The Right Reverend 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

Reminder: Change clocks (fall back) to Standard Time on Sunday, November 1, 2015, 2:00 a.m.


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

I have said repeatedly, “If I had any semblance of success in the pastoral ministry and as a U.S. Army chaplain, it was because of the mentoring and teaching I received at ‘Sidewalk Theological Seminary.’”

I use the term, “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” from a comment I received from Bishop Jeffrey N. Leath, Presiding Prelate of the 13th Episcopal District. I believe he used "Sidewalk Theological Seminary" or a similar term.  

I can remember, back in the day when the old preachers took the time to share the “pastoring facts of life” with the young aspirants for the ministry and young pastors.

Some of the “pastoring facts of life” didn’t make sense because that wasn’t what I was taught in seminary, but later in my ministry I came to appreciate the teachings of those old preachers.

Later in my ministry I fully understood that they knew more than I and they “nailed” every pastoral issue “on the head.” The Sidewalk Theological Seminary and the Philadelphia Annual Conference Board of Examiners prepared me for the AME ministry! Correction: They prepared me for the ministry!

Sometimes the Sidewalk Theological Seminary classes seemed redundant and some of the things taught didn’t seem logical and at that time, in my mind, there was no way, some of the things they taught could work. 

In the spirit of transparency, the term Sidewalk Theological Seminary “lectures” applies mainly to small and medium-sized churches. Pastoring mega churches might have some different rules of engagement. Most of my peers were being prepared for smaller churches.

I am writing this as if it was one conversation, but these points cover a number of Sidewalk Theological Seminary “classes.”

Well, anyway, let's take a look

I am just exiting the church coming out of a BOE session and getting ready to walk down the sidewalk to my car. 

“Young man (and today of course, young woman) come here, let me tell you how things work in the AME Church. Don’t let the seminary mess you up...”

Sidewalk Theological Seminary 101

When you get to a new church, don’t get into discussions with disgruntled members who want to badmouth your predecessor. Remember every pastor makes a contribution.  Let me tell you something else, the same people who disparage the previous pastor will be the same people who will bad-mouth you as soon as you do something they don’t agree with. 

You can stumble on some things, but there are a couple of things you need to do right. Listen, you need to get some things right! The folks will forgive you for a lot of things, but there are some things the folks will not forgive you.

You need to visit the sick and shut-in members.  Listen, after worship on the first Sunday, just plan to visit the sick and shut in members. Don’t wait until Monday or Tuesday because something will come up and you might not get an opportunity to do it. The folks will love you when they know that you are taking care of the sick and shut in members. You take care of the sick and shut in members and the folks will forgive some of your other missteps. If you don’t take care of the sick and shut in members, you are just giving the folks ammunition to cripple or kill your ministry.

And another thing that will kill your ministry is if you are not on-target and not at your best when conducting funerals, weddings, and Holy Communion.

The folks bring their family and friends to those events and funerals and weddings are times when you have visitors and you don’t want to embarrass your members by stumbling over the ritual.  You can stumble on a sermon or two, but don’t mess up a funeral, a wedding or Holy Communion.

“Don’t let a dead man / woman kill your ministry.” I know that you will expect to do the eulogies of the departed parishioners, but being sensitive to the wishes of family members is a gracious thing to do. If you are generous and gracious during the times when people are mourning, your ministry will be nurtured and enhanced. A pastor who is not generous and gracious in sensitive situations might discover that he or she is “putting a nail in the coffin” of his or her ministry.

Weddings can be a pastor-killer too.  Some parishioners are adamant about whom they want to perform the weddings of family members; and sometimes, for whatever reason, it might not be the pastor. Don’t take it personal, be gracious and take the high ground. In other words, don’t engage in “turf wars” during the planning of weddings, funerals, baptisms and other events where families are concerned. Always be gracious and accommodate the family.

In the AME Church, Communion is important, especially to the older folks. Be on your “best game” when you lead Holy Communion. Don’t work on your car on the Saturday before the first Sunday because your hands and fingernails need to spotlessly clean.

Discreetly “eyeball” the Communion setup before the service to insure everything is in order; no snafus during the administration of Holy Communion. Trust the stewardesses, but be vigilant, especially when you first arrive at your pastoral appointment.

When you go to another church to preach and your choir and the members of the congregation accompany you, have your best sermon. Don’t embarrass your folks or yourself with a mediocre sermon. And, don’t forget to thank the choir and members who accompany you. You are getting an honorarium; they are not.

The sermon should be the final word!  No announcements, no frivolity, no business meetings after the sermon.  When people leave the sanctuary, the sermon and the Word of God should prevail.  People should be allowed to meditate on the Word of God. Teach the people to be respectful of the Word of God. No “mess” after the sermon.

Don’t let people distract you or “lay some kind of trip” on you before Sunday worship. Do not engage in “hallway counseling” before the worship service and do not engage in frivolous conversation.

And that means that you, as the pastor, might have to pass on church school. Let the laity take care of church school. A pastor should not have any distractions before worship and before the sermon.

A pastor should touch every person who attends worship. Stand at the door in the rear of the church and instruct the ushers and insure that they understand that they are to direct the people out of the doorway where you are standing.

Look every parishioner in the eye, learn their names and address them by name. Bend over when talking to children. Take the time to shake their hands. And, especially if an older person looks disheveled, inquire about their welfare. Ask young people how they are doing in school. Take the time to deal with each person. Stand at the door until everyone has departed the sanctuary. Touch every person who attends worship.

Never embarrass your members in public, even when they might act inappropriately. Always take the “high moral ground” and treat them with respect.  Do not fuss or embarrass people during the worship service.

When you are assigned to a new pastoral charge, do not be afraid to “touch bases” with your predecessor to inquire of him (or her) and ask, “Where are the ‘landmines’ and what are some of the things I should avoid?”

Even though you check with your predecessor about the general welfare of the ministry, do not assume your predecessor’s battles. Don’t assume that those who fought him (or her) will fight you, but don’t be surprised if they do.

There are some people, some families and some churches that are preacher fighters. They love to fight the preacher, so much so, that preacher-fighting becomes their “normal.”  I hate to say it, but sometime you need to do what you can do to bring healing, and “ride it out,” and hope the bishop will come rescue you. 

If people want to give the janitor or any of the staff a raise, support it. Even if you think the church can’t support it, if the people think any of the staff should get a raise, support and never say, “We can’t afford it” because later if you want or need an increase in salary, you would have taught the people, by your example, to say, “We can’t afford it.”

You are not perfect. You are human like the other people on the planet. Satan is busy and the devil loves to trap preachers. Just remember, the same demons you dealt with before you entered the ministry are the same ones you will have to deal with as a pastor. As a pastor, you will have all kinds of access to people’s homes and their secrets. You are the only professional who can go in and out of people’s homes day or night, but be careful. Don’t make pastoral visits to the home of single women alone; carry somebody with you.  As King David had access to Bathsheba because of his position as king, you, as a pastor will have access. Don’t violate that access. Satan is alive and well! Satan may have left you for a season, but he will be back.

And, young preacher, know there are no secrets. The joy of a secret is being able to tell someone, “Now, you can’t tell anyone about this…” You can’t do something “in the dark” and think no one will find out about it. The best advice is to remember, “Character is what you do when no one is looking.” 

When you are in public, look like a preacher, act like a preacher and exude the presence of a preacher because you are representing the local church, the AME Church and the profession of ministry.

TCR Editor’s Comment: If anyone would like to comment / add/ contribute to the “Sidewalk Theological Seminary" lessons please email “Dean” Calvin H. Sydnor III chsydnor@bellsouth.net, Subject Line: “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” and your comments, if any are received, will be incorporated into “Sidewalk Theological Seminary” Lessons for Pastors, Part 2. We are constantly looking for seminary professors to teach at "Sidewalk Theological Seminary." A seminary degree is not necessary, but experience in the pastoral ministry is a prerequisite.

We are also contemplating a laity “course of study” at Sidewalk Theological Seminary. Lay people meet on the sidewalk too!


-- To the Editor

RE: Ten Things Pastors need to remember

I'm writing to commend you on the courage to address some issues in our Zion, which really need some insight, clarification, and sometimes, just some plain old conversation.  I am speaking of your recent editorial on how Clergy can impact the stewardship in the local church, and your recent "Ten Things Pastors need to remember".  I've sent both online issues throughout the membership of the Second Episcopal District Lay Organization, asking for Clergy and Laity, to read.  I believed you presented a balanced view of the responsibilities of all believers in answering the call of Christian duty.  I also believe, as I an "Old School AME," agree that people will sometimes express their opinion with their absence of their presence and with the absence of their money. 

I know that we are in the midst of transition, both in the world and in the Church.  Somewhere the conversation needs to be had, that most of us in the 55+ crown have been raised in a traditional AME environment.  Yes, we love the Lord, and we know that change is inevitable, and necessary, but does that have to mean the dissolution of all that we have come to know, love and respect. 

So again, thank you for sharing your perspective, and know that you have kindred spirits, in this regard, throughout the Church, and thank you for providing a "safe place" to vent.

Have a blessed day

Mrs. Valerie Bell

-- To the Editor:

RE: The AME College Corner

The latest AME College Corner - AME Strong - HBCU'S article points out that the African Methodist Episcopal Church has always been a leader in the education of our people.  The article reinforces this by listing and giving the start year of these HBCU'S as follows:  Union Seminary (1851), Wilberforce University (1856), Edward Waters College (1866), Allen University (1870), Payne Theological Seminary, (1871), Paul Quinn College (1882), Shorter College (1886), and Turner Theological Seminary (1894). 

The article notes that in 1885 the state of Georgia granted a charter to Morris Brown College of the AME Church, making it the first educational institution in Georgia under sole African-American patronage.  Being that major emphasis has been placed on the opening year of other HBCU'S listed in this article; please also include the fact that Morris Brown College was founded in 1881.

Thank You,

Virginia Henderson Harris
1968 Morris Brown College Graduate


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-- Charleston Jazz Club Presents “Hand in Hand” A Tribute to Emanuel AME Church Family.

The 6th Annual Charleston Jazz Jam “Hand in Hand” – A Tribute to the Mother Emanuel AME Church Family, will be held…


Dear Rev. Sydnor:

This is an anonymous email and you will understand why by the content of the email.  I am hoping you can address some of these issues in the Christian Recorder.

I attend a small church that used to thrive, but in the last ten years or so the church has steadily declined to the point where we can barely pay our bills. Sometimes we cannot pay all the bills and our pastor goes unpaid or things get turned off.  More people leave than join.  Members are not committed.  It has its best moments when it is operating like a social club and its worst moments when it is operating like a worship center.  I am greatly distressed by the condition of our church.

Everybody has their own theory as to why the church is steadily declining.  Some say it is a sign of the times.  Others say people are overworked and financially over taxed.  Others say it is a spiritual problem.  Others deny that there is a problem.  And some don’t know and don’t seem to give much thought about it.  Meanwhile, the handful of us who seem to care are distressed.

I believe it is a spiritual problem.  Our worship is lackluster.  We have an “it don’t take all that” mentality about worship.  To me, it shows in our ministry and our actions.  Our worship is certainly the praise and worship we should have during service.  But, our worship is also in our ministry, how we treat each other, how we encourage each other, what we do to minister in the church and outside of our walls.  All of that is lackluster unless we are dealing with a personal friend in the church.  We have ministers who will, quietly and behind the scenes, discourage attendance at certain worship services.  My friends have stopped visiting because they see us as a failing church.  They don’t understand why I haven’t left.  I am distressed.

I know that God is able.  I try to remain positive, but it is very, very hard.  We need change and we need it immediately before our doors are forced to close.  How do we get change in leadership without hurting or embarrassing anyone?  How do we change the ministerial staff who have longstanding followers but who are hurting the church by misleading people?  How does a Pastor, or even a member, say to the BOE that a person doesn't seem fit for ministry without creating a tornado in a small church? How do we change our focus from social events to worship?  How do we change the course of our church when some leaders and ministers resist change?  How do we give our church back to God?

Still loving God in my distress,



African Methodist Episcopal Church Connectional Lay Organization 2015 Executive Board and Strategic Planning Meeting will be held October 29, 2015 – November 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

The 2015 Executive Board and Strategic Planning Meeting will be hosted by the Fifth Episcopal District Lay Organization.

Meeting Venue:

Sheraton Gateway Hotel
6101 W. Century Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Telephone: 800-325-3535 or 310-642-1111

Room Rate: $132.00 per Night, Plus Applicable Taxes
Group Block: Connectional Lay Organization – AME Church

Regular Registration (Before October 15th: $150.00
Late Registration after October 15th: $175.00

-- Download the Flyer, Registration Form and/or the Agenda on the Connectional Lay Organization Webpage:

Dr. Willie C. Glover is the Global President of the Connectional Lay Organization

Bishop William P. DeVeaux is the CLO Commission Chair

*Submitted by Mr. Walter C. Jeffers, Director of Public Relations for the Connectional Lay Organization - AME Church


August 19, 2015

Mr. Bobby Rankin
910 Garringer Place
Charlotte, NC 28208

Dear Bobby:

As you know, June 17, 2015, is a day that changed Charleston, South Carolina, and our Country. We were all shocked when a hate filled, violent criminal committed an unthinkable act; the killing of nine beautiful people who were worshipping their God during a bible study. This single act of a lone gunman thrust us all into a situation that none of us would ever want to experience. It caused us to feel every type of emotion and experience the evil that is present in our world.

During this event and the days that followed, there were many acts of kindness and generosity that supported first responders, families of the victims and survivors, the AME Church, and a grieving community. It was a community coming together as one to counter the reality of pain that embraced our City.

While this tragic incident shocked our conscience, it also provided us a glimpse of humanity that so often gets overshadowed by anger and personal agendas. Instead of anger, hate, separation, and destruction, we observed the unusual power of caring, love, unity, and forgiveness. From the beginning of this incident, law enforcement, government organizations, religious leaders, volunteer organizations, community members, politicians, and most importantly the victims’ families and survivors came together to demonstrate the awesome power that resides in good people who refuse to be impacted by hate. As I have heard so many times over the past several weeks, “evil picked the wrong City that night.”

Likewise, this incident also revealed another remarkable outcome. It clearly demonstrated the powerful results that can be achieved when good people pull together to accomplish a common purpose. From the moment this incident was reported, you and your staff worked with me to ensure our response was coordinated with the AME leadership and we met their needs. I can say without equivocation that together, we accomplished this goal as a result of your caring, commitment, and professionalism. I can say confidently that I have never been more proud in my career with the partnership and collaboration that occurred during this incident with you and your staff. We frequently talk about our partnerships and willingness to assist each other in times of need; however, since June 17, 2015, together, we have demonstrated that commitment and promise through deliberate action. As has been repeated many times throughout the course of this tragedy, Charleston was a role model for what community really means and it is impossible for me to express in words the way I feel about the support and assistance that I received from you during this incident.

While we were all shocked and horrified by this tragedy, we continued to do what we do – collaborate and communicate to help the victims and their families, respect the protocols and rituals of the AME Church, and support each other. You and your team played a primary role in our success and I will be forever grateful. As a result of everyone’s commitment, determination, and professionalism we rose to the challenge after the initial response to support the families and AME community as they dealt with the residual fear, mourned their loved ones and said good-by with honor and respect. This was no small task. It involved ensuring the safety and security at various venues to include those attended by the AME Bishops, the President and Vice President of the United States, and thousands of others who came to pay their respects and participants at the funeral services. During all these challenges, you and your team joined us in displaying to the world our humanity and commitment to exceptional service.

I could go on about the various ways that you and your team supported our efforts during this defining incident; however, what it all comes down to is this – there are moments in our lives that we cannot predict. When they occur, you make a decision about how to respond. We experienced one of those situations Wednesday night, June 17, 2015 that will change us all forever and you and your team responded with compassion, determination, and professionalism.

Please pass along my appreciation and thanks to all your team members for a job very well done. I am proud to serve with you!

With Thanks and Admiration,


Gregory G. Mullen
Chief of Police


-- Letter that the Rev. Melvin E. Wilson, Presiding Elder of the Brooklyn-Westchester District sent to Bishop Clement W. Fugh

Bishop Fugh:

I hope and trust that this note finds you in good health and enjoying the riches of God's grace.

Recently, I learned that the Ebola virus which plagued our brothers and sisters in Liberia is now somewhat under control, and we praise God for that.  I also learned that many of our AME brothers and sisters are without thermometers which can be used to take the temperature of children, possibly signaling the onset of other ailments and diseases.

Because we are a Connectional church family, the Brooklyn - Westchester District of the New York Annual Conference is pleased and humbled to present 700 thermometers to Empowerment Temple A.M.E. Church in Monrovia, Liberia.  Donations for these thermometers came from our Missions Offering received at our Brooklyn-Westchester District Conference last Saturday.  We will send the thermometers to Rev. Katurah York Cooper, Pastor of Empowerment Temple and Vice President of Academic Affairs at A.M.E. University in Monrovia as soon as they have been delivered.

We praise God for the opportunity to serve.


*The Rev. Darryl R. Williams

In the wake of the recent spurt of state sanctioned police violence against African Americans, the Black Lives Matter Movement has become a viable and much needed political movement in America. Police brutality against black lives is nothing new, but in this day and age of social media, we are now able to see how voluminous of a problem it is.

The central message of the movement is to say “No” to this assault on black lives by law enforcement and to push for policy that will make incidents of violence against us less likely to occur. Unfortunately this has struck a discordant chord with some of our more conservative and Caucasian brothers and sisters. They say that the Black Lives Matter Movement is a militant, Black Nationalist Group that causes more division and the slogan chanted ought to be “All Lives Matter”. On the surface while sounding more inclusive, I contend this is (Not Black Lives Matter) the divisive slogan.

“All Lives Matter” ignores the historical reality of how African Americans have been treated in this country. Not only does it ignore how African Americans have been treated by police, but ignores the mass incarceration, the poor schools, the inequality of opportunity and a host of other issues. It is interesting that “All Lives Matter” is being pushed by those who have done nothing to address those issues and others that our plaguing African American Communities. “All Lives Matter” is a falsehood until we are actually seeking to make sure that “All Lives Matter”.

Secondly, “All Lives Matter” is divisive because consciously or unconsciously it seeks to prevent the conversation, agitation and policy that could better race relations and relations between African American Community and Law Enforcement. The Blacks Lives Matter movement is not a Black Nationalist Movement, but its goal is to seek a way for us to receive the treatment that Whites has always gotten from law enforcement, government and community entities. “All Lives Matter” only serves to take the moral and ethical microscope off of where it belongs to achieve this goal. Black Lives Matter doesn’t say “only” Black Lives Matter, but it says “Black Lives Matter too”. Are the opponents of the movement so bereft of understanding that they can’t see the implied “too” in Black Lives Matter, or is it because they don’t want to see it? The latter is closer to the truth.

Lastly, All Lives Matter is inherently divisive and only puts sheep’s clothing on to "hide the wolf." The new way to deal with people who want to bring attention to racism is to say they are racist (see Fox News). The Black Lives Matter’s Movement is not racist, but it does serve to point out the disparities and racism that has always been a part of our society. The great divide between the races has always been there. “All Lives Matter” is a way of denying that reality that “Black Lives Matter Movement” seeks to remedy. Since they don’t want it remedied, you are the racist for bringing it up. “All Lives Matter” and the distortion of the meaning and message of Black Lives Matter is a ploy to hide the insidious nature of racism and protect the benefits that the oppressor derives from it.

I can never say “All Lives Matter” until, we as a country, act like “All Lives Matter”.

*The Rev. Darryl R. Williams is the pastor of St. Mark AME Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin


*Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Director

Praise God!  Your Social Action Commission has been a part of two very active coalitions urging criminal justice reform for the past six years.

Today, we are proud to join in announcing that a bipartisan effort of US Senators has resulted in the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.  This is a major step forward in restoring the "justice" to the criminal justice system and bringing some of our fellow Americans home from incarceration.  It also gives our court systems the flexibility to be judged based on his/her individual situation.  Finally, it is one of the best models of how our US Congress is designed to work - in the best interest of the people.

Please take the time to read the provisions outlined in the two summaries and contact the Senators to "thank" them for doing the right thing.  Thanks to all of you who have been a part of this movement.  We offer special thanks to the members of the Social Action Commission and former Payne Seminary student, the Rev. Charles Boyer who has helped to carry this torch. In the eleventh hour when we needed a Virginia Senator to hear from his people, Bishop William P DeVeaux, Presiding Prelate of the 2nd Episcopal District weighed in and helped.

With God and together, we cannot fail.  To God be the glory!

- Ms. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker is the Director of the AMEC Social Action Commission

- Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Chair, AMEC Social Action Commission

-- The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act:

Expanded safety valve - Significantly expands eligibility for the safety valve (from one to four criminal history points). Defendants with prior 2-point convictions for crimes of violence or drug trafficking offenses or with prior 3-point convictions are excluded. This change will allow judges to exempt thousands of nonviolent drug offenders from mandatory minimum sentences.

Departure authority - Gives judges discretion to make a defendant eligible for the safety valve by lowering the defendant’s criminal history points if the court finds that excluding the defendant from the safety valve substantially over-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendant will commit other crimes.

Limitation on 10-year mandatory minimum - Gives judges discretion to sentence a defendant who is otherwise subject to a 10-year mandatory minimum to a 5-year mandatory minimum if the defendant:

• would qualify for the safety valve, but for the defendant’s criminal history;

• does not have a prior conviction for a serious drug felony or serious violent felony;

• did not play an enhanced role in the offense by exercising substantial authority or control over the criminal activity of a criminal organization;

• was not an importer, exporter, high-level distributor or supplier, wholesaler, or manufacturer of the controlled substances involved in the offense and did not engage in a continuing criminal enterprise; and
• did not distribute a controlled substance to or with a person under age eighteen.

This change will allow judges to exempt thousands of nonviolent drug offenders from the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Fair Sentencing Act retroactivity - This provision, which is from the Smarter Sentencing Act, allows more than 6,000 prisoners who were sentenced under pre-Fair Sentencing Act to petition for sentence reductions.

Reduces the 20-year mandatory minimum for recidivist drug offenses to 15 years - This change is from the Smarter Sentencing Act, and, unlike the SSA provision, it is retroactive.

Reduces mandatory life sentence for “third strike” drug offense to a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years - This change is from the Smarter Sentencing Act and, unlike the SSA provision, it is retroactive.

924(c) reform - Reforms the provision that allows multiple counts in the same indictment to be treated as subsequent convictions that “stack” on top of one another at sentencing, leading to very long and unjust sentences. This change applies retroactively.

922(g) and armed career criminal act reforms - Gives judges more discretion by reducing the 15 year mandatory minimum of the armed career criminal act to 10 years, and increasing the statutory maximum for other felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm cases from 10 years to 15 years. The reduction applies retroactively.

Corrections Act - Requires the Justice Department to conduct risk assessments and assign federal inmates to appropriate recidivism reduction programs, including work and education programs, drug rehabilitation, job training, and religious studies. Eligible prisoners who successfully complete these programs can earn early release and may spend the final portion (up to 25 percent) of their remaining sentence in home confinement or a halfway house.

Juvenile parole - Gives judges the discretion to reduce the sentence of a defendant convicted of an offense committed when the defendant was a juvenile once the defendant has served 20 years in prison for the offense.

Expands compassionate release - Allows inmates who are over 60, have served more than two-thirds of their sentence, and are terminally ill or receiving nursing home care to petition for early release.

Juvenile solitary - Bans federal solitary confinement of juveniles, with narrowly defined exceptions.

FBI background checks - Requires the Attorney General to establish and enforce procedures for individuals who undergo background checks for employment to challenge the accuracy of their federal criminal records.

Juvenile sealing and expungement - Permits certain juveniles to obtain sealing or expungement of their federal convictions in certain circumstances.

Federal crime index - This provision from the Smarter Sentencing Act requires the creation of a public index of all criminal offenses enforced by federal agencies. This is a necessary first step to inform men’s real reform efforts.

New mandatory minimums - Establishes a 5-year mandatory minimum for certain arms export control violations and a 10-year mandatory minimum for interstate domestic violence offenses that result in death. These mandatory minimums apply to a very small number of serious offenders.

*Submitted by Ms. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker


*The Rev. Wilfred D. Lewis

The New Brunswick District Conference of the First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) convened on Friday September `11th 2015 at the Mt. Zion AME Church, Plainfield, New Jersey. This District Conference convened under the progressive and innovative leadership of our inimitable Presiding Elder, The Reverend Vernard Leak, and Consultant Mrs.  Sarah Leak.

Presiding Elder Leak is highly regarded and respected in this District because of the sagacious and spiritual leadership he provides.  The Host Pastors W. Golden and Mattie Carmon had prepared their church staff to host this major undertaking, and they left no stone unturned.  On arrival we were greeted with friendly smiles from the courteous parking facilities attendants, as well as greeters and ushers in the sanctuary.

The First session began at 9:30 a.m.   Presiding Elder Leak was quite open and transparent as he called this opening session to order.   He informed the conference that he would be completely open to the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the entire District Conference.  Those who are programmed to do anything should feel free to change as the Holy Spirit leads.  We have printed programs, but we must not be held hostage by the printed page.   Let the Holy Spirit move and prevail. What this writer likes and appreciates about Presiding Elder Leak is his integrity, and the kinds of informative and   educational seminars he provides for this District.  Elder Leak brings in highly trained and qualified personnel to lead educational seminars in subjects that are significant for the ongoing life of our churches.
The first seminar was led by the Reverend Malcolm Guyton, the pastor of The Freedom Temple AMEC., Gibbsboro, New Jersey.   His presentation   dealt with Red Cross Donor Recruitment. Churches were encouraged to get their members involved in donating blood, as well as sponsoring blood donation drives in their churches.   The blood you donate will replenish itself in a short period of time, and in so doing; you may save a life.  The Rev. Guyton opined, just as Jesus took a needle on Calvary to donate blood for our salvation; you can take a needle to donate blood to save somebody’s life.
After a brief respite, Presiding Elder Leak then presented a number of trained personnel from Homeland Security Training for Houses of Faith / TNJO of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparation.  The training was in my estimation very significant in light of the times we live in. When we think of the Emanuel   Nine in Charleston, South Carolina, and the rise of ISIS Terrorists worldwide; churches are targets and we all need this training in order to upgrade And or implement our security systems.
The following personnel served as presenters:  Lieutenant John Paige, Deputy Director Rosemary Montorenou and Chief of Detectives Walter Pullen.  We learned that the training and exercise bureaus coordinates homeland security preparedness training and exercises for counterterrorism and for law enforcement personnel throughout New Jersey.   Those in attendance learned about Potential Indicators of Terrorist activity as well as common vulnerabilities.  We also had an interactive session where one woman was recruited from the audience to identify potential terrorists who may be incognito in our midst.  There are certain things we should look for that would help us put an end to their evil intent.   We have to almost have a third eye because such persons generally have unrestricted access to our facilities. Praise God for such an educational session.    
As we prepared for the noon day Hour of Power; Presiding Elder Leak spoke about the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst.   The Reverend Eric Billips, pastor of the Mt. Zion AMEC, New Brunswick took the microphone and led us in a powerful period of worship and praise. The power of the Lord fell`, and there was shouting, dancing and praising the Lord with unrestrained abandon.   The music was evocative, the oil of gladness was palpable, and the glory of the Lord could be felt as some ran down the center aisle of the church. The usual hour of Power noon day participants could not perform their functions. This reminded me of the Biblical Account when King Solomon dedicated the new temple in Jerusalem.  As the Levitical choir sang the refrain, “For the Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever,” The glory cloud of the Lord permeated the temple, and the ministers who were waiting to serve could not minister.  That’s the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Reverend T. Buckley David presented the preacher for the noon day worship service.   The Preacher of the hour was The Reverend Dr. Erika Crawford the honored and esteemed pastor Of Ebenezer AMEC., Rahway, New Jersey. The Rev. Crawford took her text from St. Luke 8:40-56, and her subject was, “They Were Wrong.”  The Rev. Crawford delivered a powerful word as she spoke about the two miracles of Jesus on the same day. On His way to Jairus’ house, Jesus was interrupted by a woman who was ill with an issue of blood.   This woman reached down on all fours and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was immediately healed after twelve long years.   Jesus indicated somebody touched me.  His disciples were incredulous because of the crowd of people around Jesus. They were wrong because Jesus said I felt virtue going out of me.   Jesus then proceeded to Jairus’ House when someone said the little girl is dead; there is no need for Jesus to come now.    They were wrong because Jesus evicted the professional mourners, and proceeded to raise the girl back to life. Thank God for this powerful message.
During lunch time the culinary staff of Mt. Zion church was quite efficient and they served all a delicious buffet of varied sandwiches, salads, cole slaw, drinks and dessert.  Healthy eating was the order of the day. 
Following lunch there were a number of presentations. Ms. Sharon Carmichael who is the Director of Christian Education for the New Brunswick District made a presentation. 

She indicated that she is soliciting support for her upcoming Christian Education event at the Mt. Zion AMEC, Princeton, New Jersey. She would like those who think they can sing and would like to sing on the choir to sign up as soon as possible for rehearsals with the Reverend Malcolm Guyton.
There were several other reports including, the WMS, The YPD and the Laity.  The Reverend George Britt, pastor of the Mt. Teman AMEC, Elizabeth, New Jersey gave a report on the First District Voter Registration Initiative and other social action concerns.  
A very informative session was led by the Rev. Malcolm Guyton on “Electronic Giving.” Many churches across this nation are losing out on income because they are not willing to embrace new technologies that are available today.   Millenials are not using cash today because they are using credit and debit cards.  Some people feel they need to continue giving their finances the traditional way at the time of offering. However, it has been discovered that the church can reap a tremendous financial bonanza if we employ credit card machines like any other business. Some people may not have cash on them, but they can still give if a credit card machine was available.
 Another young minister the Reverend Shaun Torres was presented who spoke about Awareness In the church to others who are not like us.  He questioned, “Are we welcoming or chasing Millenials out of the church?”   He also spoke of those who might be of other sexual persuasions in the church, and whether or not the General Conference would address that topic.  Don’t alienate those people from our midst.  You have to catch a fish before you can clean it.
The Rev. Jacqueline Reeves, Ph.D presented a workshop on the Five Fold Ministry gifts in the church according to Ephesians 4:11; and 1 Corinthians 18:38.   She indicated that Prophets are set in the church to produce a hunger for God’s word.  Apostles are God’s Builders with governing authority.  Pastors are called to minister as God’s under-shepherds. Therefore, the five fold ministry gifts are given to equip the saints. This session was very spiritual and well received. 
The Committee on Ministerial Orders led by the Reverend Reginald McCrea reported. The report was read by the Rev. Dr. Erica Crawford. Dr. Crawford reported that only one person appeared before the committee. This candidate was Sister Veatrece Newton, a member of Mt. Zion AMEC, New Brunswick, New Jersey.   Having passed the scrutiny of the New Brunswick Committee on Orders, she was therefore recommended to the class on Admissions of the New Jersey Annual Conference unanimously.
Following the dinner hour, the closing service of Celebration and Commitment was led by Presiding Officer, The Reverend Kenneth Saunders, the pastor of North Stelton AMEC, Piscataway, New Jersey.  Invocation was given by the Reverend Thomas Johnson.  Majestic Spiritually uplifting gospel selections were rendered by the choir of the Mt. Pisgah AMEC, Jersey City, New Jersey.  The Reverend Edwin Lloyd introduced the guest preacher the Rev. Reginald McRae, pastor of Mt. Pisgah AMEC, Jersey City, New Jersey.  Pastor McRae took his text from Isaiah 54:17.   His sermon was entitled, “I’m Breaking Out.” The verse of interest in the text states, “No weapon formed against you shall prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me.”
The Reverend McRae   preached a very powerful message as he told us how to break out of complacency, from mediocrity and from the status quo.  We have been divinely empowered for great spiritual exploits, and we need not fear any earthly weapons that the enemy forms against us.  We are winners.
We thank God for the inspired and forthright leadership of our anointed Presiding Elder, the Rev. Vernard Leak and for his financial generosity to each component group.
To God be the glory for the things He has done.
 Amen!  Amen!  Amen!

*The Rev. Wilfred D. Lewis, Conference Reporter


At the recent Biennial Session of the Connectional Lay Organization  (CLO) held in Charleston, South Carolina, the CLO launched its 2015-2017 Study Guide  on the theme “Laity Fulfilling the Great Commission”.  This theme draws from General AME Church theme for 2012-2016: Fulfilling the Great Commission—The Goal, Cost, Evidence, Harvest and Fruit of Discipleship.

Designed to be a practical congregational resource to help in the making of Christian Disciples, the study guide is divided into Perspectives on the Theme, Training Modules, Applications and Resources.  Under the overall direction of CLO Director of Lay Activities Edith Bartley Cartledge, the book was conceptualized and edited by Paulette Coleman, Ph.D.  At its heart are over 15 guided activities to assist in discipleship training in a variety of situations targeting young adults, those in rural areas, and those committed to social justice advocacy.  The book features contributions from clergy and laity representing twelve Episcopal Districts from the United States, Africa and the Caribbean.

“The Lay Study Guide translates the concept of discipleship into its practical application of making disciples in the second decade of the 21st century.  By using the Study Guide and implementing the modules, discipleship becomes the priority for all of us.”

 -- Bishop William P DeVeaux, Sr., CLO Commission Chair

“This tool enables us to fully embrace the AME Church’s connectional quadrennial theme of Fulfilling the Great Commission. We know that the essence of discipleship rests on the firm foundation of faith.”
 -- Willie C. Glover, PhD., CLO President

The Connectional Lay Organization makes this resource available to all African Methodists, clergy and laity, as a toolkit to explore the quadrennial theme.  The Study Guide goes beyond that by equipping the church with the essential tools and skills for discipleship and disciple making. But beyond as discipleship never stops.

Copies of this invaluable resource are available for purchase by contacting your Episcopal District Lay President.

Edith Bartley Cartledge
Connectional Director of Lay Activities
#IamAME #ameclay


By Sam Hodges

Sept. 25, 2015 | UMNS

When large, multisite Grace Church in Florida needed a pastor for its new downtown Fort Myers campus, the Rev. Arlene Jackson got the call.

She began with about 30 in worship. Over five years, her flock at Grace — a United Methodist church — has grown to more than 400. Many were previously “unchurched” and recovering from addictions, as she did.

“It’s the most diverse bunch of mixed nuts you’ve ever met,” Jackson said. “They’re growing in Christ and bringing people and having a lot of joy in their walk with the Lord.”

Jackson has impressed many, including Grace’s senior pastor, the Rev. Jorge Acevedo.

“This girl would take on hell with a squirt gun,” he said.

Proof of his and others’ faith in Jackson is that she’s just been given an unusual cross-conference appointment, to start a Grace Church campus in Sioux City, South Dakota.

But Jackson is not an ordained elder, the kind of United Methodist pastor who spent three or four years getting a master of divinity degree and made it through provisional member elder status to become “fully connected,” with a guaranteed appointment.

She’s a full-time licensed local pastor who answered her call to ministry in middle age. Her training has included a two-week licensing school and the part-time Course of Study required of such pastors after they enter.

Local pastors like Jackson are on the rise numerically in The United Methodist Church in the United States. And though typecast as mainly leading small churches, they are landing in a range of positions and church sizes.

Bishop Robert Schnase of the Missouri Conference has appointed many local pastors, and is among their champions.

“We do not presume that every elder is somehow more gifted than every local pastor,” Schnase said. “Therefore, we have local pastors serving as senior pastors of large congregations, in senior staff positions in large churches, as new church start pastors and on the conference staff as directors.”

The numbers game

The upward trend with local pastors comes as ordained elders are becoming rarer.

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary has shown in its annual Clergy Age Trends reports that retirees have long outpaced newcomers to the elder ranks.

The denomination's General Council on Finance and Administration reports that from 2010 to 2015, the number of ordained elders and provisional member elders serving churches dropped from 15,806 to 14,614.

United Methodist elders are declining in number in the U.S., but licensed local pastors are on the increase. “Elders” above includes ordained elders and provisional member elders appointed to churches, as opposed to extension appointments. “Local pastors” includes full-time and part-time local pastors. Data source: GCFA.

Though the denomination was shrinking in the United States, local pastors appointed to churches climbed from 6,193 to 7,569 in that time. Both full-time and part-time local pastor numbers grew, with the latter growing faster.

The Rev. Lovett Weems, director of the Lewis Center, has long followed United Methodist clergy trends. He notes that in 1990, elders outnumbered local pastors 5 to 1. That ratio is roughly 2 to 1 now, and drops further when looking just at those in church appointments.

Conferences vary widely in clergy makeup, but the West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma Indian Missionary and Red Bird Missionary conferences had more local pastors than elders serving churches as of summer 2015, according to GCFA. Some other conferences, such as Upper New York, East Ohio, North Alabama and Missouri, are close, and still others acknowledge they are highly dependent on this growing category of clergy.

“We’d be in a world of hurt in the Holston Conference without local pastors,” said the Rev. David Graves, former superintendent of its Kingsport District.

While elder retirements are a big factor, more and more United Methodist churches can’t afford the minimum salary and benefits required for an elder, said Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania Conference.

But Bickerton and others insist local pastors often make the case for themselves by bringing skills from other careers, as well as a high level of commitment and understanding of the local culture.

The Rev. Ted Smith is superintendent of the Virginia Conference’s Fredericksburg District, and monitors its statistics in membership, attendance, professions of faith, baptisms and stewardship.

“We’re seeing some of our most effective, dynamic results from local pastors, hands down,” Smith said.

The Rev. John and the Rev. Judy Flynn, a local pastor married couple, serve 10 small, rural churches in West Virginia. He has six, and she has four. This slideshow by UMNS photographer Mike DuBose offers images of them and their churches on Easter morning, 2015.

Little church, big church

When looking for local pastors, the small church is still the place to start.

Consider the Revs. John and Judy Flynn, a local-pastor married couple, appointed full time to serve 10 small rural churches in West Virginia.

John, an Air Force retiree, leads six. Judy, a former music educator, leads four. Their calendar looks more like a train schedule. Holy Week, with its extra services, nearly did them in.

John likes to tell about the time he got lost on the way to one of his churches, and had to stop for help at a nondenominational church.

“The congregation had a nice laugh, and then they pointed me in the right direction,” he said.

While the Flynns represent one end of the spectrum, on the other is the Rev. Rudy Rasmus.

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus is a local pastor who has led his church, St. John’s United Methodist in downtown Houston, to mega-church status. Rasmus, seen here during an Imagine No Malaria net distribution in Sierra Leone in 2010, is a popular author and speaker as well. File photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Rasmus leads St. John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, which averages about 2,100 in worship and is known for innovative social outreach. Since he arrived there in 1992, the church has added about 300 members a year, leaving him no time to go to seminary. Instead, he went the licensed local pastor route, as did his wife, the Rev. Juanita Rasmus, who is St. John’s co-pastor.

These days, Rudy Rasmus writes books on faith and church leadership, and gets invited to speak to United Methodist groups, including the Central Texas Conference’s annual gathering this past June.

One of his prized possessions is a photo of his mother riding a bicycle for the first time at 83, and he said he may follow her example in late-life boldness and go to seminary one day.

For now, though, he’s sure his St. John’s flock is unconcerned that he holds no master of divinity degree.

“People don’t really care how much you know,” he said. “They want to know how much you care.”

Course of Study makes comeback

Methodists have always been in tension about how much education clergy should have, church historians say.

Skeptics included famed Methodist revivalist Peter Cartwright, who asserted “illiterate Methodist preachers set the world on fire while they (others) were lighting their matches!”

But in the early 19th century, the Methodist Episcopal Church created the Course of Study as a part-time, basic education program for clergy.

As recently as World War II, most pastors in the denomination were Course of Study-trained. The GI bill allowed many more aspiring clergy to attend seminary, and by 1956 the denomination was requiring a seminary degree for those seeking ordination as elders.

The momentum had shifted decidedly and continued through the unification that created The United Methodist Church in 1968.

“I think what really happened in the 1960s is that (church leaders) wanted to make the master of divinity the only route,” said the Rev. Ted Campbell, professor of church history at Perkins School of Theology, part of Southern Methodist University.

But the Course of Study-trained pastor – licensed, instead of ordained – held on, serving mainly in small churches.

In recent years, a new reality has taken hold, with the number of retiring elders outpacing those entering the ranks and local pastors growing in number and getting appointed to churches of various sizes.

Currently, well over a third of church appointments are to local pastors, most of them trained through Course of Study.

“What’s happening on the ground in the UMC is a sort of back-to-the-future deal,” said Rex Matthews, professor in the practice of historical theology and Wesleyan Studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

Lawyer turned pastor

Rasmus appears to be the only megachurch local pastor, but plenty can be found in midsize or large churches. One is the Rev. Dennis Miller.

He studied accounting in college and then went to law school. As a young attorney, he wrote the warranty deed for Aldersgate United Methodist Church, a church plant in Nixa, Missouri, near Springfield.

But Miller, a lifelong United Methodist, soon left the law to answer a call to full-time youth ministry. By then he was married and had a child with a serious medical condition. Stopping for seminary wasn’t practical.

He adds: “I felt called to ministry, not to school.”

Miller became a licensed local pastor and began Course of Study, which he could fit into his busy schedule. He moved from youth ministry to associate pastor at one church, and Schnase appointed him pastor of another in 2006.

It was Aldersgate, for which he’d written the warranty deed.

Under Miller, Aldersgate has grown from 250 to more than 600 in average worship attendance. He credits his staff and the church’s laity, as well as earlier pastors for laying the groundwork.

But he does think his accounting and law backgrounds have helped him with church leadership.

“There’s that practical aspect,” he said.

`Focused on competency’

Local pastors are getting appointed as site pastors, including at the denomination’s most-attended U.S. church, the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. The Rev. Jason Gant, a full-time local pastor, leads Resurrection West in nearby Olathe.

The Rio Texas Conference turned to the Rev. Aaron Saenz, a full-time local pastor, to lead a church plant in Harlingen, Texas. Under Saenz’ leadership the past nine years, Valley Praise United Methodist Church has become chartered and averages about 360 in worship.

In the Missouri Conference, Schnase has a full-time local pastor, the Rev. Jeff Baker, serving as director of mission, service and justice ministries — a cabinet-level post.

Many large to mid-size churches now have local pastors as associates.

The Rev. Don Underwood, an elder and longtime pastor of the nearly 6,000-member Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, said the challenge of reaching people in an increasingly secular culture means grooming young elders has lower priority than assembling a strong staff.

“We’re going to be much more focused on competency,” he said, adding that his church has fewer elders on staff now than when it was half its current size.

At Lake Highlands United Methodist Church in Dallas, the Rev. Pam Clark, a full-time local pastor, is longtime director of community ministries. Though a suburban congregation, Lake Highlands under Clark operates a food pantry and evangelizes through a storefront church and bilingual Bible studies in apartment complexes. 

“She has such a heart for this particular niche, people who are materially poor, and making sure God’s word gets to them in relevant ways,” said Lake Highlands’ senior pastor, the Rev. Jill Jackson-Sears. “We could not have done this kind of ministry without Pastor Pam.”

Course of Study vs. seminary

The local pastor trend is not without issues. Schnase notes that, because local pastors don’t have guaranteed appointment, deploying them in large numbers “multiplies administrative complexity” as they undergo required annual interviews with district committees.

Others point out that it can strain ecumenical relations when United Methodists have thousands of non-ordained clergy authorized to baptize and offer communion and do weddings and funerals, and some denominations have none.

“If you’re having an ecumenical service, how do you adjudicate this?” said the Rev. William Lawrence, dean of Perkins School of Theology.

And while denominational leaders seem unanimous in praising local pastors’ willingness to serve, often at financial sacrifice, questions linger about their theological training.

A high school education — not college — is required for Course of Study.

“It’s not uncommon to be in class and have a guy with a Ph.D. sitting next to a fellow who barely got out of high school,” said the Rev. F. Belton Joyner, an author of books on Methodism and a Course of Study instructor in North Carolina. "It makes teaching extremely interesting."

The Course of Study consists of 20 classes, covering the Bible, ethics, preaching, evangelism, worship and sacraments and more. Many classes are taught in two-week summer residencies, with readings and papers assigned in advance.

Course of Study has been strengthened but doesn’t match three or four years of full-time seminary attendance, said the Rev. Rena Yocom, who retired last year as the executive overseeing clergy formation and theological education at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

“There isn’t any way a local pastor can have the depth of training that an ordained elder has,” Yocom said. “That doesn’t make them less effective, necessarily.”

Trajectory of respect

Local pastors have their own concerns. Their authority is limited to their parishes — hence the adjective “local.” (They have to get permission to do a wedding elsewhere.) They aren’t eligible to be a district superintendent or a bishop. Nor can they be clergy delegates to General Conference or Jurisdictional Conference.

No matter what size church they lead, they’re not supposed to wear a stole.

But the Rev. Mike Mahaffey, president of the National Fellowship of Associate Members and Local Pastors, said the trajectory is clearly toward more respect and authority for local pastors. Thanks to General Conference actions, they can serve in extension appointments and those who have completed Course of Study can vote for General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference delegates.

On the Facebook page they share, local pastors air the occasional complaint about second-class treatment. But things really have improved, said the Rev. Max Rudd.

Based on his leadership at Lost Creek United Methodist Church in Stillwater, Okla., the Rev. Max Rudd gets asked by the Oklahoma Conference to give talks on church leadership. Rudd is in his fourth decade of serving Lost Creek as a local pastor.

For about 40 years, he’s been a local pastor leading Lost Creek United Methodist Church in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Average worship attendance has grown from 10 to 200. The church spends half its $400,000 budget on missions.

Rudd began as a part-time bivocational pastor, and says the Oklahoma Conference lost track of him, as far as paperwork, for years.

But these days he’s a star, with the conference asking him to give presentations on effective church leadership.

“It’s been really neat to see local pastors becoming a more vital part of the ministry,” Rudd said. “There’s room for everybody.”

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

*Used with permission of the United Methodist News Service


-- NSBE PDC 2015: The Keynote Trailer Feat. Dr. Steve Perry

(September 29, 2015) ALEXANDRIA, Va. - NSBE Professionals, the 6,300-member organization for technical professionals of the National Society of Black Engineers, will host its Fourth Annual Professional Development Conference (PDC) at the Hilton Hartford in Hartford, Ct., Oct. 8-11, 2015. The conference theme is "Transforming Your Path to Professional Success."

The PDC is the premier event entirely focused on the NSBE Professionals. Over the course of three days, attendees will have the opportunity to connect with other professionals, corporate representatives and executives; transform their technical and professional acumen by attending various workshops and panel discussions focused on leadership, career development and personal growth; attend the annual Evening of Excellence, during which individuals and organizations are recognized for their contributions and commitment to excellence in community achievement; and close the conference with a community impact project. The project will bring middle school and/or high school students from the local area to participate in hands-on activities led by the NSBE Professionals, to inspire the next generation of engineers.

This year's keynote speaker will be Steve Perry, Ed.D, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford. Capital Prep has sent 100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first graduation in 2006. In addition to being the principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, Dr. Perry is an education contributor for CNN and MSNBC, an Essence Magazine columnist, a best-selling author and host of the #1 docudrama for TVONE, Save My Son.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to participate in technical training that will yield continuing education units and prepare them for certifications. Technical training offerings include Lean Bronze Belt training sponsored by United Technologies Aerospace Systems; CM-at-Risk: Contracting for Owners, Consulting Engineers, and Contractors, presented by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  Attendees will also engage in several PDC Signature Events focused on leadership development, including Inside the Executive Suite, Executive Women's Panel, and Executive Mentoring, all featuring executive employees of NSBE's corporate partners.

"This conference is a great example of how the NSBE Professionals are supporting NSBE's mission to '...succeed professionally and positively impact the community,' " says Mary McWilliams, national chair of NSBE Professionals and lead engineer for DLA Land and Maritime in Columbus, Ohio.  "As a Society, we've set our sights on an ambitious goal: to increase the number of African-American engineering graduates from 3,620 to 10,000 per year by 2025. This event will help give our members the impetus to achieve it."

More information about NSBE's 2015 Professional Development Conference is available at http://www.nsbe.org/professionals/pdc/home.aspx

About NSBE

Founded in 1975, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States. With more than 31,000 members and more than 300 chapters in the U.S. and abroad, NSBE supports and promotes the aspirations of collegiate and pre-collegiate students and technical professionals in engineering and technology. NSBE's mission is "to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professional and positively impact the community."

For more information, visit www.nsbe.org.

CBS News has reported on a new scam aimed at Facebook users. If you don't use Facebook, no need to read on. If you do use Facebook, though, take a few minutes to read this article. It may save you a lot of grief.

Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Q&A that the social network was getting ready to roll out a new button to let people express, in a single click, some sentiment other than "like." Though he made it clear that the new, more empathetic button would not say "dislike," people are calling it exactly that -- and they can't wait to get it.

Enter the scammers. Picking up on people's anticipation for a "dislike" button, a new scam circulating on Facebook prompts users to click to "get newly introduced Facebook dislike button on your profile."

Showing up in people's newsfeeds, the post claims the dislike button is an invite-only feature. It brings users to a page designed to look like it is branded by Facebook and instructs them to share the page, and then send it to five groups to activate the button, according to hackread.com.

Sophos security researchers writing on Naked Security said that clicking on the links brought them to two different scam sites, "neither of which had anything to do with Facebook, or a Dislike button, and both of which wanted us to sign up by giving away personal information."

This is classic scam stuff. Facebook wouldn't make you jump through hoops to activate a new feature. Attackers and phishers often use the colors and logos of companies to make their fake sites look legitimate. Their links may lure users into sharing personal information or unwittingly downloading malware onto their machines. By requiring that people share the page, the attackers are effectively getting them to do their bidding, spreading the ill intentioned or malicious links to their network of friends.

These all constitute major red flags.

And crucially: There is no "dislike" button. It's not a thing, and it's not going to be, so don't fall for it.

Zuckerberg made it clear that the company is eschewing the word "dislike" in its quest to make a button that lets people show empathy in circumstances when "like" just isn't appropriate, such when a friend posts bad news.
"Not every moment is a good moment," he said, adding that creating an appropriate option for a pushbutton response is "surprisingly complicated."

Facebook said it could start testing the new button soon, and eventually roll it out to users more widely.


Everyone who has H.I.V. should immediately be put on antiretroviral triple therapy and everyone at risk of becoming infected should be offered protective doses of similar drugs, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday as it issued new H.I.V. treatment and prevention guidelines.

The guidelines increase by nine million the number of people who should get treatment and by untold millions the number who should get protective doses. Previous guidelines recommended them for gay men, prostitutes, people with infected partners and others; the new guidelines effectively bring in millions of women and girls in Africa.

How much that will cost and how it will be paid for are not yet determined.

Advocates around the world welcomed the new guidelines — usually without addressing the cost.


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

Based on Biblical Text: Matthew 6:16 KJV: Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

Many “Old Schoolers” can remember the popular singing group called the Platters. They were the smooth “doo wop” group that recorded the song, “I’m a great pretender.” Interestingly there is a line in the song that says: “I seem to be what I’m not you see.”

I believe that is precisely what Jesus is admonishing the Scribes and Pharisees about in the gospel of Matthew when He says, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.”

Judas pretended that he loved Jesus when he kissed him, but he was betraying him. Amnon wanted his sister Tamar so badly that he pretended to be sick just to lure her into his bedroom so that he could “know” her.

The Bible reminds us that there is no new thing under the sun. That fact implies that just as there has always been pretending it is therefore no doubt that pretending is prevalent in the world today. Lamentably the church is not excluded. There is a lot of pretending among us “church folk”.

We pretend that we are singing but really we are just moving our lips. We pretend to be following along with the invocation when really our eyes are open scanning the sanctuary to see what other folk are doing. We pretend to be meditating when the truth of the matter is our focus is somewhere else. We often times pretend that we are concerned when we are just being nosey or curious. We sometimes pretend that we are being friendly by giving a fake smile. Some of us actually pretend that we are busy so that others won’t ask us to do anything. At home we are oft times guilty of pretending to be asleep so that folk won’t disturb us. There are times when we pretend we don’t see certain people when we don’t want to speak to them. We pretend we are sick in order to avoid work and also to get some neglected attention. Lamentably some folk actually pretend to have to use the bathroom at collection time while others pretend they are putting something into the offering plate with a closed hand.

Many times when we find ourselves in trouble or when someone hurts us badly we pretend that everything is okay. We pretend to be in love when the truth is we are afraid to be forthright. Unfortunately in an attempt to be the first to tell it we pretend to know something and we tell it regardless of whether or not we have facts. Many times we spread the ugly untruth seeming to not really care how hurtful or damaging the rumor might be. Some of us pretend in order to protect.

The truth of the matter is it is a dangerous thing to pretend. Yet some of us are great pretenders, “we seem to be what we are not.” But the time will come when the wall of pretence will crumble, and when that happens we will face humiliation, rejection and isolation. People will no longer believe or trust us.

Sometimes it is a good idea for us to look in a mirror and ask ourselves some tough questions. Am I pretending? Am I pretending when I fellowship? Do I really love the Lord and my church, or am I pretending? There is a song we sing in the church that reminds us, “Yes God is real, real in my soul”. This begs the question, do I really care about others or am I just pretending? Am I moved with compassion or selfishness? Am I a great pretender?

*The Reverend Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr., is the pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina


*The Rev. Oveta Fuller Caldwell, Ph.D

Were you able to see the Total Lunar Eclipse that occurred on Sunday night, September 27, 2015?  The peak of the eclipse-- when the moon was fully in the shadow of the earth-- occurred at 10:11 p.m. EDT in North America. This was visible in Africa sometime in the early hours between midnight and before sunrise of September 28.

The Total Lunar Eclipse of a Super moon occurred last in 1982. It will not happen again until 2033.

Another term used to describe such an event is “blood moon.” This is referred to in the Bible (Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20, Rev. 6:12).  This description is used because the moon actually looks red. This happens as the moon is fully in the shadow of the earth. The atmosphere around the earth refracts only the red hues from sunshine so the red color comes through and is reflected by the moon. Recall that the moon has no light of its own. It only reflects light from the sun. The red color, then, is only a portion of the sunlight that comes around the earth when these three, sun, earth and moon are in a straight line. The earth is between the sun and the moon so that the moon is fully covered by the shadow of the earth.

 It was a sight to behold! Indeed, how wonderful are the heavens and the earth.

The full moon was a Supermoon because the moon in its orbit around the earth as the earth orbits around the sun looked larger than usual. It appeared 14% bigger because it was closest to the earth in an orbit that overall is slightly unequal in distance from the earth. 

I was boarding a late evening flight from Washington, DC and saw the beautiful large full moon hanging elegantly in the sky from my window seat just after take-off.  By the time we landed in Michigan and I had retrieved my luggage to head home, the moon had changed.  By then it looked oddly like three quarters of a moon—all in less than two hours.

My science astute spouse explained that this was the night of a Total Lunar Eclipse. We were fortunate to be able to watch the eclipse proceed in a sky with only a few wisps of clouds swept through the southeastern Michigan sky.

This event also is called a Harvest Moon as it is the full moon closest to the time of the Autumn Equinox.

A Total Lunar Eclipse (Supermoon and blood moon) is the fourth and final event in a tetrad of four full moon eclipses that occur six months apart.  This tetrad started on April 15, 2014. It will begin again on April 25, 2032 such that another Total Lunar Eclipse will happen in October 2033.  Plan to watch?

Time for a Flu Vaccine

We are into autumn 2015.  Soon it will be the “fall back” change in time from daylight savings time to standard time.  We move the clock back one hour. This means that now is the time to get your flu shot for protection from the severity of full-blown influenza in the 2015-16 influenza season.

National Influenza Vaccine Week (NIVW) as designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is in December.  NIVW brings attention to benefits of an influenza vaccine. Make plans now to get your flu shot. I get this vaccine each year.

Why should you get a flu vaccine?

I was in my mid-thirties the one time I remember contracting the real influenza. It was the end of the Christmas holiday break, time to head back to campus for start of winter semester classes. I found myself home, not able to move except from my bed to the sofa and back. Everything hurt-- my head, my back, my muscles, my chest, even seemingly the pores of my skin. My throat hurt. I was miserable. I had heard about the flu, taught about the flu and thought that maybe I had a “touch of the flu” before. But this time was different. I knew this was the classic influenza. It was not stomach flu, or a bad cold or respiratory infection of some sort. It was the real deal influenza.

Classic influenza brings more than a few days of discomfort. It can take more than a week to get moving again and up to a month for the respiratory tract to repair the surface cells and normal defenses that are destroyed by the virus.

CDC states that getting an annual influenza vaccine is the best way to reduce the risk of influenza virus infection or to reduce the severity of disease.

What is the flu vaccine?

The vaccine primes the immune system to quickly recognize the real virus when it is encountered. The vaccine contains killed virus or a weakened form of the virus. A flu vaccine is needed each year because of the unique genetic structure of influenza virus.  Spontaneous mutations in the genetic material of influenza viruses cause proteins on the outside of the virus to constantly change. A defense against this year’s virus may not work against the virus of another year.

A new vaccine is needed each year for protection and ideally protects against the predicted flu strains that will circulate in a given season. The classic vaccine that most people get is a killed virus that cannot reproduce or replicate.  However, it can induce an immune response of the body that will be present and stop infection of or reduce effects of the real virus if it is encountered.

To protect yourself, those you care about and your community, go get a flu shot. Get protected. Ask others if they have received a flu shot. Fewer infected people means less sickness, fewer days loss from work and family time, less circulating virus in the community and lower medical bills for care of people who become seriously ill or have complications. The message in this early autumn season is “time to get your flu shot!” 

For more information about NWIV, the vaccines or influenza, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/nivw/.

And finally…

I am in a season of university teaching and navigating items at the start of a new semester and school term. It is a bit hectic. A few weeks ago, the TCR editor chose to reprint an earlier Getting to Zero column about “Homophobia and Getting to Zero with HIV”.  The content brought up some key questions about how we think about sexuality of people, especially those who are same gender loving. 

Interestingly, in the few last weeks, I find myself in situations again and again where someone who is same gender loving shares this information in passing as part of a conversation. My perception is that each is looking for and perceiving that they are in a safe space to speak, to be themselves. 

I look forward to further addressing this important topic and its relevance to stopping HIV/AIDS in a future column.

Meantime, for your consideration, the most at risk persons in the USA for HIV infection are men who have sex with men or MSMs.  Although heterosexual (straight) men must be diligent in efforts to protect themselves and their communities against spread of HIV/AIDS, there are many African- American males who are same gender loving males as homosexual or bisexual. This is truth.

Thus, we as the Church and its leaders are responsible to be informed and aware. We are charged to provide a safe space for wellness of all. We will talk further on these responsibilities.

Blessing to you in this 2015 autumn season!
*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.


*Brother Bill Dickens

Key Verse:Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.” Acts 8:22


October 4, 2015 is the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. 

A common criticism targeted at overly ambitious individuals goes something like this: Mr. [Ms. Johnson] is a power seeking individual.  The criticism is seldom seen as constructive and more as a character flaw. 

People seek power because once acquired, it is rarely if ever relinquished. Power confers status.  Power commands respect.  Power influences decision-making.  Power can be both beneficial and harmful. 

Bill Gates is a powerful man, but he shares his power by helping to solve hard humanitarian challenges.  Adolph Hitler was a powerful man but his power led to World War II. 

Sunday’s lesson in Acts 8: 9-24 chronicles the life of a religious charlatan named Simon who foolishly looked for power in all the wrong places.  A close encounter with the Apostle Peter opened his eyes to the real and true source of power. 

Let’s listen and learn from Simon’s mistakes and Peter’s firm teaching opportunity about Truth and Consequences.

The Bible Lesson


Chapter 8 of Acts includes three activists: Phillip, Simon and Peter.  Phillip, like Stephen, was an original member of the first seven deacons (Acts 6:5).  Over time he develops into a bold and powerful witness for Jesus.  In Chapter 8 we find Phillip performing great miracles in the city of Samaria.  People possessed of evil spirits are delivered.  The physically handicapped are healed of their sickness (vs. 6-8).  Phillip develops quite a following and many in Samaria are saved by his teachings about Jesus.  His fame spread. 

An admirer named Simon wanted to follow in Phillip’s footsteps.  What began as good intentions took a wrong turn for Simon.

In an attempt to be like his role model Phillip, Simon acquired an affinity for magic (v 11).  He began to perform wonders and desired to be more like Phillip, so he was baptized and became a believer. 


Simon’s motives were not genuine.  His attraction to the Gospel was superficial in that he only wanted to be recognized for the great works he was performing.  He enjoyed the title of Simon the Great (v 10).  Self-aggrandizement and vain glory were his modus operandi. 

When the apostles heard about the great missionary work of Phillip in Samaria, Peter and John were dispatched to the city for further support. 

Simon witnessed how the Spirit of God was received by people thru the laying of hands by Peter and John.  Simon wanted this same power. He offered the apostles money if they could transfer that power to him (vs. 18-19).  Peter is deeply offended at this offer. 

Simon’s quid-pro-quo was the equivalent to spiritual embezzlement.  Peter rebukes Simon and declares him unfit to be a part of their ministry and prays that he repent of this sin (vs. 21-23).  Simon’s vanity allowed him to be corrupted by money.  St. Paul’s admonition remains true; “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” (I Timothy 6:10).

Bible Application

Power is desired by many because it confers influence on the person.  However the source of the influence can be superficial.  An example of this would be eating spinach to obtain great strength. 

Or power seekers can be deceptive. An example would be abusive white privilege leading to unjust economic enrichment. 

Some power seekers believe that the source of power is in money.  This was the erroneous reason used by Simon in our lesson today.  The thought that somehow one can buy spiritual favor was swiftly condemned by Peter. 

The sheer thought that God’s grace could be sold to the highest bidder is utterly reprehensible.  In the 2012 AME Book of Doctrine and Discipline (BODD), the punishable term “simony” is derived from the act by Simon. 

Any bishop or pastor found guilty of this charge will face prosecution according to Church law (2012 BODD, p 257). 

The source of true power is not found in “filthy lucre,” status or social privilege.  The true source of power is not temporal or short-term in nature. 

The source of true power is defined in a personal relationship with Jesus. 

Let’s not be blinded by the tactics of the adversary who wants us to be ignorant about God’s eternal love, care and protection.  Dante’s cynical observations “It is better to reign in Hell than be a servant in Heaven” about the afterlife can be rejected. The source of true power comes from above not below.

*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

I’m writing this week’s meditation as I wind down and rest up from the 152nd Session of the South Carolina Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and after welcoming two new pastors - who received their first pastoral assignments - to the Beaufort District.

I’ll soon be sending them the “Tips for Pastoral Success” that I always send to new pastors and that include two things that my preacher-uncles - I.W. and V.A. Janerette - told me when I entered the ministry.  The first is that you can’t make yourself a “leader” - if you do your work, people will follow you and acknowledge you as their “leader.”  The second is that you’ll know that you’re doing your work in an effective way when people stop referring to you as “THE” pastor and start calling you “MY” pastor.”

Thirty-eight years of pastoral ministry have taught me the wisdom of those words.  Educational attainment and multiple college degrees are desirable things and a prestigious pulpit can be a lucrative professional blessing, but ministerial titles, power and prestigious pulpits aren’t what matter - what we do to change and improve the lives of others is what really matters.

I offer that lesson from pastoral ministry to you in a world that places great emphasis on fame, power and position.  It’s easy - in a world that demands that we come out “on top” - to focus on getting ahead by any means necessary and to sometimes end up let down, frustrated and disappointed when our best doesn’t seem to be good enough and when others seem to do better than we do

We’d do well to “exhale,” count our blessings and realize that any meaningful accomplishment that we achieve is ours not by our goodness, buy by God’s grace and power.  When we go beyond the quest for worldly power and influence and simply serve the Lord - meaning it when we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” God will lead us and guide us to well-being, hope and joy that we can never achieve on our own.

Take the time to step away from life’s demands and let God lead you every day.  You’ll be less stressed, more blessed, more appreciative of life’s simple but significant victories and more aware of why my ancestors in the faith used to sing, “Any way you fix me, Lord, I’ll be satisfied.”

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

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 Third Episcopal District is saddened to announce the passing of Mr. Joseph W. Reid, brother of the Reverend Wesley I. Reid, pastor of Lee Memorial in Cleveland, Ohio and the brother-in-law of Mrs. Kathleen Reid, Connectional Tanner Turner Memorial Chairperson and President Emeritus Third Episcopal District WMS; and the uncle of the Reverend Tameaka Reid Sims.

The funeral service is scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 1:00 p.m.

Bethel AME Church
2000 Walker Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37404

Telephone: (423) 622-1261

Arrangements Entrusted to:

John P. Franklin Funeral Home
1101 Dodd Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37404

Telephone: (423) 622-9995

Condolences may be sent to:

John P. Franklin Funeral Home
1101 Dodd Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37404

Fax: (423) 622-9990


It is with great sadness that we notify you of the passing of the Reverend Dr. Noah Spencer Smith.  The Reverend Smith passed on Thursday, September 17, 2015 at the blessed age of 107 years old.  He was a minister in the Chicago Conference of the Fourth Episcopal District AME Church. He was a former pastor of Saint Mark AME Church in Duluth, Minnesota and Saint James AME Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  As a retired pastor, the Reverend Smith served on the ministerial staff at Wayman AME Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota under the leadership of the Reverend Alphonse Reff, Sr.

Arrangements for the Reverend Dr. Noah Spencer Smith:

Visitation: Wednesday, October 30, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.

The Homegoing Celebration: 11:00 a.m.

Wayman AME Church
1221 Seventh Avenue North
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Telephone (612) 374-4711

The Reverend Dr. Alphonse Reff, Sr., Presiding Elder will deliver the eulogy.

There will be live streaming of the Homegoing Celebration of the Life of Rev. Smith tomorrow, Wednesday, September 30, 2015 from Wayman AME Church at 11:00 a.m. You may access this stream at http://www.sundaystreams.com/go/WaymanAMEChurchMN.

Cards, flowers and other expressions of sympathy may be sent to his wife:

Dr. Hallie Hendrieth-Smith,
3100 Manor Drive
Golden Valley, MN 55422

Telephone: (763) 529-9088

Arrangements are entrusted to:

Estes Funeral Home
2210 Plymouth Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411


It is with sadness that we announce the death of Mr. Ralph Robertson, brother of the Rev. Mary White and the Rev. J. W. Robertson.  The Rev. Mary White is a Local Elder at Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky. 

Visitation for Mr. Robertson will be Friday, October 2, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at the Smith and Smith Funeral Home in Lexington with services at 1:00 p.m. 

Expressions of sympathy may be sent to:

The Rev. Mary White
C/O Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church
744 Charles Avenue
Lexington, KY 40508

Telephone: (859)252-4058 phone
Fax: (859)231-5414 fax


Smith and Smith Funeral Home
340 East 3rd Street
Lexington, KY 40508

Telephone: (859) 255-6273


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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