brooks is also a longtime attorney who was a trial attorney for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. While attending Yale Law School, where he received his Juris Doctorate, he was senior editor of the Yale Law Journal. He also received a master’s degree in divinity from Boston University.
 
The Rev. Melvin E. Wilson, Presiding Elder of the Brooklyn-Westchester District of the New York Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) said, "Today is a Wonderful Moment for African Methodism because this morning, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced that it has selected Cornell William Brooks as its new President and CEO." Wilson went on to say, "This is particularly gratifying for me because Cornell and I were literal roommates in seminary for the entire 3 years that we attended Boston University School of Theology. Cornell Brooks is an ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and he has one of the most brilliant minds of anyone I've ever met. African Methodism has always had a strong history of civil and civic engagement. We should be godly proud that an AME will now lead the NAACP!"
 
Brother Eldridge Darwin of the 13th Episcopal District wrote, “I am very excited. I remember years ago I was reading a book on the NAACP and it said during the lean years of its history, the AME Church and its Bishops kept the NAACP afloat."
 
Brother Matthew Douglas, the Washington Annual Conference Lay President acknowledged the announcement of Cornell Brooks' selections and remembers that "Matthew used to be associate minister at Turner AME in Washington, DC and was pastor briefly of St Luke AME Church."
 
During the time Brooks served as a U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney, Brooks secured the then largest government settlement for victims of housing discrimination based on discrimination testing. Brooks also filed the government’s first lawsuit against a nursing home alleging housing discrimination based on race.
 
Brooks, 53, has been living in Annandale, New Jersey with his wife and two sons, with his primary work lately consisting as serving as director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice- while also serving as pastor and assistant minister at an African Methodist Episcopal Church.
 
According to USA Today, who was able to get a statement from Brooks via telephone, Brook acknowledges the significance of announcing this during the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
 
“With today being the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education … I’m a graduate of Yale Law School, I am an heir, a beneficiary, a grandson of Brown v. Board of Education, so as a consequence, I am an heir to the legacy of the NAACP,” Brooks said in a telephone interview. It is the “sacrifice of members past and present that led to me being where I am,” he said.
 
“I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity, “Brooks added.
 
NAACP chairwoman Roslyn Brock said “Attorney Brooks is a long-term lawyer, a human rights activist and a fourth-generation ordained minister and so we look forward to leveraging his experience … and his keen vision,” Brooks is slated to officially take over in July, at a NAACP board meeting in Las Vegas. Until then Brooks says the plan is to become familiar with the needs and concerns of the organization.
 
6. AME HISTORIOGRAPHER CALLS FOR DONATIONS OF AME HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS:
 
As we approach the 2016 General Conference Celebration the Department of Research and Scholarship is busy preparing quality presentations representative of our rich history.  Please consider donating AME historical documents, collections of publications, papers, books and other artifacts to the central AME archive in Nashville. Thank you to all who have contributed to the AME Review.  We are still in need of articles, book reviews, sermons and church histories to continue to produce an exemplary journal.
 
Thank you to all who submitted terminal degree information (PhD, EdD, ThD, DMin, etc.) for the Distinguished AME Scholars data base and 200 Years of AME Scholarship Project. If you have not done so or your degree will be complete by 2016, please forward your degree discipline, dissertation or project topic, publications, current title and position to AMECHistoryintheMaking@yahoo.com.  
 
Finally, and most importantly, according to the Discipline, the Historiographer/Research and Scholarship Department is responsible for establishing financial feasibility, collection and compilation of materials for a Bicentennial Encyclopedia.  The work has begun on history for the past 25 years as stated in my report last year.  I deeply appreciate all the inquiries and persons wanting to work on specific projects. Having worked with editing and publishing for some time, I also understand my role as project leader and the necessity of a filter to produce a work that all will be proud to possess. If you would like to work on the connectional Bicentennial Encyclopedia project with our current research staff or have ideas for the project, please contact my office at AMECHistoryintheMaking@yahoo.com no later than June 30, 2014.
 
Thank you in advance. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, Fourteenth Historiographer and Executive Director of Research and Scholarship
 
7. LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL:
 
When I joined Allen University's Board of Trustees in September 2013, I must confess a degree of hesitation and reservation. First, I had served on Allen's board from 1981 through 1996. Secondly, I was aware of the struggles that plagued my beloved alma mater, similar to the struggles of too many of our HBCU's.
 
What I had not experienced or was aware of was the determined, dynamic and focused leadership of Allen University's Chairman of the Board, Bishop Richard Franklin Norris.
 
After attending the first board meeting on January 14, 2014, I entered with some apprehension, but left the meeting thinking, "I do see a glimmer, a dim perception of light." There was indeed reason for optimism!
 
Any lingering doubt that I may have had was completely removed as we gathered recently for our spring board meeting. Just as the Mrs. Ruby Fielding, Chief Financial Officer was completing the budget review for 2014-2015; we all saw the bottomline. During the recently concluded fiscal year Allen University had reduced its overall indebtedness by FIVE (5) MILLION DOLLARS! Literally unheard of, unbelievable, given the plight of so many of our schools.
 
8. THANKS BE TO GOD:
 
*The Reverend Allen W. Parrott
 
First, we celebrate the goodness of God, realizing that all gifts come from God and without God we can do nothing!
 
Secondly, we give God thanks for the membership and friends of the Seventh Episcopal District of the African Methodist Church for their strong and unwavering support of Allen University and for the efforts of Dr. Lady June Cole, President, the faculty and staff.
 
Thirdly, and lastly, much of the credit goes to our chairman, Bishop Norris who has literally willed Allen University to vibrancy, life and to carry out its mission to educate and train future leaders for people of color. Over three million dollars has been raised by Bishop Norris since his arrival in South Carolina twenty two months ago in support of Allen University. Bishop Norris has labored much to the benefit of Allen University.
 
It is because of Bishop Richard Franklin Norris, Chairman of Allen University's Board of Trustees that this venerable institution can see clearly Light at the End of the Tunnel.
 
*The Reverend Allen W. Parrott is a member, Board of Trustees of Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina
 
9. 21ST CENTURY APOSTLE FOR EDUCATION:
 
In the early history of our Zion, Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne, the “Apostle for Education” set the standard for much of the educational process in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  In the Seventh Episcopal District a prodigy, a Turner Seminary graduate, exists in the person of Dr. Gregory Grooms. Bishop Payne’s passion for the dissemination of Education has been fostered and brought into 21st Century relevance by Dr. Grooms.
 
Anyone who has ever been in a classroom knows that the best learning occurs when the teacher is knowledgeable, personable, and engaging. Dr. Grooms will have you falling on the floor laughing when he presents serious information, but his content relevance is always on point.  [Bishop Payne would be honored and proud; the legacy is intact].
 
In a biographical sketch written by Dr. Groom’s son Alonzo, “apostle in training; Dr. Grooms is described as “a man of great faith and intelligence… who stands firmly on John Wesley’s Quadrilateral Pillars: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Logic.”
 
According to the younger Grooms, his dad finds root in Mark 16:15, which says, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.”
 
The Rev. Dr. Grooms, after answering the call to ministry in 1977 at Mount Olive AME Church in Myrtle Beach South Carolina has pastored at Mt. Carmel, in Grey Court, South Carolina; Bethel, (Conway, SC), Ebenezer, (Mullins, SC), Bethel (Union), White Hall (Jenkinsville), St. James (Columbia), and now at St. Phillip (Eastover).
 
When we speak of the Pillar of Reason according to Alonzo, Dr. Grooms believes that knowledge is power. He has earned B.A. from Marshall University (Huntington WV), a Masters of Divinity Degree from Turner Theological Seminary (Atlanta, GA), and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Drew University (Madison, NJ). Furthermore, he believes in sharing that knowledge/power. He lectures throughout the 7th Episcopal District AME Church.  Additionally, in 2004 Dr. Grooms served as a Bible Study presenter at the 47th Quadrennial General Conference, of the AME Church held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
 
Traditionally, Wesley’s third Pillar, Pastor Grooms has a strong desire to uphold the AME Church. Along with serving Allen University (since 1985) in many capacities that include Recruiter, Financial Aid Counselor, Senior Class Advisor, Chairperson of Strategic Planning Committee, Faculty Representative to Board of Trustees, President of Faculty Council, the first Cultural Academic Religious Series Coordinator (C.A.R.S.), and Chair of  the Humanities and Religion Divisions. He served as the Accreditation Liaison for Allen in 2006, when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmed Allen University. Presently Dr. Grooms serves as the University Chaplain and the Dean of Dickerson Theological Seminary. He is best known and loved however by his students, both at the University and throughout the Seventh Episcopal District because of his outstanding classroom performance and his inimitable style of teaching at plenary sessions for lay and clergy alike.
 
Dr. Grooms has further distinguished himself as an educator by wearing many hats with the 7th Episcopal District as a member of the 7th Episcopal District Christian Education Board and the 7th Episcopal District Board of Examiners.  As a member of the Columbia Annual Conference, he serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Examiners & Curriculum Committee Chair, and as a member of the Christian Education Board. Additionally, he serves the Lancaster District as a member of Committee on Ministerial Orders and the Christian Education Committee.
 
When it comes to the Pillar of Logic, Rev. Grooms loves to sing and knows that behind every good man is a better woman.  He has been singing “I been Loving you too Long to Stop Now” to his wife Minnie Grooms since 1984. They are the proud parents to two amazing boys, Gregory Jr. and Alonzo C. He is also the proud grandfather of the future world-boxing champion Gregory III (Tre).
 
A 21st Century Renaissance man of Education, Dr. Grooms has given the word Apostle a modern twist. He is an advocate, a supporter, a champion, a proponent, and a true believer in the adage that “knowledge is power”, and he devotes his personhood to making sure that information is not only available, but delivered in such a way that no one can walk away not having been inspired, informed, and empowered to go forth and continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Submitted by your classmates:
 
The Right Reverend Julius H. McAllister
Presiding Prelate, 8th Episcopal District
 
The Right Reverend Reginald T. Jackson
Presiding Prelate, 20th Episcopal District
 
The Reverend Rosalyn G. Coleman
Presiding Elder of the Georgetown District, 7th Episcopal District
 
10. “SEAWRIGHT:" A RISING STAR IN THE 2ND EPISCOPAL DISTRICT:
 
*The Rev. Clay L. Barrow, M.Div
 
A “truth” of our Zion is that it is a “graying” church.  This reality is especially pronounced in our small communities, and in our churches which serve these communities.  My church’s demographics would fall under this category: where the majority of the membership is largely retired, and in the minority are blue/light blue collar workers.  Though where I serve is financially and spiritually healthy, it is a known, poignant fact that unless there is an infusion and influx of new, working-aged worshippers (with families) within churches like mine, the long-term viability of the church will become an ever increasing issue with every passing funeral. 
 
I searched the internet looking for fresh ideas for ministry which would be relevant to the needs of the people that would be “new wine in new wineskins” for my church and the greater community. 
 
We, pastors, recognize that we need to adopt newer models for ministry in order to address the needs of those we serve; or our churches will be empty, budgets fail, and the doors of the church would be closed.
 
We recognize that we must rely on more than the offering plate and tithe box to remain financially stable and our ministries must be holistic and address the needs of our parishioners.
 
In my search to look for ideas in our Zion, I found a rising star in the 2nd Episcopal District in the person of the Rev. Dr. Harry Seawright, pastor of Union Bethel AME Church in Brandywine, Maryland.
 
His effort to improve the economic trajectory and the pressing financial issues of the community is a model of community investment.
 
Dr. Seawright founded and owns several companies, but there are two enterprises that have the expressed purpose of employing the members of his church and community that could benefit the context for my ministry – his church’s daycare center and "We Kleen, Inc., a custodial, landscaping, and home repair service.  Both business ventures provide a new paradigm for economic development and sustainability, employment, community uplift, and with impact upon the family as a whole. 
 
Both businesses of Union Bethel AME Church add to the tax base to the county and municipality of Brandywine, Maryland.  Both provide a diverse revenue stream for Union Bethel for the purpose of advancing the cause for Christ.  Both enterprises draw families to the church because this church, under the dynamic leadership of Seawright, dared to invest in the community in order to make a difference. 
 
Thank you, Dr. Seawright, for providing this excellent model for community investment for churches from which we all can benefit!
 
*The Rev. Clay L. Barrow, M.Div is the pastor of Clapp’s Chapel AME Church in Whitsett North Carolina
 
11. MACON CONFERENCE LAY ORGANIZATION FIRST ANNUAL ASSEMBLY:
 
Sister Desiree V. O'Bryant
 
Macon Conference Lay Organization sponsored its First Annual Assembly on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Saint Peter AME Church in Fort Valley, Georgia where the Rev. Michael G. Ephraim, Sr. is the host pastor; Bishop Preston Warren Williams II is the Presiding Prelate of the 6th Episcopal District; the Rev. Alan Hale Wicker, Presiding Elder, Macon District; and Brother Ashley Ballard, Host Conference Lay President. The occasion proved to be a productive and informational session. After registration of the laity, a delightful continental breakfast was served.
 
The Opening Session began with a Declaration of the Assembly followed by greetings and welcome messages from the Host District and Host Church Lay Organizations. A warm welcome was extended by The Reverend Michael G. Ephraim, Sr of Saint Peter A. M.E. and Brother Cedric Nelson, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Powersville, Georgia, President, Macon District Lay Organization. The Business Session of the Assembly was conducted, which included the 2014-2016 Election of Officers. Presiding over the elections was Dr. Verma Curtis, Bethel AME Church in Augusta, Georgia and 6th Episcopal District Lay Organization 2nd Vice President.
 
After a Praise Break, The Plenary Session featured Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III who is the renowned Editor of “The Christian Recorder,” which is the official newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dr. Sydnor was elected to that position at the 47th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference that was held in Indianapolis, Indiana in July 2004 and was unanimously re-elected at the 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference that was held in St. Louis, Missouri in 2008, and also re-elected at the 2012 General Conference held in Nashville, Tennessee.
 
He used Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Book for the key points in his presentation: Cheap Grace – the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance; Communion without confession; Grace without discipline. He touched on each of these subtopics. Grace is costly – some churches are only interested in filling pews. Costly grace must be sought again and again. He lectured further about the aspect of capturing discipleship. And, with laity engagement, asked how the local church can capture discipleship. Some of the responses included initiating a new member’s class at your church and another response was going out into the community since sometimes the community in most need is located within the approximate vicinity of the church. There was great involvement in discussion on this subject.
 
Macon Conference Lay President, Ashley Ballard, thanked Dr. Sydnor III for attending and lecturing at the Annual Assembly and presented him with a gift of appreciation. The Plenary Session adjourned with the choral Lay Benediction after which they moved to the Ulric George Fellowship Hall to enjoy a scrumptious lunch.
 
Macon Conference President Ballard and the officers were instrumental in making this First Annual Assembly a memorable event.
 
12. THE GUARDED WOLF SYNDROME:
 
Brother Gene Hill
 
Several years ago Mika Edmondson, who at the time was a doctoral student at Calvin Theological Seminary wrote an article entitled, The “Guarded Wolf”: Why Black Churches Follow Bad Pastors. The author shared his position that some “churchgoers” believe that pastors, no matter how bad they are or how many infractions they commit, are untouchable; they are seen as being “above the law.”  And people with these views will often guard a corrupt pastor by immediately denying and dismissing any allegations of misconduct before they even carefully consider the facts.  And it does not matter how strong those facts are or what that evidence might be. They will even go so far as to blame the victims for their own victimization.  The author explains that some of the behavior is due to those churchgoers’ view of the pastor as being untouchable and some of it is fear. Fear that if they call-out the pastor for his/her wrong doings, their wrong-doings will also be brought to light.
 
But lest we think that all of our pulpits are filled with corrupt pastors let me assure you, at least in my opinion is not the case. 
 
I sincerely believe that we have far more pastors attempting to be godly leaders than there are those who are more concerned about themselves, their next appointment and its package, rather than their flock.
 
My concern or question though is not necessarily about pastors, but leaders in general. 
 
Why do some parishioners have a tendency to follow bad leaders?
 
We allow bad politicians to get into office and remain in office because we either overlook their poor leadership or we give up and stay home on Election Day. 
 
We allow ineffective church officers to be elected, whether elected by the members or nominated by the pastor and confirmed by the members to positions that we know that they are not qualified for by not attending church conferences and/or quarterly conferences.  And if we do attend, we sit quietly until the meeting is over.  Then we adjourn to the next meeting - the “parking lot” meetings, to complain about the pastor, the officers, etc.
 
Why do we choose to be uninformed or misinformed?  Not everyone can attend connectional or even district meetings that require travel and several days of our time; and this is understandable. 
 
But what about various conference meetings that, due to the vastness of some our annual conferences, may still require significant travel times, but are just a one-day meeting?  Travel and time take commitment and that is why it is so important to select committed people who are willing to travel to all parts of the conference, not only conduct meetings but provide training as well. 
 
Travel and those extra expenses associated with it can be a deterrent to attending meetings away from our local churches, but what about important local church meetings? 
 
There is no exorbitant travel or expenses required to attend local church meetings.
 
And why is that when we do attend, we often do not speak up or ask questions? 
 
Could it be that we do not know the laws and traditions, and there is a difference between the “laws” of our Zion and that which has become a “tradition.” 
 
Are we afraid that someone will “peep our hole-card” or discover that we may not know as much as we pretend to or claim to know?  One of my high school teachers would always tell us that the only stupid question is the one that you don’t ask.
 
Lay organizations, the backbone of African Methodism, are having monthly, quarterly and annual meetings across the AME Church, as we in the Midwest Conference will be having our Annual Convention June 5-7, 2014 in Wichita, Kansas. 
 
I would hope that laypeople across our Zion should take the Lay Organization meetings seriously, especially this year because as with our Conference, some will be electing new Conference officers.  Individuals will lead conferences for the next two years. They will not only set the tone and direction of the Conference Lay Organization, but possibly that of the Conference as a whole. 
 
The Lay Organization is the training ministry of our Zion; at least that is what our Constitution and By-Laws state. Down home though they always told us that actions speaks louder than words.  What do our actions or lack thereof, say about how well we have fulfilled that mandate?
 
We should all remember, if you want a change then “show up and vote!” 
 
And to those who are satisfied with the status quo, I say, “show up and vote!” 
 
If we are to indeed be the training ministry of our Zion, we MUST set the right example - “By any means necessary” is not appropriate! 
 
The time has come for us to stop just “talking the talk” and for us to start “walking the walk.”
 
And when we cast our vote, be it in your Lay Organization, the local church when you are electing new church officers, or whatever the election may be; I pray that you are casting your vote for that individual based on their qualifications and not on your friendship with that person or your personal feelings against the person. 
 
If you are a true friend, the worst thing you should desire for your friend is to knowingly put them in a situation that they are not qualified for and end up embarrassing themselves, as well as, the conference, the church, etc. 
 
To knowingly do so, places their failure not only on them but you as well.
 
Gene Hill
Midwest Conference
 
13. FISK TRUSTEE OFFERS TO MATCH $500,000 IN DONATIONS:
 
A trustee of Fisk University has issued a first-of-its-kind $500,000 challenge.
 
The trustee will match all donations received between May 19 and June 30, up to a half million dollars. The trustee, one of 25 on the university’s board, wishes to remain anonymous until the end of the fundraising challenge.
 
The school’s goal this fiscal year is to raise $4 million for student scholarships. University officials are expecting a surge in enrollment next year, projecting 700-800 students. This year, there are 645.
 
The university’s application goal for next year’s incoming class was 4,000. Thus far, the university has received over 6,000 applications.
 
Tuition, fees and room and board at the historically African-American university run about $31,000 a year. Between 75 and 80 percent of all students require financial aid.
 
Donations can be made at www.fisk.edu or mailed to Fisk University at 1000 17th Ave., Nashville, Tenn. 37208.
 
— Anita Wadhwani, The Tennessean
 
This article received from Fisk University:  OIA@fisk.edu
 
14. PEACE CORPS PARTNERS WITH ALPHA PHI ALPHA TO PROMOTE SERVICE IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY:
 
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 21, 2014 – On Friday, May 23, the Peace Corps and Alpha Phi Alpha – the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity for African Americans – will announce a partnership to promote volunteer service at Peace Corps headquarters. Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet will be joined by Alpha Phi Alpha General President Mark S. Tillman for the signing of a partnership agreement.
 
The Peace Corps and Alpha Phi Alpha will together promote the value of service and collaborate to help fraternity members’ access career opportunities in the Peace Corps. Both organizations share a dedication to grassroots action and global engagement through service. Alpha Phi Alpha has more than 175,000 initiated members, including prominent and accomplished activists, educators, politicians, businessmen, philanthropists, entertainers and athletes.
 
Friday’s event will highlight the prominent role of African Americans in international affairs and development, featuring former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and returned Peace Corps volunteer Johnnie Carson. 
 
What: Peace Corps and Alpha Phi Alpha Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony
 
Who:
Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet;
Alpha Phi Alpha General President Mark S. Tillman; and
Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Johnnie Carson
 
When: 4:00 p.m. ET, Friday, May 23, 2014
 
Where: Peace Corps Headquarters, 1111 20th St. NW, Washington, D.C.
 
Today, the Peace Corps is not just a chance to make a difference but also a training ground and launching pad for a 21st century career. Peace Corps volunteers gain hands-on experience and develop cross-cultural, leadership and language skills that give them a competitive edge in today’s global economy. 
 
Peace Corps’ Office of Diversity and National Outreach work to recruit a diverse pool of volunteers and build an inclusive culture. The agency recently announced it is stepping up outreach in under-represented communities to field a broader volunteer force that reflects the rich diversity of the American people.
 
RSVP: Media interested in attending this event should RSVP to pressoffice@peacecorps.gov.
 
About the Peace Corps:  As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. When they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences – and a global outlook – back to the United States that enriches the lives of those around them. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide. Visit www.peacecorps.gov to learn more.
 
About Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity: Founded on December 4, 1906, at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has continued to supply voice and vision to the struggle of African Americans and people of color around the world. The fraternity has long stood at the forefront of the African-American community’s fight for civil rights through Alpha men such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Andrew Young, Edward Brooke and Cornel West.  The fraternity, through its more than 600 college and alumni chapters, and general-organization members, serves communities in the United States, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
 
Visit http://www.apa1906.net  and follow on Twitter @apa1906network
###
Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters
1111 20th Street NW • Washington, DC 20526
 
Telephone: 800.424.8580 • www.peacecorps.gov

15. THE TRUTH IS THE LIGHT:
 
*The Reverend Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr.
 
Based on Biblical Text: Acts 16:15: “And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”
 
Even with all of our modern evangelism efforts we will find that we can still learn a lot from the Apostle Paul, arguably one of the greatest missionaries. Paul conducted his mission ministry in a practical way. Paul had a strategy as he selected where he would go and how he would minister to the people when he reached them. He was careful to remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and prepared to, at a moments notice, redirect at the Spirit’s call.
 
In like manner, it is incumbent upon us to develop a strategy if we are to win our communities for Christ. We have great programs in place however it will take more than our programs to grow disciples. Our strategy must require those who are strong to fellowship with those who are weak. In other words our strategy, to be effective, must require us to “abide” in the life of the new believer.
 
We will be wasting valuable time and opportunity if we venture out with a helter skelter, hit or miss strategy. It has been my experience that many in our churches tend to view the call to the mission field as something far too mystical to be involved in. That could be why we can see the problems as they are broadcasted to us on television but never really see the need to organize and finance mission trips. We seem to believe the mission field to be too great a challenge for us.
 
I am extremely proud that Sister Shantell Scott, a young member of Morris Brown, has taken very seriously the need to be on the mission field. She spent time “abiding” in Ghana teaching and ministering to the people while providing articles of clothing and supplies for school. Her energy for mission was so contagious that this past spring her mother Shirley joined her as she returned to Ghana to do further mission work. As she plans to go again Morris Brown will strategize to help Shantell to do even more and take more missionaries with her.
 
Paul’s example reminds us that while there is nothing mystical about becoming a missionary for Christ, we do need to be prepared to follow the Holy Spirit’s urging to “abide” in the life of the new believer. Out text shows us that after Paul converted Lydia he did not just leave her to her own devises. The text says that the woman constrained or forced Paul to abide in her house, so she could learn more about her new faith in Jesus Christ. We need to know that the Lord is looking for sheep that are willing to abide with the flock. The Lord is interested in missionaries who will stay with the newly converted way past Sunday, into Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A songwriter puts it best as he asks, “How will our new believers know that they have a friend in Jesus if they don’t have a friend in you?"
 
The truth of the matter is that evangelism is not just a moment in the new convert’s life but rather it is a process. Evangelism takes quite a bit of time and a lot of effort. We cannot always expect instant gratification when we share Christ with unbelievers. Just like in the garden, it takes more than merely planting seeds. We must cultivate, water and fertilize our garden. Furthermore, we must “guard” the garden to keep the weeds out.
 
In like manner, we must expect that there is more to our evangelism effort than merely sharing our testimony and leading someone to repentance. We must cultivate if we intend to see growth. There is a need to “water” the new believer with love and concern. To ensure the seed is germinating in good soil we must “fertilize” our new convert with the Word of Wisdom. We must guard our new believer during the early stages of growth to keep the “weeds” of discouragement from choking the new roots as they mature in Christ.
 
It is interesting to note that Jesus Christ did not say to us that we are to, “Go and save souls.”  That is because the salvation of souls is the supernatural work of God. What Jesus did instruct us to do was to go and teach and make disciples of all nations. However, we cannot expect to make disciples unless we are a disciple ourselves. The Bible tells us that when the disciples returned from their first mission, they were filled with joy because even the demons were subject to them. Jesus warned them and warns us, in effect, “Don’t rejoice in successful service, the great secret of joy is that you have the right relationship with Me.”
 
 
It will take a great deal of commitment for us to be intentionally mission-minded, particularly as we come to recognize that it is not merely about winning souls for Christ. Being mission minded is also very much about training disciples for Christ. One of the down falls in our outreach ministries is that once we share the gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage a new believer to become a part of the family we then leave them to flounder in their new faith. We plant the seed but we don’t nurture it. We don’t adequately embrace the new believer ensuring their spiritual growth by warding off the “weeds.” We fail to surround them with a network of on-going training. In other words we essentially birth a “babe in Christ” but we don’t feed them!
 
As a church working intentionally to “teach and make disciples,” we must remain true to the call of God. The one and only purpose for our existence is to disciple men and women to Jesus. We are a mission minded church and we serve as a beacon light in our community. As such we must understand that our challenge does not come from the fact that people are difficult to bring to salvation.
 
The challenge we face does not present itself due to the fact that backsliders are difficult to reclaim, or that there is a barrier of callous indifference on the part of the membership. I submit that the real challenge comes from the perspective of our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ who asks us very plainly, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  That is the real question that confronts us in every individual evangelism opportunity we encounter.
 
*The Reverend Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr. is the pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina
 
16. GETTING TO ZERO: COMMENTARY ON CONNECTIONAL HEALTH COMMISSION FOCUS ON DIABETES:
 
*Dr. Oveta Fuller
 
On passing the information table in the foyer of our Michigan home church, Brown Chapel AMEC, I picked up a copy of the AME CHC Special Edition of Diabetes Health Monitor. The cover of the Spring 2014 inaugural edition features innovators, the Rev. Reginald and Mrs. Leslie McRae of Mt. Pisgah AME Church in Jersey City, New Jersey. The special edition proclaims that their church “got healthier together!”
 
Besides the beautiful photograph of The McRaes on the magazine cover, the banner word Diabetes captured my attention. At the 2014 Consortium of Universities in Global Health (CUGH) conference in Washington, DC, diabetes was listed as one of the top non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide.
 
The inside of the compact magazine explains that this is a Special AME edition of Diabetes Health Monitor published in conjunction with the Health Monitor Network (HMN), a multi-media patient-education company headquartered in Montvale, NJ (for more info call 201-391-1911). The back cover explains that our AME Connectional Health Commission (CHC) partnered with HMN to bring about the timely resource.
 
Prevalence of diabetes
 
Diabetes runs in my family. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers, who lived to the ages of 96 and 86 respectively, were diabetic.  My wonderfully healthy, highly blessed, independent-living mother who is age 90 in 2014 has managed diabetes well for over 35 years. My husband’s father was diabetic. It is in our family genes. We are acutely aware of the need to be alert to signs and symptoms of diabetes. We try to eat healthy, keep physically active and reduce conditions that bring unhealthy levels of stress.
 
Diabetes is epidemic in the USA. The American Diabetes Association reports that there are 25.8 million children and adults (8.3% of the population) living with diabetes in the United States (1). Almost 1/3 of these are undiagnosed.
 
Globally in 2012, there were at least 382 million persons living with diabetes (2).  Contrary to a common perception that the condition affects people in relatively developed countries, the International Disease Federation reports that globally “a staggering 80% of people living with diabetes are in low- or middle-income countries.”
 
What is diabetes?
 
Diabetes occurs when there are changes in production or effective function of insulin.
 
Insulin, a hormone that is part of the endocrine system, regulates use of glucose (sugar) in providing energy for cells, tissues and organs. Insulin regulates the use of nutrients from ingested foods and use of stored fat for energy needs. Over time changes can occur in the amount of insulin produced, in the sensitivity of cells to the presence of insulin, or in uptake of glucose by cells in response to presence of insulin. Glucose uptake and glucose levels in the blood are connected to levels of insulin. 
 
Production of insulin, the types and frequency of food ingested and the amount of physical activity and stress affect presence and function of insulin. Thus, diabetes is influenced by both genetic and behavioral factors.
 
Expression of the insulin gene to make insulin protein impacts glucose metabolism. Type 1 diabetes occurs at any age due to inherited features that affect how much insulin is produced from the insulin gene. For some people, onset of Type 2 diabetes occurs when aging or excess weight leads to decline in insulin production by the pancreas, loss of sensitivity to insulin or loss of glucose uptake by cells throughout the body. 
 
With both types of diabetes, cells in tissues of muscles and other body organs literally starve although there is ample food (glucose) in the surrounding blood plasma. For diabetics, blood that supplies nutrients to cells contains plenty of glucose. However, because of a change in insulin function, this glucose does not move into the interior of cells where sugar molecules are processed as fuel to make energy. Normally, specialized factories (organelles) inside cells carry out biochemical metabolic steps that produce energy from breakdown of glucose. With diabetes, glucose (sugar) levels in the blood can increase to dangerous levels that adversely affect many body organs. Diabetes is often labeled as a “metabolic disorder.”
 
Diabetes is a manageable non-communicable chronic disease. When undetected or out of control, it can be devastating and even fatal. Blood sugar levels that are high or too low can lead to fatigue, blindness, stroke, heart disease, loss of kidney function, liver or nerve damage, dialysis, feet and leg lesions that are difficult to heal, amputations and premature death. The annual death count worldwide from diabetes in 2013 is estimated to be over 5.1 million. However, the very good news is that diabetes can be successfully managed so it does not lead to pre-mature death.
 
Practical Content of the Special Edition
 
The AME Connectional Health Commission (CHC) has provided a much needed accessible resource filled with insights from easy to read articles in the relevant sections. These sections are: Review the Diabetes Basics, Witness Faith in Action, Work with Your Healthcare Team and Everyday with Diabetes. Even better, the articles use AMEs – churches, physicians, health professionals, pastors, congregation members- to provide insights and stories. One piece is about the impact on congregation members of following the Daniel Fast. In Getting to Zero, we discussed this and other fasting options to undertake for Lent 2014 or at any time to jump start focused prayer and good nutrition habits in a move towards better overall health.
 

   Discussion: May is National Military Appreciation Month

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