The Reverend Dr. Johnny Barbour, Jr., Publisher
The Reverend Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, the 20th Editor, The Christian Recorder

Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 2015


Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III
The 20th Editor of The Christian Recorder

I have said it before and I will say it again, “The ministry is a hard profession.” 

Here is another thought: “The ministry is an unforgiving profession.” Sermons are preached about forgiveness and we talk about forgiveness, but a pastoral misstep can derail ministry. As Dr. Johnny Barbour, AMEC Publisher opined, “A pastor labors years working to get to the pinnacle of ministry, but it only takes minutes, seconds or a bad decision to derail ministry.” In a large part, we have married clergy and the unfortunate aspect of a derailed ministry is the negative impact it has upon spouses and children.

Not only is the pastoral ministry hard and unforgiving, but it also has a personal responsibility component, especially in medium and small-sized congregations, which other professions do not have. 

For instance a person entering the profession of law or medicine has a higher beginning salary, health insurance, Social Security or another retirement program in place.  The law school or medical school graduate signs the necessary papers and everything is taken care of and no discussion or no questions asked.

The seminary graduate or preacher arriving at his or her first or even successive pastoral appointments most often will not find health insurance, Social Security, the AME Annuity Program or other retirement programs in place.  And, in many instances, if the pastor does not address those issues, the stewards will not address them either. Pastors could serve in the pastoral ministry for years without medical insurance and retirement benefits, which would have negative repercussions later in ministry and life, especially when preachers reach retirement age.

I learned a lot in seminary, but I didn’t learn anything about how to pay into Social Security and other ministry benefit programs because many of those programs were already established in many of the majority denominations.  I guess my seminary didn’t see value in wasting time with a problem it didn’t have.  

I was blessed with the benefit of wise preachers on “the sidewalk” who advised the young preachers, “Take care of your family, get life insurance, pay into the Social Security, even if you have to pay into it yourself; and make sure you have medical insurance and purchase a home. If something happens to you, your family is on its own.” I heard that message time and again from pastors, presiding elders and even my presiding prelate, Bishop Frederick D. Jordan.

The sidewalk advice is relevant today

We still have pastors who have not gotten around to paying into Social Security or enrolling in the AME Annuity Program.

We have pastors who feel they cannot afford health insurance and do not have sufficient life insurance coverage. I am embarrassed and feel badly when appeals are made to assist with the burial expenses of deceased pastors.

In the spirit of one of my early mentors in the ministry, the Rev. Robert F. Walters, my classmate during my first year at Conwell School of Theology at Temple University in Philadelphia, often said, “Repetition is good pedagogy.”  His point was that sometimes parishioners need to hear the same things over and over again.  He was the pastor of Ebenezer African Union Methodist Protestant (AUMP) Church in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and later was consecrated as bishop in the AUMP Church. It’s in the spirit of “Repetition is good pedagogy” that I am reiterating some of the same things I have said before.

Pastors need to take care of themselves and their families if they are going to provide effective ministry. Secondly, pastors need to take care of the flock if they expect to have a successful and respected ministry.

Sidewalk talk

If, those of you in the United States haven’t done so, it is important that you enroll in the Social Security Program.

One example that’s real: If you are not enrolled in Social Security and you don’t have 30 quarters of paying into Social Security and you become disabled, you will not qualify for disability payments. Qualifying for disability payments is sufficient reason to pay into the Social Security Program without even taking into consideration the Social Security retirement program.  If you are not enrolled in the Social Security Program, you won’t qualify for Medicare Benefits.

Every pastor needs health insurance for his or her family. Medical costs are high all over the world. 

Physicians in all specialties are dedicated professionals, but don’t let that fool you. They are well-paid and when you need medical help, one of the first questions asked is about your health insurance. They will not buy, “I am Reverend John or Jane Doe…” and wave you in to see the doctor.  I have seen patients turned away from the doctor’s office who did not have the money for the co-pay.

Auto Insurance is a must and I am sure most pastors have automobile insurance. A person with an automobile cannot afford not to have automobile insurance.

Participation in the AME Church Annuity program will benefit those who participate in the program.  Episcopal leaders should provide vigilant oversight to insure all pastors participate in the program and talk to local churches about the importance of insuring that their pastor is enrolled in the program.  

If a pastor dies, the local church has no responsibility for the deceased pastor’s family, which is why it is incumbent for pastors and their families to prepare for “what happens when something happens.”

If a pastor becomes incapacitated and is unable to receive a pastoral appointment, the local church or the annual conference no longer has financial responsibility to care for the family, not because they are cold-hearted, but because local churches and annual conferences don’t have the financial resources to do so. It is the pastor and his or her family that have to take responsibility to prepare for “what happens when something happens.” 

Purchasing a home, even if you never live in it is a wonderful way to prepare for unforeseen and unplanned life-events.

I wish I had secured the services of a financial advisor at the beginning of my ministry. I didn’t because I was embarrassed about how badly I had taken care of my finances.

Financial advisors are professionals and I discovered that they know how to handle whatever state of financial affairs a person or family might have. If you live, there will come a time when you might not be able to work and sometimes that comes earlier than expected. When you no longer can work or the pastoral ministry comes to an end, then what? The answer to that question is why you need a financial advisor.

Preaching is great and the clichés about “God taking care of us” and “making a way out of no way” that most of us use are great, but each pastor has the responsibility and should take the initiative for taking care of his or her family.  When we do so, “God will take care of us” and God will “make a way out of no way!”

We all need to prepare for the rainy day.  To paraphrase the gospel song, “There’s a financial storm on the ocean and it’s headed your way. If you haven’t prepared for the stormy day, your financial foundation will surely slip away!”

Never forget, when the ministry journey is completed, the only thing left is your family.

When bishops no longer have the power of pastoral appointments, they generally walk alone; no more crowd.  When you are no longer the pastor-in-charge, the crowd around you will thin out.  The pastoral perks will evaporate because the newly assigned pastor or the assigned presiding bishop will be the recipient of the pastoral perks.

The only entity a preacher can count on when everything else ends is his or her family.

Ministry sidewalk talk

Pray, read your Bible and love the people! 

An effective pastor has to be a person of prayer - prayer every day, during the day and at night. A dedicated prayer life will keep Satan at bay. It won’t keep Satan away, but you will be better able to deal with Satan if you are a person of prayer.

The Bible is your weapon and you need the Bible to become proficient in your craft – the craft of ministry. 

I heard a preacher some years ago who preached about the Prodigal Son and he said the father killed the “fatted lamb” when the son returned home from the “far country.” That preacher was not “on top of his game.”  I wondered if he heard the gasps in the congregation. I guess not because he didn’t make the correction.

A preacher has got to master the Bible and always be in a posture to become a biblical scholar. A pastor needs the Bible to deal with Satan too. Jesus certainly used scripture when confronted by Satan.

Love the people and love ministry. Share their intimate moments.  Visit the flock.  Take the time to attend sporting and significant scholastic events of the children. Visit your parishioners’ homes and visit the sick and shut-in members.

Pastors of medium and small churches – You visit the sick and shut-in members and you take the Sacrament to them; don’t delegate the responsibility of visiting the sick and shut-in members to the ministers on your staff.  You do it and the people will love and respect your ministry.

Treat everyone equally – those whom you like and those you don’t like and treat with respect those who like you and those who don’t like you very well – treat them all with respect and be a pastor to all.  Provide pastoral care and pastoral oversight to all the flock.

And let me reiterate, if a family wants another preacher to do a eulogy, preside at a wedding or other function don’t get in a fight; be gracious and generous and you will be endeared to them forever.”  Don’t let turf battles kill your ministry. Always be gracious and kind and always take the “high ground!”

It might be a good idea to read the Ordination of Elders ritual in The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church 2012 on Page 542 from time to time to be reminded of our pastoral responsibilities, which commands Itinerant Elders to “Take thou authority to preach the word of God and to administer the holy sacraments in the congregation in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 


*Dr. Leah Fitchue


First, let me say that I think many of the points expressed by the editor in the March 12 and March 20, 2015, TCR editorials, “A Seminary Degree is Laudable, but Impractical for Many Pastoral Assignments in Our Zion, Parts 1 & 2” deserve further exploration. However, I do not agree with the editor’s suggestions that the MDiv degree should be eliminated as the primary pathway to itinerate ordination and clergy leadership preparation. The mandate was written over a decade ago when current internal and external changes impacting theological education had not yet emerged, such as the expansion of online programs, like the MDiv degree that Payne Theological Seminary currently offers, and more rigorous assessment of student outcomes. Certainly, it would be appropriate to review the mandate and consider timely adjustments.

Also, for those who conclude that the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) made a mistake in The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church 2012 in asserting that “a candidate for ordination as itinerant elder must be a graduate of a seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) or a similar accrediting agency,” I suggest that the only mistake made was not to emphatically state that the candidate must be a “MDiv graduate.” I would invite the AMEC to correct this omission and continue with its ordination practice.

Given the challenges associated with varying and multifaceted attempts at accreditation during the last 20 years, including “do-it-ourselves” models, the AMEC should also examine the wisdom of eliminating the phrase “similar accrediting agency.” Too many AMEs select to study at non-ATS institutions that have lower accrediting standards than ATS and produce products that do not honor the integrity of graduate-level theological education or the leadership needs of our Zion.

In acknowledging the editor’s focus on student debt, I want to note that Payne Theological Seminary is one of 67 ATS institutions that received a $250,000 Lilly Endowment grant in 2014 to address the colossal debt problem currently expanding across the entire theological education community. Debt is a major higher education issue across all areas of study. While Payne and Turner Theological Seminary students also experience challenges with student indebtedness, the AME seminaries’ tuition rates are a better cost value compared to other seminaries. Payne is grateful that the Bishop’s Council of the AMEC has formulated a subcommittee to review student indebtedness issues in search of debt relief strategies.

The MDiv Degree and AME Clergy Leadership

Core to my response is the recognition of the quintessential purpose of the MDiv degree. Consequently, I invite you to reflect on the fact that the MDiv degree was designed to prepare church leaders, not managers. There is a difference. Leaders are those who lead people where they otherwise would not go, while managers provide due diligence in maintaining people where they are. Managers may keep churches open, but leaders build churches and grow congregations. Since the black church is responsible for liberating and empowering black people, its leaders must be equipped to engage the prophetic and speak truth to power. It is in MDiv studies where clergy leaders are trained to exemplify the use of gospel weaponry in manifesting the power of God before powers and principalities. In the book Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink addresses the unique call of the church to use its divine power to demolish demonic strongholds.[i]

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5)

The called leaders of the church, fully aware of to whom they belong, are expected to serve as spiritual and mental warriors in modeling for their congregants the appropriate weapons to engage in their battles to live in the world but not be of the world.

In pursuit of the MDiv degree, AMEC clergy who identify themselves as leaders and seek to become ordained itinerant elders are expected to experience personal transformation and to leave seminary as changed servants. Studying for the MDiv degree, AMEC candidates learn to sharpen their leadership acumen and permanently adorn their spiritual armor for lifelong battle. The MDiv, the most desirable professional graduate degree for clergy, encourages AMEC candidates to not only know the Word of God but also to give themselves permission to affirm an Africentric ethos and to ponder, question and interpret anew, as an exegete, the parochial worldview of the Bible. For example, for many clergy, the concept of “womanist” is not relevant in their ministry. Regrettably, this is also true for female congregants who resist the assignment of female clergy.

It is at the MDiv level where these and other inclusive concepts are introduced, examined, and validated, thus highlighting the contribution of women in the gospel and in ministry. Africentrically speaking, MDiv studies is where we discover that the function of the Bible is not to stifle and “dominionize,” but, as stated by Dr. Michael Joseph Brown in his book What They Don’t Tell You: A Survivor’s Guide to Biblical Studies, “with liberation as its common norm, the act of reading the Bible contextually has as its goal the transformation of readers and their societies.”[ii]

Seminary, particularly the black seminary, is where the words of African American scholars (the worth of whom too many are unknown or undervalued, especially in many majority seminaries) crisscross the mental synapses of the brain and create new pathways about what it means to be black and Christian. A critical principle of being black and Christian is to acknowledge the deficit of the Bible in its just treatment of blacks. The church is called to sustain a frontal attack on injustice, even if the injustice is in the church; and the church does its best job when its leadership is composed of MDiv-prepared and transformed warriors who are called to risk uttering a prophetic word or an unpopular truth. In Where Have All the Prophets Gone? Marvin McMickle reminds us that without exegetical richness and prophetic preaching, those in power offer the marginalized a fraudulent vision that only helps those in power to maintain the status quo: “The work of the prophet is to combat that single vision and show that God can and will bring about a future different from that envisioned by the ruling elite.”[iii]

The Protest DNA of AMEs and Theological Education

In the spirit of the protest DNA of African Methodism and the empowered people it produces, we must remember the genius of our ancestors in leading us out of darkness into light. It was “superior knowledge”[iv] that drove Daniel Alexander Payne—the architect for AMEC educational preparation—to educate himself so that he might educate slaves and free blacks. Payne resisted anti-intellectualism and insisted on the highest possible theological education preparation of clergy leaders whose ministerial charge was “no less than the destiny of the race.”[v]
In 1844, at the AMEC Ohio Conference at Columbus, Ohio, Daniel Alexander Payne received the mandate of the AMEC to start a school for the preparation of young black men to enhance their theological education. This outcome was not achieved without an internal battle between the anti-education AMEs and the pro-education AMEs. Now, one and a half centuries later, we once again broach the conversation of the appropriate higher education degree attainment of clergy for African Methodism. During the conference, after Payne’s resolution was initially defeated in the assembly, it required a late evening meeting of the conference leadership to propose a strategy to reverse the defeat of the resolution that had occurred earlier in the day. The next day, the resolution passed and opened the door for the preparation of AME clergy to become spiritual and intellectual agents of the gospel and advocates of social justice.

It may well require similar late night sessions of the AME leadership to resolve once and forever why, as a people, we resist the reality of our oppressive sojourn and continue to experience repeated enslavement, both physically and ideologically. We were liberated from slavery in 1865, only to be enslaved by Jim Crow Laws from 1890 to 1954 until the passage of Brown vs. Board of Education; enslaved again in 1986 when the U.S. Senate proposed and President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which advocated incarceration for low-level drug users instead of high-level drug distributors; and enslaved again when President Bill Clinton signed the Crime Bill, which ramped up the use of prisons and created a more punitive criminal justice system for people of color.

Notably, these two criminal justice laws have contributed to what Michelle Alexander describes in her book The New Jim Crow as a 21st-century new plantation system of jails and prisons that disproportionately warehouses black men and women and other people of color. “No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.”[vi] Nevertheless, even when provided with irrefutable evidence of repeated enslavement, some of us tend to underestimate the power of “superior knowledge” in confronting unjust systems which is required to sustain personal and collective liberation and empowerment. These acts of repeated enslavement are described as “black cyclical reality” in the article, “Collisions Between Racism and the Truth of the Cross.”[vii]

MDiv Degree Partnership: Church, Board of Examiners, and Seminary

The centrality of the MDiv degree in the preparation of persons for ordained ministry and for general pastoral and religious leadership responsibilities in congregations and other settings cannot be overstated. It should be noted that the MDiv degree is also the recommended degree for admission to the Doctor of Ministry degree and advanced programs oriented to theological research and teaching. It is, therefore, the foundational degree for clergy seeking to enhance both their pastoral and scholarly acumen in order to serve the Kingdom from the font of one’s greatest servant potential. Consequently, it is difficult to consider the attainment of the MDiv degree “impractical” if educated and informed clergy leadership is foundational to the sustainability, elevation, and advancement of our Zion.

The recent and more rigorous assessment requirements of ATS have strengthened the reliability and instructional relevance of the MDiv curriculum by allowing the seminary to employ data-based findings to support curriculum changes that best serve constituency needs. Those who achieve the MDiv degree are expected to demonstrate learning outcomes congruent with the institution’s mission and purpose.  The seminary is expected to demonstrate that MDiv students have achieved the goals of the learning outcomes of the degree program utilizing direct and indirect evidence of student achievement in and out of the classroom.

Therefore, it is understood that the MDiv degree, in principle and practice, is nurtured by the theological educational “trinity” of African Methodism—the church, the Board of Examiners, and the seminary. This is the recommended AMEC theological education model that intentionally joins the efforts of the seminary, the church for whom the seminary exits, and the Board of Examiners in ensuring African Methodism perpetuity. Any fair assessment of the MDiv degree or other degree initiatives should give attention to the seminary’s primary calling for academic excellence and its relationship to the church’s expectation for spiritual and ministry formation and the Board of Examiners’ expectation for professional ministry readiness.

If the MDiv instructional journey continues to go well, just as entering students clearly indicate that experiencing a call from God led them to seminary, graduating students should be able to express a life-changing power that provides expanded clarity and greater commitment to their renewed sense of call and ministerial vocation.[viii] The seminary’s MDiv experience should make a difference in how its academic program interacts with life experiences, faculty advisement, peer exchange, supervised church and faith-based community mentoring, and should cause students to gain new insight and greater discernment of the specificity of God’s call on their lives.[ix] It is this kind of life-changing seminary experience that empowers men and women to serve as faithful and competent leaders of the church and deems MDiv study to be a requirement, rather than an option, for our Zion.

Consensus Welcomed

In Part 1 of his editorial, the editor makes the following observation:

…seminaries, especially majority seminaries do not always provide their graduates with the skills needed to pastor AME or minority church congregations…I attended a majority seminary and received a first-class education that worked especially well in the military environment and I am sure would have worked well in a majority denomination, but much of what I learned was not applicable in any appreciable way in my AME pastorate.

I welcome this perspective and the consensus it makes possible in affirming the authentic value of theological education for AMEs in the historically black theological context. I close with the thesis set forth in my November 7, 2014, op-ed in The Christian Recorder Online, entitled “AME Seminary Preferred:” Payne and Turner are uniquely called to equip men and women to receive the MDiv degree and subsequent itinerant orders for the leadership of African Methodism. My question also remains the same:

How important is it to African Methodism that its church leaders are embedded in the African Methodist tradition and history and devoted to its polity, praxis, and passion for social justice? Only when one fully understands a theory and praxis pedagogy that embraces both a salvation tradition and a liberation heritage—as rich as that of the AMEC—can one most effectively work within African Methodism to…course-correct for future growth and development.

The most appropriate process for this course correction can only be implemented successfully if the AMEC prayerfully acknowledges the value that the MDiv programs offered by Payne and Turner bring to the distinctive preparation of leaders for African Methodism. As I stated in my previous article, and I repeat now, “AME students cannot obtain what AME seminaries have to offer anywhere else.”

i Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992).
ii Michael Joseph Brown, What They Don’t Tell You: A Survivor’s Guide to Biblical Studies, 2nd ed. (Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 23.
iii Marvin McMickle, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2006), 11.
iv Charles Foster, et al, Educating Clergy: Teaching Practices and Pastoral Imagination (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 208.
v Foster, et al, 211.
vi Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2012), 6.
vii Ebony Joy Fitchue and Leah Gaskin Fitchue, “Collisions Between Racism and the Truth of the Cross“ in Contesting Post-Racialism: Conflicted Churches in the United States and South Africa, R. Drew Smith, William Ackah, Anthony G. Reddie and Rothney S. Tshaka, eds. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2015), 161-163.
viii Timothy D. Lincoln, “How Master of Divinity Education Changes Students: A Research-Based Model,” Teaching Theology and Religion, 215.
ix Lincoln, 217.


-- Wake’s Caldwell sets sights on setting school record

Nyki Caldwell’s pursuit of clearing 6-feet in the high jump is anything but a pipe dream. At this juncture, she’s only 1½ inches shy of soaring to heights which have never been achieved in women’s track and field at Wake Forest University.

TCR Editor's Note: Nyki Caldwell is the daughter of TCR Getting to Zero Columnist, the Rev. Dr. Oveta Fuller Caldwell (and, of course her husband, Dr. Jerry Caldwell)
-- Ex-First AME Church Trustee Accused in Scam

A former trustee of First AME Church in Los Angeles has been charged for allegedly scamming seniors - some of them church members - out of more…            
-- AME Church Wins Ejectment Case - Defendant to Pay $30K -AMEC

In the petition the counsels say that the 14th Episcopal District of the AME church is the owner of the property occupied by the defendants.
-- Pastor brings faith, understanding to St. Paul AME

McFadden brings his faith and understanding to the pulpit of St. Paul AME Church. He's served as the church's pastor for the past five months.


-- Wilberforce University makes policy changes, upgrades campus in bid to keep accreditation

The nation's oldest historically black private university is making policy changes and spending more than $3 million on its southwestern Ohio campus in an effort to keep its accreditation.

The Higher Learning Commission sent a warning to Wilberforce University last June requiring the school to show why accreditation shouldn't be withdrawn.

Members of an accreditation team will visit the campus this month to evaluate whether Wilberforce has resolved the issues outlined. They include low enrollment and financial deficits.

The commission has said loss of accreditation could result in students lacking eligibility for federal financial aid and having problems transferring credits.

Wilberforce University President Algeania Freeman told the Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/1DSyNWR) that the school has been following the commission's recommendations and feels good about the upcoming visit.

Information from Dayton Daily News: http://www.daytondailynews.com


The Eighth Episcopal District is delighted to host the Meetings of the Council of Bishops, General Board and Investiture of Bishop Julius H. McAllister, Sr.; June 29 - July 1, 2015, at the Hilton Riverside New Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Download the Investiture Souvenir Journal Applications, Vendors/Exhibitors Forms, and hotel and other information at the new Eighth District's website: http://ame8.org/ 

Submitted by the Reverend Michele R. Goodloe, Executive Administrative Assistant, Eighth Episcopal District AME Church


The Fourth Annual CME Unity Summit will be held Monday, September 28, 2015 through Friday, October 2, 2015 at the Rosen Centre Hotel located at 9840 International Drive in Orlando, Florida. Bishop Teresa E. Snorton and the members of the Fifth Episcopal District will host the CME Unity Summit.

The General Connectional Board meeting will be held this year during the CME Unity Summit and will convene on Monday, September 28 and Tuesday, September 29, 2015.

This year's Unity Summit will feature the General Officers leading many of the plenary and model-building sessions, and guest preachers, speakers and teachers from around the United States.   The Friday Concert will feature Grammy Award-winning gospel recording artists Tramaine Hawkins and Jennifer Holliday, and teen Stellar Award-winning gospel recording artist, Jekalyn Carr.  A Gala Banquet will be held on Thursday evening.  And a "CME Best" talent show will be held to showcase the talented men and women in our Zion. Additional information about the CME Unity Summit and registration is available below.

Theme:  "Investing Where You Are"

This year's CME Unity Summit theme is, "Investing Where You Are" (At Home). The Vision of the Unity Summit for the coming quadrennial period is based on the Connectional Theme of the CME Church, “The Investment Factor: A Changed People, Changing the World.”  The goal of the Summit is to make the theme real in the life of the Church.  The CME Unity Summit will provide the appropriate resources and models for our members to take back to enact at their local church.  Many of the sessions will be led by our General Officers.

The objective is to study and assess the four applications of the theme and design a plan of action for the implementation of the several applications at each level of the Church. This will cause the theme to come alive in the church’s ministry to community and become for the church a new paradigm! 

Guest Preachers, Presenters and Teachers 

- Bishop John R. Bryant, Senior Bishop, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Presiding Prelate of the Fourth District  

- Bishop W. Darin Moore, Presiding Prelate of the Western Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

- The Rev. Dr. James A.  Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister, Emeritus, Riverside Church, New York City

- Dr. Todd D. Still, Professor of Christian Scriptures, Truett Theological Seminary

- Pastor Olu Brown, Impact Church, Atlanta, GA      

- Thomas Mikal Ford, Actor and Producer

- The General Officers of the CME Church

In Concert - Friday Evening
- Tramaine Hawkins, Grammy Award-Winning Gospel Recording Artist
- Jennifer Holliday, Grammy Award Recording Artist and Tony Award-Winning Actress   

-Jekalyn Carr, Teen Stellar Award-Winning Gospel Recording Artist

General Connectional Board Meeting

The General Connectional Board will meet on Monday, September 28 and Tuesday, September 29.  All members of the General Connectional Board and Special Commissions will receive additional information from Dr. Victor Taylor, the General Secretary of Finance.  All members of the General Connectional Board and Special Commissions are expected to register for the Unity Summit.

For additional information go to the CME Official Website.

* Submitted by the CME Unity Summit Executive Committee


*Mrs. Andrea Ivy

The Third Episcopal District M-SWAWO+PKs, held their Mid-Year Convocation luncheon on Friday, March 27, 2015, at the Renaissance Columbus Hotel in Columbus, Ohio.

There were over 70 attendees, including presiding elders and pastors.  All present received a warm welcome from Mrs. Yuolanda Murray, 3rd District Vice President and Connectional M-SWAWO+PKs Scholarship Chairperson, who  served as the luncheon Presiding Officer. 

The Episcopal District was also delighted to have in our mist our beloved Bishop McKinley Young and former 3rd District Connectional Officers Dr. Barbara J. Thompson and Mrs. Geraldine Tate. 

We were very excited to acknowledge out of District guests: Bishop Earl E. McCloud, Jr.; International WMS President, Dr. Shirley Cason Reed (2nd Episcopal District) and Mrs. Brenda Hurt (8th District), Connectional M-SWAWO+PKs PK Advisor. 

The luncheon theme, “Uniting, Supporting and Empowering Clergy Families for the Journey,” set the stage for uplifting worship, great fellowship, and a meal conducive to a healthier lifestyle. 

A Spirit-filled invocation was given by Mrs. Dorothy White, in the excused absence of the 3rd District Worship Leader, Mrs. Patricia Thornton. 
Bishop McKinley Young extended greetings and stated that he appreciated all the efforts of the clergy spouses and prayed continued blessings on behalf of the Organization.”

Mrs. Marlyce Roberson-McCants stirred our souls with her melodious rendition of “The Lord's Prayer" and Mrs. Cynthia Gainey gave the blessing of the meal. 

President Judy Williams, 3rd Episcopal District M-SWAWO+PKs introduced the guest speaker of the hour and humbly thanked Dr. Dorothy Young for empowering, supporting and loving the clergy spouses. 

Dr. Dorothy Young captivated the spouses with her “Healthy Living as a Clergy Spouse and a Clergy Family” message. 

She shared a few of her experiences as a spouse and that she is a cancer survivor. Her compelling and inspirational story brought forth “Amens,” tears to our eyes and smiles on our faces. 

In her summary she stated,” … a healthy, strong marriage will lead to a healthy, strong ministry and a healthy, strong church.” 

Dr. Young received a standing ovation for her outstanding message and President Williams presented her with a token of love and appreciation that could never repay her for her exceptional leadership in the 3rd Episcopal District.

The luncheon was in "Honor" of our widows and widowers for their faithfulness and dedicated work in M-SWAWO+PKs. 

A roll call of their names, by Conference, was read. 

The following were present and received gifts and accolades: Mrs. Juanita Arterberry, Mrs. Ernestine Casson and Mrs. Andrea Estes, Pittsburgh Conference; Mrs. Sarah Chappell, West Virginia Conference; and Mrs. Joanne Harris, Ohio Conference.

Mrs. Pamela Blackwell, North Ohio Conference M-SWAWO+PKs President was presented as the 1st Lady contestant.  She will represent the 3rd Episcopal District at the Conn-M-SWAWO+PKs Clergy Family Breakfast on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at the June Bishops’ Council meeting in New Orleans.  President Williams asked all to support Mrs. Blackwell and reminded everyone, "We are in it, to win it!"

Mrs. Murray shared information on the 3rd District M-SWAWO +PKs Fellowship Retreat scheduled for May 15-16, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The event culminated with final words to the Terrific Third District M-SWAWO+PKs by Supervisor Dr. Dorothy Jackson-Young.   She thanked President Williams for her outstanding leadership and the clergy families and guests for supporting the luncheon and M-SWAWO+PKs. 

To God be the Glory!

*Mrs. Andrea Ivy, Recording Secretary is the 3rd Episcopal District M-SWAWO+PKs


The article at this link is about goals and achievements of our youngest daughter, Nyki Caldwell. She brought home the gold medal for winning the women's high jump at the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Indoor Track and Field Championship meet held February 26-28 at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, VA. Nyki is a senior Health and Exercise Science major and psychology minor at Wake Forest University (WFU).

We are especially pleased to share that on April 15, at an all ACC luncheon held in Greensboro, N.C., she was recognized for "outstanding academic and athletic achievements." She is one of two seniors chosen for such recognition from among all students in any collegiate sport at WFU. For those designated as outstanding ACC scholar-athletes, the Weaver-James-Corrigan Postgraduate Scholarship Award comes with $5,000 to use towards graduate or professional studies.

We are grateful and proud of Nyki and her accomplishments. We look forward to enjoying the May graduation and blessings in the 2015 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championship and the regional meets as the culmination of the high jump season.
Nyki is one of three children of Dr. Jerry Caldwell and Dr. Oveta Fuller-Caldwell. The family is part of the Michigan Annual Conference of the Fourth Episcopal District.


The Presiding Elder of the Camden-Trenton District Reverend Dr. Robert C. Wade and his Lovely wife Mrs. Prudence Hope Wade created an air of unity during the Camden-Trenton District Conference Meeting held on October 18-19, 2013 

The theme and the workshops presented reflected the keen awareness of current and impacting issues that we are facing in these tumultuous days. Well planned and thought out, the entire Conference was a seamless and enriching experience for all in attendance.

The Camden-Trenton District Conference was hosted by Bethel AME Church Moorestown N.J. where the Reverend Dr. Stanley Hearst Sr. serves as the shepherd with First Lady Sharon Y. Hearst at his side. Bethel church family were most gracious hosts, no stone was left unturned to accommodate the District Conference participants. 
The Camden-Trenton District (One church in Twenty-four locations) came together preparing to join forces in hosting the New Jersey Annual Conference of the AME Church. All hearts and minds were attentive as Mrs. Prudence Home Wade our Consultant presented in storybook fashion the strategic plan for again hosting a successful Annual Conference.

Two detailed presentations laid out detailed information concerning the new health care law. Special guests Mrs. Barbara Andrews ,Regional Administrator of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spoke on the Topic The Affordable Health Care Act-Health Insurance in the Market Place “Materials were readily available and many questions were answered during the dialogue between the presenters and  the Conference delegates and attendees.

Throughout the sessions the Elder reached out to touch the pulse of both the Clergy and the delegates to see what matters or aspects of the church needed attention. In a series of discussions with the delegates opportunity was given to exchange ideas between the churches in advancing the church in areas of evangelism, and church growth.
The worship services were uplifting, encouraging and revitalizing with the Reverend Gervine Bell, spoke using Ephesians Chapter 6:10-17 s her text posed the question “Are You Dressed for the Battle”. The Reverend Arthur O. Hall, pastor of Saint James Thorofare preached for the Laity and reminded us not to forget our heritage as a people and as a church, the Saturday afternoon closing worship culminated with the presentation of our Bishop, The Right Reverend Gregory Gerald McKinley Ingram who stopped by to bless us with a word from the book of Exodus chapter 14, Verse 10 that resounds even now: “Go, Forward or Move On!" 


The Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner

Not all Revolutions begin with a Declaration, and not all Reformations begin with a list of Theses. The Reformation of the Methodist church in the United States began with prayer.

In 1787, ten years after Thomas Jefferson penned the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” Richard Allen and Absalom Jones came to the recognition that these words though ambitious in scope were incomplete in execution. These ideals, impressive as they sounded, were not truly intended to include all people.

On July 12, 1987, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, the city where Allen and Jones were pastors, and agreed upon the “Three-Fifths Compromise.” It was a compromise between the Northern States, who did not want African American slaves to be counted as persons in the census, but instead as property; and the Southern States, who did want them to be counted, but only so that they could receive more seats for white men in the legislature. The two sides agreed to compromise and count slaves as 3/5th of a person.

Within only four years of the establishment of the United States, it was abundantly clear that the nation that had won its independence from Great Britain would not be extending that liberty and equality to all people. The white, land-holding men who held power in the country would continue to treat the indigenous peoples as trespassers on their own land, or rather God’s land, and would continue to hold their brothers and sisters in slavery.

While they said that all men were created equal, which was not how they treated all men, let alone all women? This hierarchy of value, placed upon persons according to their gender and nations of origin, ran contrary to the Christian scriptures. Disappointingly, however, that was not the prevailing narrative told by preachers and theologians of the time.

According to the seventeenth-century English theologian Lancelot Andrewes, “Animals [i.e. indigenous persons of the Americas, Australia and Africa] can have no right of society with us because they want reason.” With respect to land, animals had no rights, Andrewes concluded on biblical grounds, because God had given the earth to humans. Since they had no human rights, they could be exterminated, both in the sense of being driven from land settled by humans and in the sense of being killed, because biblical commandments against theft or murder did not apply to non-humans.”  – David Chidester, Savage Systems, p. 14

Although the Methodist movement had been built upon staunch abolitionism in Great Britain, and although it contained many abolitionist preachers within its ranks, within a nation whose economy was built upon this theological falsehood, the new religious movement found itself failing in many places to remain true to what had set it apart.

So it was that Absalom Jones and Richard Allen found that the promises of freedom rang just as false when coming from the church bells of St. George’s as they did when tolling from the nearby Liberty Bell.

At the root of this disconnect was that theological error, that exegetical fraud, that hermeneutical crime – or, as we once called such things – that heresy. The heresy that God did not love all people the same. The abominable heresy that not all people were made fully in the image of God; thus, justifying leaving them out of the words, “all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” Thus, allowing the “Three-Fifths Compromise” to go unchallenged on theological grounds.

Falsehood in science, ignorance in philosophy, criminal greed in the economy – yes, all these things played a role. Yet, the betrayal and falsehood that cut most deeply, was the one that was the most unexpected: the betrayal that came from the church. Abolitionist preachers, of all races and ethnicities, did battle to be heard over the more common teachings of preachers that promoted and endorsed the practice of classifying African Americans as only 3/5 of a person and, thus, not made in the full image of God.

If left unchallenged, this social teaching, supported by a false hermeneutic of exclusion rather than inclusion, rang the death toll for any hope of spiritual integrity that the churches of the fledgling nation might have.

Enter the American Reformation.

In November of 1787, just three months after the passing of the “Three-Fifths Compromise,” Richard Allen and Absalom Jones had the courage to take action in the face of theological cowardice just as reformers throughout the centuries had done before them. Rather than nailing the 95 Theses to their churches door, the renowned preachers did what many civil disobedience activists since that time have done: they simply knelt to pray in a place where they were not welcome to do so.

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knelt in the middle of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, did he know that Jones and Allen had been there before? When leaders of the United Methodist Church were arrested while kneeling in front of the White House to protest the separation of families taking place through deportation last year, did they know that Jones and Absalom had been there before? When we kneel to pray in the driveways of prisons about to execute human beings, or in the streets of places like Ferguson where lives have been lost, do we recognize that Jones and Allen have been there before?

With a simple act of kneeling to pray in a place that God had called them to pray, yet man had denied them the right to pray, these leaders sparked the American Reformation within the Methodist movement.

When they knelt to pray at the front of the church, rather than in the balcony where the white members preferred them to pray, they were pulled to their feet and told to go pray where they belonged; receiving treatment much the same as practitioners of civil disobedience today. Their response, so the story goes, was to respond that they intended to finish their prayers and then would bother the congregation of St. George’s no more. That is exactly what they did.

Absalom Jones walked out and went on to eventually found the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ). Richard Allen walked out and went on to found the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). Sixty years after, Laroy Sunderland and Orange Scott walked out and founded the Wesleyan Methodist Church. A hundred years later, more leaders down in Tennessee would walk out of their church and founded what is now called the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME).

Richard Allen had been present at the actual establishment of the denomination, The Christmas Conference in 1784. Yet he had been restricted to preaching at 5:00 a.m. early services at St. George’s Methodist rather than the regular Sunday services, and disrespected until walking out of that church was the only way he saw to be faithful – the only way to continue the movement, both of Christ and of Wesley.

For the past decade of my ministry, I have looked to this example as the root of a Reformation that began, at least in the Methodist movement, with Allen and Jones, and continues to our day. That Reformation, I would argue, quite possibly holds equal importance to the one begun by Martin Luther. The fundamental truth that all people are made in the image of God, and all people hold equal value in God’s sight, has perhaps just as much to do with our relationship with God and with one another as Luther’s sola fide.

Historically, we have not called Allen and Jones reformers, most likely because we have not recognized that their actions have universal importance; not only for African Americans, but also for all people. The men made this clear in addressing their voices to the nation as a whole: “If you love your children, if you love your country, if you love the God of love, clear your hands from slaves, burden not your children or your country with them” - Richard Allen, To Those Who Keep Slaves and Approve the Practice

In fact, the men were so serious about their theology of love, that when given the opportunity put it to the test, during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, Allen and Jones organized their followers to care for the dying white citizens of Philadelphia while other white citizens fled the city. They did not allow the cruelty of others to impact their own integrity and theological consistency.

The question arises, why have we been so slow to follow the leadership of Jones and Allen, who insisted upon being treated as children of God and as no lesser than their fellow human beings? Why have we been so hesitant to join our voices with theirs in condemning the heresy of a hierarchy of humanity: not only in philosophy, but also in practice? Why have we been hesitant to vocally acknowledge, repent and confront the inherently corrupting sin of racism?

The American Reformation began over 200 years ago; it is time for us to finish it.

*The Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church and a member of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference. She currently serves at St. John's Downtown in Houston, Texas.

**Used with permission of the Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner


The Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

William Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, “What’s past is prologue.” We see a movement today toward justice that echoes the Civil Rights Movement, a thread of earlier struggles that emerges in our day.

In the summer of 1962, the Rev. Bernard Lafayette accepted a position with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This position was tasked with conducting organizing work in Selma, Ala. This was after the executive secretary of SNCC, James Forman, cautioned that SNCC should not go to Selma to do voting rights organizing.  Forman told Lafayette that “Selma had too many black people wounded by oppression.” Forman said white people were too man for such an organizing campaign to have any success. 

Lafayette had done extensive research at Tuskegee University and in various communities. He made a strong case that Selma should be a place for their work. After much debate, Forman agreed along with other SNCC leaders, like Diane Nash, that SNCC could go to Selma. History now shows that the three were right.
Violence and hatred were cast upon African-Americans and their partners in the struggle for voting rights.  These partners included white people and a diverse people of faith. When Bloody Sunday occurred on March 7, 1965, 525 to 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Highway 80. John Lewis of SNCC and the Rev. Hosea Williams of SCLC led the march, followed by Bob Mants of SNCC and Albert Turner of SCLC. The protest went according to plan until the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge out of Selma. On the other side of the bridge, they found a wall of state troopers and a county posse waiting for them. Marchers were brutally attacked. As a result, SNCC and SCLC formed a new coalition.

Despite these life-threatening hurdles, the long battle was won. The Voting Rights Act was passed. On March 7-9, 2015, over 61,000 diverse peoples and groups from throughout the nation and world were present in Selma. They were there to not only remember the events, but also to re-commit to the struggles related to the legacy of Bloody Sunday. They were also there to re-consecrate their faithfulness to change. Many youth and young adults from colleges and local communities were noticeably present and engaged.

The roots of today’s movements—Moral Mondays, being led by the Rev. William Barbour based in North Carolina, broader movements like Black Lives Matter, and even the questioning of our country’s practices of mass incarceration—have their roots in Selma. Anti-hunger and anti-poverty campaigns of economic empowerment are consistent with the recommendations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in his book, From Chaos to Community.  There was also movement recently in the Supreme Court that has removed certain protections originally written in the Voting Rights Act.

This justice agenda was threaded throughout the 50th anniversary events in Selma. Engaging worship and strategy sessions with faith leaders, government leaders including two U.S. presidents and 100 congressional leaders, the foot soldiers of 1965 and new foot soldiers of today, as well as grassroots organizers were important parts of the commemorative weekend. The commemorative marches across the bridge were not just about victories of the past. They also demonstrated the energy present for a new day of struggle—energy for a new moment of just change through informing and directing public policy with and for all people.

*The Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is Bread for the World’s national senior associate for African-American and African church engagement.


-- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Is Currently Hiring 2,000 Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPO) By September 30, 2015 

A CBPO entry-level job opportunity announcement will be open on USA JOBS from April 24 through May 11, 2015 or until 12,000 applications are received.  

CBP Officers play a vital role in preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States and enforcing customs, immigration, and agriculture laws and regulations at U.S. ports of entry.

To ensure the accomplishment of our mission, CBP requires that every employee be reliable, trustworthy and fit for duty. To meet these standards, applicants must undergo and successfully pass a thorough background investigation (which includes a polygraph examination), a medical examination, two pre-employment fitness examinations, a drug test, and a structured interview in order to be placed in a CBP Officer position.   Information on how to apply for the CBP Officer career is located on the following CBP webpage: http://www.cbp.gov/careers/join-cbp/which-cbp-career/cbp-officer

On this website, you will find the following information:

CBP’s Office of Human Resources Management (HRM) recruits for the CBPO positions using short-term vacancy announcements throughout the year.  This provides candidates the opportunity to move through the hiring process quickly and efficiently, and facilitates hiring quality candidates to report to the Office of Field Operation Academy fully prepared to join the proud ranks of CBP Officers.  Below is the schedule for the Job Announcements or CBP Officers and Border Patrol Agents that will be open throughout 2015.

                                 CBP Job Announcements for 2015
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers
April 24 May 11
U.S. Border Patrol Agents
May 22 – June 8
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers
June 26 – July 13
U.S. Border Patrol Agents
October 16 – November 2
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers
November 27 – December 14

You and your friends, neighbors, and family members are encouraged to visit http://www.cbp.gov/careers to learn more about this occupation that protects our Nation’s borders from terrorism, human and drug smuggling, illegal migration, and agricultural pests while simultaneously facilitating the flow of legitimate travel and trade.

By spreading the word about our Agency’s upcoming job opportunities, you can help build a better and stronger CBP.

Follow us on twitter: @CustomsBorder.


*Dr. Pam DeVeaux

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

Thank you God for the sheer joy of being able to call you, “Father.”

A joy that is unspeakable and full of glory - We thank you Lord for the joy that we experience as we delight in the majesty of your handiwork.  It was you and you alone who crafted the sun, moon and stars into a celestial masterpiece.

Thank you for the joy that we take in a baby's smile, a bird's sweet chirping and the completion of a difficult task.

Forgive us Master for the times we have neglected to say thank you for the joy that Jesus brings into our lives, lives that would be mundane but because of Him each day brings new mercies that herald miraculous expectations.

On this day let us strive to share the joy of knowing and loving Jesus with all we meet. Once we have been with Jesus there should be a joy that emanates from our spirits that sets us apart from the unsaved.

God make us joy givers. When we enter the presence of your children, equip us to sow and cultivate a harvest of joyous bounty. Help us to lighten and brighten the days of our brothers and sisters who are going through trials and tribulations. We thank you God for who you are and we continue to marvel at your unending favor on our lives.

We pray that through the storms, you send your joy - In the stresses of a chaotic world You send joy - Help us to remember the world didn't give it and the world can't take away our joy.  You are and always will be the center of our joy.

Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

We thank God for the quality of patience as modeled by His son.
That spirit of patience which allows us to persist and persevere in times of difficulty and trials of challenge. It is patience that keeps us going when would like to throw up our hands.  That job we applied for and have not heard about, that teenager who tries our last nerve, that rude driver who cut in front of you and the waitress that got everything wrong with your order except the glass of water.  Patience enables us to reach down in the inner recesses of our being to react with understanding and compassion and not act with anger, curses or complaints.  Patience will motivate us to find humor in situations in spite of their annoying characteristics.  Remember mothers how you wondered if your toddler would ever get toilet trained.  One toddler's  mother declared he was probably going to go from diapers to Depends Lord, in these days of microwave, text sending, email immediacy living, won't you please give us the virtue of patience that will cause us to slow down and take a deep cleansing spiritual breath that opens us up to a closer relationship with You.

*Dr. Pam DeVeaux is the 2nd Episcopal District Supervisor


*The Rev. Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr.

Based on Biblical Text: Exodus 24:12:  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them”

I have known people who have trouble with their eyes. I’m speaking of the folks who can see things close-up, but their vision for distant objects is impaired. Most people in this predicament may think corrective lenses might be necessary. After a lengthy eye exam, the optometrist may remind folk that their eyes have gotten lazy.

I have come to realize that is what’s wrong with a lot of Christians. Their spiritual vision has gotten lazy. They don’t understand the things of God because they don’t take the time to distance themselves from their troubles and get alone with God. When we confine the truth of our own finite understanding, we limit the divine to what we know. Christians need to put some distance between them and their troubles.

I wonder sometimes when was the last time we stretched the limits of our understanding of God. Some of us are muddling through this Christian walk, hoping to make it on what we learned of God when we were at our mother’s knee, or in the primary class in Church School. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. If we were asked to recite a scripture verse from memory, some of us would still use that old familiar “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”, or the first verse of Psalm 100. The very fact that someone reading this is wondering right now what the first verse of Psalm 100 (Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!) says is evidence of our shaky relationship with God!

The fact of the matter is quite frankly unless you have the Spirit of God in you, you have no might within and no means without to battle your storms. Without the Spirit of God we are like an unfinished two story building with no roof on it. We can attempt to live in it, but when storms come the rain will come in on us. In order to put a roof on our faith, we have to get alone with God. I know somebody is saying, “That will preach.”

It has been said and certainly it should be understood that absolutely nothing can come out of us that has not been deposited in us. In other words, we must receive before we can give out. We seem to understand that concept in most of; if not all of the other journeys we take. We certainly understand that we cannot become a doctor until we have studied all the laws of medical science; we cannot be a lawyer until we have studied all the laws and rules on which a society is governed. We seem to understand, at least in these secular instances that we must be equipped for the task.

I am compelled to remind Christians that we are on a journey. And what we do to equip ourselves for our journey will largely determine the success or failure. Before God sends us out into the world to fulfill our preordained purpose for Him, He wants to equip us first. And the equipping process must include time alone with God.

I have spoken with pastors who choose all of their ministry leaders from among the attendees of their weekly Bible Study class. If you don’t attend the class, or Church School, you cannot hold a leadership position in their church. I submit that it makes perfect sense because every good leader must first be teachable. Leaders who don’t listen and learn will soon pine over their own failed leadership.

I can almost hear the objections as it relates to Bible Study, Church School and church leadership positions. I have experienced one person resign from the Steward Board when I made a similar declaration. I have found that is how many Christians function in the realm of spirituality. They refuse to get alone with God to receive His Divine instruction for their lives and to take the time to consider God’s ways above their ways. And as a result, the world is full of Christians who are intellectually great, ethically enthusiastic, but spiritually dead. Paul said, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above (Colossians 3:1). No man can be alive in Christ unless he first shares his spiritual life with Christ.

If we would be all that Christ would have us to be, we must first be willing to develop an inquisitive, adventurous theology that solicits God’s wisdom above all else. We must be willing to get alone with God. We have to get alone with God, remove the distractions of daily life that often keep us from hearing His voice and take the time to focus on Him and Him alone. We must develop an open line of communication with Jesus that will, in time, reveal His purpose for our life, and give us new direction.

We are encouraged to not put a time limit on God. In other words it is not six minutes or six days. We are to just get alone with Him and learn of Him as we cannot fight the good fight unless we get to know the Battleaxe. We cannot tell the story until we have spent time with the Author and Finisher of our faith. We cannot face our storms without the aid of our ship’s Captain. We cannot expect light in the midst of our darkness, unless we spend time with the Bright and Morning Star.

We are challenged to stop starving our faith, and eat of the Bread of Heaven. We must stop thirsting for rest, and start drinking from the Eternal Fountain. It is imperative that we stop wandering in darkness, and start spending time with the Good Shepherd. He wants to be alone with us!

*The Rev. Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr., is the pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, S.C.


*The Rev. Gwendolyn Hatter, Guest Writer

A Foreword: In April as Minority Health Month, here is a timely reminder that is written from the perspective of a woman, but clearly can be applied to each person. Especially, clergy and others who are known to get things done- and thus they get more to do- can learn from and receive the wisdom expressed. Physical, mental and spiritual wellness is all closely intertwined. I am grateful to the Rev. G. Hatter, for sharing the insight and for consenting to its wider distribution as a blessing to TCR readers. Indeed, here is an important lesson for Minority Health Month. To purposefully seek health, remember rest. 

“Save Some for You” - A Woman’s Need for a Sabbath

As a very young married wife and mother, I remember my mother’s advice just as clearly as if she said it to me yesterday:  “Gwendolyn – you have to remember to save some of you for you.” The statement was often followed by her famous last words “you’re going to wind up somewhere in a TB hospital if you don’t slow down.”  My mother, an LPN who practiced in the 1940’s and 50’s, knew firsthand the connection between physical exhaustion and susceptibility to various diseases. 

Recently, as I found myself at the computer working on a presentation around 2:00 AM for yet another night, I heard in my spirit these words: “You are going to work yourself to death” – and I literally froze.  As I labored to stay awake, I knew I was experiencing signs of exhaustion.  Thinking back, I realize now that my back had a dull pain in the center that radiated down my left arm all the way to my left thumb.  My heart was actually pounding as I worked and my eyes were burning. Yet, I was determined to get it finished before going to bed.

When I heard those words, I knew God was trying to get my attention. I shut it down and went to bed, only to rise less than four hours later to complete the task. I couldn’t let them down – could I?  By the end of that day, I was so tired that I found myself driving home praying that God would help me make it safely. My sense of perception and response were distorted. I realized I was driving ‘impaired’ from sleep deprivation. 

“Save some of you for you”.  As a young woman, I thought myself to be the epitome of the old 70’s Enjoli perfume commercial – you know … “I can bring home the bacon … fry it up in a pan … etc., etc., etc.”  I learned how to work myself to the bone from my mother’s work ethic, and then modeled it by example to my own children. It was not until recently, when my own young, married daughter wound up in the hospital for an undiagnosed medical emergency (that turned out to be exhaustion), that I found it necessary to take her aside, deprogram her and share with her my mother’s wisdom. 

The Need for Sabbath Rest

In our high-tech driven society, the evidence of exhaustion and stress is obvious and pervasive. In particular, women – as the primary caregivers in the family - are most prone to experiencing illnesses caused by exhaustion and stress. 

“Stress” is the tenacious byproduct of overwork which can lead to a whole host of physical and mental maladies.

Sleep-deprivation can cause problems up to and including physical and emotional/mental breakdowns. When sleep-deprived, we do not reason as well as we can when we are fully rested. Our minds are not as sharp and become foggy; over time, without proper rest, we lack clarity and cognitive reasoning gets skewed; perspective is off; white becomes black; green becomes red; good becomes evil; friends become “frenemies”; and loved ones become nemeses. 

There is such a thing as literally ‘working yourself to the bone’. As women of God, when we are exhausted and bone-soul-weary, we cut short our effectiveness to our families and to the Kingdom. Just like operating a car on empty, without times of rest and refreshing, you quickly run out of gas. God has made us stewards over all things He has given us, and that includes our bodies. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own…  (1 Corinthians 6:19). NIV

Understand the Sabbath

The Hebrew word for Sabbath is “Shabbat” which means “Intermission” or “cessation from work”; to essentially “repose and desist from exertion or work.” If Almighty, infinite God rested from all His labor on the 7th day, as finite beings, how much greater is the need for you and I do likewise? Jesus said in Mark 2:27 that the ‘Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath’. God’s purpose in creating the Sabbath day, therefore, was to demonstrate the need for rest for both physical and spiritual renewal. 

In the 1990’s, I was introduced to the Sabbath practice called “Erev Shabbat”, through a Messianic Jewish friend. This weekly gathering occurred at sundown on Friday and was held at the home of a loved one. Immediate family and members of their faith community gathered to break bread and officially begin the Sabbath. In this setting, I learned, too, of the weekly practice of speaking blessings over and into the lives of the children present. It was so spiritual in nature and such a guiding blessing to me that for years I followed it and made it my own practice. It was not until I found myself both a pastor’s wife and a minister that I began to fall back into my old patterns and ‘superwoman’ mentality. Once again, through my own exhaustion has come the need for a fresh reminder to “Remember the Sabbath”. 

In the following compilation, I share briefly what I have gleaned over the years from various sources about the Sabbath and the practice of spending one day out of seven in rest, worship and fellowship. 

The Sabbath:

- is a time of complete rest (mind, body and soul) that protects us from exhaustion, over-exertion and complete burn-out

- is a time that protect us from psychological stress

- is a time to reconnect our spiritual selves to God through praise, worship, prayer, spending time studying the Word of God and Personal Meditation

Why take a personal Sabbath

There is numerous health benefits derived from taking a personal Sabbath. Scientifically proven benefits include:

- Body renewal/regeneration at the cellular level

- Longer Life - In a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours than those who slept six and a half or more hours of sleep per night.

- Better sleep curbs inflammation – (inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging).  People who sleep less than 6 hours per night are at greater risk for these diseases.

- Enhanced immune system/immunity

- Increased creativity

- Physical Benefits include: more energy; improved stamina; better endurance; weight control

- Mental Benefits: improved memory; increased concentration; better problem-solving abilities; greater efficiency

- Spiritual Benefits:  heightened spiritual clarity, guidance and awareness including answered prayers and direction. The ability to hear God speak to you and instruct you.

When we turn our attention to the Lord, we begin to experience the ‘Joy of the Lord”, which the Bible teaches us is our strength. While this list of benefits is not all-inclusive, there are many more benefits- I encourage you to purposefully set aside in each week a time to spend as a personal Sabbath. Take time to journal as you go into the Sabbath retreat and at the end of it. See what God is able to do when you turn your attention from the pressures of life, to the presence of God.  Remember to “Save Some of You, for You”.

Key scripture follow-ups to meditate on: Exodus 20:8-11; Psalm 28:7; Matthew 4:4; John 6:63

**The Rev. Gwendolyn S. Hatter is a mother, grandmother, wife of Pastor Jerry Hatter (Brown Chapel AME Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan) and is a Local Deacon at Brown Chapel.

*The Rev. Oveta Fuller Caldwell, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan (U-M) Medical School, Associate Director of the U-M African Studies Center and an AMEC itinerant elder and former pastor. She lived in Zambia for most of 2013 to study HIV/AIDS prevention among networks of religious leaders.


Bill Dickens. Allen AME Church, Tacoma, Washington


People of faith are challenged to express love toward all people, even those difficult to love.  Despite such challenges, believers model their lives after God’s love when they love their neighbors.  Still, believers wrestle with both the form and content of neighbor love.  An effective way to help grapple with this responsibility - showing agape love to all - is believing that the presence of the Holy Spirit is proof that we and God are interrelated.  We look to the Holy Spirit because we learned in Unit I that the Holy Spirit is comforter, helper and teacher.  If we ever need a helper it is in the area of loving everybody unconditionally.  The Church School Lesson of April 19, 2014 preps us for the challenge of putting love in action.  We need to have a clear understanding of who God is in order to fulfill our duty.  Let’s get started by looking at I John chapters 4 – 5.

Bible Story - Discourse on Love (I John 4:13-16)

The disciple John provides another teaching moment about love.  Readers will find that the theme of love permeates throughout the book.  Is this purposely redundant or is the writer suffering from an acute case of writer’s block?  Theological evidence would suggest the former not the latter is true.  Love is described again and again because it is the one variable that can “make or break” an individual or community.  John wants readers to understand that contrary to what religious heretics were suggesting during his time Jesus is the Son of God and his special status with God was demonstrated thru his love to a fallen humanity.  Since God loved us it is only logical for humanity to love each other.

God’s Love Inspires Confidence (I John 4: 17-21)

With our new relationship in Christ founded on the principle of love, we can now move boldly in sharing that principle with others.  This inspires confidence and fortifies our faith.  God is love.  His love will be my source in meeting the challenges set before me.  The challenges in life can be looked at as learning steps in our odyssey to spiritual maturity.  We may slip.  We may fall.  We may want to throw in the towel and give up completely.  However if the seed of God’s love is a part of our spiritual DNA we have the confidence that we can overcome because he overcame for us.

Obedience the Test of Love (I John 5: 1-4)

The litmus test of love is obedience.  Unfortunately many, believers and non-believers, look at obedience as an added chore.  Obedience signals for many a burden of compliance.  Adults in particular are not exactly fond of being accountable to someone when he/she is “paying the freight” in their home.  This type of attitude should be purged by Christians.  Obedience is not a function of age, status or position.  Obedience is independent of burden.  God requires us to love because He is love and demonstrated His love to us at Calvary.  If we are to be ambassadors to Christ it is imperative we represent the values he held in high esteem.  Love is one of those values.  Love is a non-negotiable value if we truly desire to be in fellowship with God.  Disobedience to the principle of love puts us at risk in being outside the ark of safety and eternal bliss.

Life Application

Beloved is a 1987 novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War (1861–1865), it is inspired by the story of an African-American slave, Margaret Garner, who temporarily escaped slavery during 1856 in Kentucky by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. A posse arrived to retrieve her and her children under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which gave slave owners the right to pursue slaves across state borders. Margaret killed her two-year-old daughter rather than allow her to be recaptured.

The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award. It was adapted during 1998 into a movie of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey. A New York Times survey of writers and literary critics ranked it the best work of American fiction from 1981 to 2006.

The contrast between Beloved the novel and the beloved child for our lesson is quite remarkable.  Death and disorder define Morrison’s epic novel.  Love and compassion define I John 4 -5.  It is assuring that we who are alive in Christ today are the beloved child described by John. 

Community is built on unity and mutuality. What holds the members of a community together? According to I John 4 & 5 shared values hold a community together.  Those shared values involve loving God and extending that same love to members of your immediate household. If love permeates a community it will foster healthy, sustainable growth and development.  The writer of First John says believers are made complete when as a community they abide in God’s love and the Spirit of God’s love abides in them.

*Brother Bill Dickens is currently the Church School Teacher at Allen AME Church in Tacoma, Washington.  He is currently a member of the Fellowship of Church Educators for the African Methodist Episcopal Church


*The Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Darby

My younger son - a recent college graduate and an excellent and award-winning artist, illustrator and graphic designer is preparing to move to the Washington, DC area to pursue employment opportunities that simply aren’t available to young black men in Charleston, South Carolina.  I celebrate the fact that he’s safely reached manhood, completed his undergraduate education and made the decision to “leave the nest” as his older brother did, but I’ll miss something that he’s faithfully done while living at home - taking out the garbage. 

That aggravating but routine task will now again become my responsibility.  It’s not that hard to do and only requires that the garbage bin be rolled out to the street once a week, but its importance becomes immediately evident if we happen to miss a week.  Like most families, we generate our fair share of garbage, and when we forget to roll it to the street to be picked up and hauled away, I spend a part of the next week struggling to stuff it all in to the garbage bin and close the lid!

I thought of that “household garbage reality” while contemplating this week’s meditation, because we all accumulate our fair share of spiritual “garbage” in this world.  Struggling to meet the demands of life in this world can cause all of us to accumulate the “garbage” of fear, uncertainty, envy, anger, anxiety, frustration and hopelessness - things that we don’t need and that can clutter our lives and complicate our well-being.

That’s why it’s good to believe in and be in touch with the Christ who gave His life as the price for our sins and arose to guarantee us everlasting life.  When we gather up all of the sin, sorrow and uncertainty that complicates our lives, “roll them out” and turn them over to Jesus, God will forgive our sin, take away our sorrow and supply us with the courage, confidence, hope and joy to face each day with hopeful, healthy and “garbage free” lives.

Take the time each day to turn the “garbage” in your life over to Jesus.  He’ll haul it away, renew your hope, restore your joy and give you a new reason to say as one hymn writer did, “Jesus knows all about our struggles, He will guide us till the day is done; There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no, not one, no, not one.”

This Meditation is also available as a Blog on the Beaufort District’s Website: www.beaufortdistrict.org

and on Facebook at:

Get Ready for Sunday, and have a great day in your house of worship!

*The Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Darby is the Presiding Elder of the Beaufort District of the South Carolina Annual Conference of the Seventh Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church


-- The Reverend Dr. Michael W. Waters has been named to the Dallas Business Journal's 2015 “40 Under 40” List

The Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters, founder and Senior Pastor of Joy Tabernacle AME Church in Dallas, Texas has been named to the Dallas Business Journal's 2015 “40 Under 40” List. The honor highlights executives and entrepreneurs 39 years of age or younger who, per the nomination criteria, “have a proven track record in both business and community involvement.”    A formal announcement can be found here:

Congratulatory messages can be sent to:

-- Dr. Betty W. Holley will serve as a panelist at the Smithsonian Institute

Dr. Betty W. Holley, Professor of Environmental Ethics and African American Religious Studies at Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, Ohio will serve as a panelist at the Smithsonian Institute, in the discussion "Imagining the Human Future: The Ethics of the Anthropocene," April 26, 2015.  She give thanks to God for the awesome opportunity!

Well-wishes can be emailed to: bholley@payne.edu (Dr. Betty W. Holley)

-- Felecia E. Commodore successfully defends her doctoral dissertation

On April 10, 2015, Felecia E. Commodore successfully defended her dissertation "The Tie That Binds: Trusteeship, Values, and the Presidential Selection Process at AME Affiliated HBCUs" to complete the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

Felecia is a member of Reid Temple AME Church in Glendale, Maryland and currently serves as the Connectional Lay Organization Young Adult Representative.  She is the daughter of Rev. Bedelia Commodore and Frank Commodore, Jr.

Congratulatory emails may be sent to fcommodore@gmail.com


We are saddened by the loss of Ms. Wanda Rucker, sister of the Rev. Debby Thomas Gaskin, assistant pastor of St. Andrew AME Church where the pastors are the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Robinson and the Rev. Marilynn Robinson.

Funeral arrangements are:

Wake: Friday, April 10, 2015
7:00 -8:30 p.m.
N J Ford Funeral Home
12 South Parkway West
Memphis, Tennessee. 38109

Telephone: (901) 948-7755

Funeral Services:

Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.
St. Andrew AME Church
867 South Parkway East
Memphis, Tennessee 38106

Condolences can be sent to:

The Rev. Debby Thomas Gasken
3525 Royal Oaks Drive
Memphis, Tennessee. 38106


Ora L. Easley, Administrator
AMEC Clergy Family Information Center
Email: Amespouses1@bellsouth.net      
Web page: http://www.amecfic.org/   
Telephone: (615) 837-9736 (H)
Telephone: (615) 833-6936 (O)
Cell: (615) 403-7751


The Chair of the Commission on Publications, the Right Reverend T. Larry Kirkland; the Publisher, the Reverend Dr. Johnny Barbour and the Editor of The Christian Recorder, the Reverend Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III offer our condolences and prayers to those who have lost loved ones. We pray that the peace of Christ will be with you during this time of your bereavement.

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[i] Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992).
[ii] Michael Joseph Brown, What They Don’t Tell You: A Survivor’s Guide to Biblical Studies, 2nd ed. (Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 23.
[iii] Marvin McMickle, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2006), 11.
[iv] Charles Foster, et al, Educating Clergy: Teaching Practices and Pastoral Imagination (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 208.
[v] Foster, et al, 211.
[vi] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2012), 6.
[vii] Ebony Joy Fitchue and Leah Gaskin Fitchue, “Collisions Between Racism and the Truth of the Cross“ in Contesting Post-Racialism: Conflicted Churches in the United States and South Africa, R. Drew Smith, William Ackah, Anthony G. Reddie and Rothney S. Tshaka, eds. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2015), 161-163.
[viii] Timothy D. Lincoln, “How Master of Divinity Education Changes Students: A Research-Based Model,” Teaching Theology and Religion, 215.
[ix] Lincoln, 217.