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

-- Ascension Day - Thursday, May 5, 2016
-- Pentecost - Sunday, May 15, 2016
The 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference, July 6-13, 2016

-- Massacre of Emanuel 9, June 17


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

A friend commented to me about my editorial, entitled, “Too Many Distractions – Can’t We All Just Get Along for the Work of the Gospel.”  His take on the editorial was that I am blaming parishioners and members for many of the failures in local churches.

He explained that he had another take on the subject and believed there was enough blame to go around as it related to the shortcomings in many local churches. He wanted me to understand that the issue is much deeper than the absence of millennials and “nones,” those who professed no religious or denominational preferences. He was also adamant that the problem is bigger than the parishioners and members.

I was curious and anxious to hear his take on what contributed to local churches being “less than great” and in some cases failing to fulfill the Mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the failure to make a significant impact upon the spiritual and everyday lives of the members of the local church and definitely little or no impact upon the local community.  He was vocal and I could tell that he had strong feelings about my “hit” on the failures of local church members.

He reiterated that there was enough blame to go around.  He “reminded” me that I had been in the military and he said he knew that I was aware of the responsibility of leaders.  In the military and in corporate America, and probably around the world, “leaders are responsible for the successes or failures of the organization.”  He went on to say, the failures of a local church cannot be blamed on the members; the bulk of the blame falls on the shoulders of the pastor; and maybe on the presiding elder who fails to provide supervision and resources; and the bishop who may have made a flawed pastoral appointment. 

I shook my head in agreement and tended to agree with my friend, but I interjected that I have been told and have observed situations where the church members just won’t cooperate with the pastor. 

My friend had a “gotcha moment,” I could see it in his eyes. He said, “As in secular institutions, failure is a leadership issue!  When companies or a military unit fails, they don’t fire the customers or the clients, and in the military, they don’t fire the soldiers; they fire or terminate the leader!”

He had me speechless because I knew he was right. He continued, “I think pastors need to be held more strictly responsible when the local church is not functioning at a successful level of competency. It’s the pastor’s responsibility to motivate parishioners, fulfill the duties of the pastoral ministry and the administrative ministry, positively impact the spiritual lives of parishioners and insure the local church makes a positive impact in the community.”

My friend was on a roll!  He went on to say, leadership and supervision starts at the top with the bishops, presiding elders and pastors. If, at any level, the responsibility of leadership is abdicated, failure or ineffectiveness will most certainly be the result.

I couldn’t stop my friend and he continued, “I have observed some pastors who are not pastoring in the present, they are anxiously positioning themselves for the next bigger and better pastoral appointment or an appointment to be a presiding elder; or maybe to be a bishop or general officer. I have seen pastors make obviously flawed recommendations and nominations for the local church leadership. Everything they do is geared to make them look good and competent.  Their recommendations and appointments are not necessarily made for organizational success, but to minimize conflict and to give the appearance that everything is working well.”

I was getting ready to interject a point, but he raised a question. “Have you ever noticed that some of the officers in our churches don’t seem excited about being stewards and trustees?” Sometimes pastors have to beg them to serve. And, sometimes the same people serve year after year and the church becomes stagnant because no new ideas or fresh initiatives are incorporated into the ministry of the local church. The “same-o, same-o” and the same lukewarm results and the few members get used to a lukewarm and stale local church religious program and mediocrity becomes the accepted norm.

I was getting ready to mention a point that I have made on numerous occasions and it was the observation that in black Baptist churches, deacons seem to take their responsibilities seriously and are so proud to be ordained and called, “Deacon so and so…”  My friend quickly agreed and said, in the Baptist churches I am familiar with, the pastor takes seriously the ordaining of those to be ordained Baptist deacons.

[A quick thought crossed my mind. Baptist and COGIC preachers are not ordained unless they have an assigned pastoral ministry.  It seems that we AMEs are ordaining folks at our annual conferences that we know we don’t have churches or a pastoral appointment. But, I will hold that for another editorial.] 

He went on say, “Many AME pastors nominate, recommend, and appoint people who are unwilling and sometimes incompetent. When was the last time you saw or heard about trustee training within sixty days after their election and prior to the Quarterly Conference as required in The Doctrine and Discipline? Tell me, per The Doctrine and Discipline, in the church you attend, who has the pastor appointed as the instructor of the trustees? When was the last time, if ever, have you known a steward board to conduct a survey of the membership in the third quarter of the conference year? When have you seen evidence that steward boards of a local church sent Certified Membership Rolls to the General Church Secretary?”

I was getting the sense that he was satisfied that he had made his point that the parishioners and membership were not fully responsible for local church ineffectiveness, but that the church officers and especially pastors, in a larger sense, were ultimately responsible.

I had a point to make.  Pastors are ultimately responsible because they appoint, nominate, and recommend persons for leadership responsibilities. In most cases, pastors have the final word.  Pastors need to be smart enough to choose, recommend, and appoint competent people; and to take the time to train them.

Now, I was on a roll.  Persons who accept leadership roles in the local church should have the spiritual, moral and ethical responsibilities to take their positions seriously. The church is in spiritual warfare, and in that sense we are all soldiers. 

Church work is not a popularity contest. The church is not without conflict.  Wherever you have people, there will be conflict. Marriages, workplaces, schools, military units and organizations all have conflict, but healthy organizations and relationships effectively deal with conflict.

It’s true; pastors need to have a discerning spirit to recognize spiritual maturity and competency.  But it is also true that church officers are adults and they should have a yearning, competency and motivation to be their best when it comes to God’s work.

A pastoral objective should be to set up a high-performing organization that requires minimum oversight and minimum supervision.  Leadership positions should be filled with spiritually, highly competent, well-trained individuals. If those persons are not already in the church, the pastor and local leaders need to evangelize and recruit leaders to the local church. That’s a pastoral responsibility. 

Some things in life happen, but leadership doesn’t just happen.

And, sometimes as it relates to pastoral discernment, in many churches, spiritually competent leaders are already sitting in the pews, but they are ignored because they don’t belong to the “in-group” or they are not the “pastor’s pet.”  

Bishops and presiding elders also bear some responsibility for what happens in local churches.  Bishops make pastoral appointments and presiding elders are tasked with being managers, but pastors, presiding elders and bishops will be addressed in the next couple of editorials.

My friend and I ended in agreement that the inefficiencies, incompetence and failures in the local church does not just fall on the shoulders of the parishioners, but failure to move a local church from “good to great” also falls on the shoulders of local church officers.

When we ended, I had time to think about our conversation and again, I wonder if too many local church leaders are “playing church.”

Some other distractions came to mind, which I have labeled, “The Sins of a Local Church Leader.”

Here are a few that pastors and local churches have to deal with in ministry.

1) A local church leader, i.e., steward, trustee, president of local church organizations, who thinks that his or her way is the only alternative for accomplishing the ministry of the local church and who has little, or no respect for pastoral authority.

2) A local church leader who does not read the Bible and who does not have a disciplined prayer life and/or fails to attend Bible Study or Sunday School. A person who serves as a leader in the local church should, at a minimum, attend Bible Study or Sunday School.

3)  A church leader who fails to regularly attend Sunday worship services and other special church programs.

4)  A local church leader who accepts the position, but not the responsibilities of the office and who fails to function in his or her appointed or elected position. As an example, The Doctrine and Discipline states that a steward must be “…of solid piety, know and love the Word of God, the African Methodist Episcopal Church doctrine and The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.”   Of trustees, The Discipline says, “A trustee shall manage all the temporal concerns of the church…” and take care of and improve the property, i.e., if a light bulb burns out, a trustee should see that it’s replaced.

5)  A local church leader who doesn’t own or has not read or studied the current issue of The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The current issue is the 2012 edition, which will soon be replaced by the 2016 edition.  At the close of the 2016 General Conference, a new Doctrine and Discipline will be printed and pastors, local church leaders, and laity will need to purchase The 2016 edition

6)  A local church leader who fails to read AME Church periodicals and who fails to keep abreast of current events in the AME Church. A local church leader who doesn’t understand the AME Church is a “less-effective” or “non-effective” church leader.

7)  A local church leader who does not tithe and/or does not financially support the spiritual and temporal mission of the church.

8) A fearful local church leader without backbone, who sees problems, but fails to address the needed changes to rectify problems in the local church, e.g., a steward who senses that a pastor is making inappropriate or destructive decisions, but doesn’t have the courage to speak to the pastor; or trustees who are too lazy to change a light bulb or see to it that the grass is mowed or that trash is picked up around the church. 

9) A local church leader who has little or no sense of the spiritual mission of the church and does not understand or particularly like the AME Church, AME liturgy and tradition.

10)  A local church leader who is a, “yes man” or a “yes woman” and who is afraid to provide counsel and honest feedback to the pastor.  He or she sees the local church failing; but he or she is too cowardly to appropriately address the issues.  There is an appropriate way to address issues, and there is an inappropriate way to address issues.

11)  A local church leader who fails to encourage the pastor and who neglects the pastor and his or her family. A great local church leader encourages the pastoral leadership. For instance, local church leaders should take responsibility and ownership for the care of the pastor’s spiritual and physical well-being.  Local church leaders should insist that the pastor take regularly scheduled annual/semi annual physical examinations and regularly scheduled dental appointments.  Church officers should encourage their pastors to take vacations and insist that their pastors take time for relaxation, and spend time with their families. A healthy, well-rested pastor is a more effective pastor.

12) A mean-spirited local church officer, a preacher-fighter who fights every pastor and every program.


*The Reverend Willard Machiwenyika (P.E.) 

The African Methodist Episcopal Church is a global church, with very good and proper administration systems. What worries me much is what is called or referred as the developing episcopal districts. I always asked my self the following questions: How shall we develop and for how long shall we remain developing?

A more efficient system of episcopal oversight is needed in Episcopal Districts 14 – 20 and especially on the continent of Africa.  We need to star somewhere.  Here is a recommended strategy.

The Bishops appointed to serve the oversees districts (14-20) and in many cases they are expected to serve more than one country, with provinces and districts in which the cultures ,values, norms and even languages vary from each other.  My own episcopal district is comprised of more than five (5) countries and the five countries have more than 10 provinces with some districts, which also differ in languages, values, norms, cultures, economic backgrounds and even traditions.

The AME Church is a global organization with many languages, cultures, and customs. If the church is to grow, we must find ways to accommodate the various cultures and customs. The AME Church cannot and must not “mirror” colonialism. 

Here is one suggested model

The Presiding Bishop appointed by the General Conference to the overseas districts (14-20, would be referred to as “Bishop President.” The Bishop President oversees the episcopal district.  Another layer would be added to the episcopal district with what I would refer to as “Local Bishops,” (Whatever they are called, e.g., jurisdictional bishops, assistant bishops, etc.) who are either elected or appointed by the “Bishop President.”

The “local bishops” should not be elected for life and that they are not transferred from one province to the other or from one region to the other, for they would be called “Local Bishops.” They should be appointed or elected (the details would need to be worked out). The local bishops must work “hand with glove” with the assigned Presiding Prelate assigned by the General Conference.

The elected, consecrated and appointed presiding bishop would be the president of the “local bishops.” A “local bishops would supervise the presiding elders in accordance to the cultures, values, norms, languages and even economic developments of a given region or province so that the church may not contradict the societal values.

Such a system would make for a more efficient system and make it easier for the assigned “Bishop President to manage the episcopal district. The assigned bishop (Bishop President) would meet only once with the “local bishops” to assess the development of the episcopal district, rather than the Bishop President travelling from one country to another and within the same country from conference to conference meeting people with different languages, cultures, customs, traditions and difference economic backgrounds.

I think with this type of a structure in place the church will develop and grow from the grassroots up to the connectional as compared to what it is now especially in the developing  episcopal districts

"Ebenezer" - This is where the Lord have taken me.

I love African Methodist Episcopal Church

*The Rev. Machiwenhyika is the Presiding Elder of the Muare Presiding Elder District of the North East Zimbabwe Annual Conference of the 20th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.


-- To the Editor:

RE:  Response to TCR Op-Ed: "Where Are We Going/What Does That Mean
The words of the Rev. Willard Machiwenyika so resonated with me and many others, I am sure.

I applaud this Presiding Elder of the Muare District of the North East Zimbabwe Annual Conference of the 20th Episcopal District. It takes a lot of courage to admit to the failures of the leadership of our beloved Zion, but it must be done if we are to remain Christian disciples. Jesus called out the hypocrites of his day (church folk) who washed their outsides, but inside were full of extortion and self-indulgence--beautiful on the outside, but inside were full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. The leaders were called blind guides because they did things like strain their water so they wouldn't accidentally swallow a gnat, but then swallowed a camel! That reminds me of those who preach the Word, but never heed that Word. Woe unto them, but woe unto us who can read the word and understand for ourselves. Woe unto us who have equal access to the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit and we stand idly by and do nothing--we continue with business as usual without so much as the acknowledgement that we are being led astray.
Thank you, Rev. Machiwenyika, for your comparison/contrast of the missionary and the mercenary. Certainly the “Great Commission” calls for missionaries. Furthermore, all of us would do well to give study to the warnings of the unacceptable fast of Isaiah 58 and the cursed giving of Malachi, as well as the foot washing of our Creator in the Gospel of John, Chapter 13. Romans 3:23 records, "We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

Let's repent and get back to work--on the Lord's side, because ultimately pointing fingers does not help.
Someone once said that it did no good to straighten up the chairs on the Titanic because that ship was going down. Forget the chairs of our Zion: let's seize hold of the Lifeline, Jesus the Christ!

The Rev. Janice Casey

-- Letter to the Editor:

RE: Too Many Distractions – Can’t We All Just Get Along for the Work of the Gospel

The laity bears some of the blame, not all.

Many pastors are functioning to get the NEXT, BETTER appointment and every move they make is calculated to serve their selfish interest for a better appointment and not to serve the community where they are currently appointed. Pastors also placate ineffective, insincere, and incompetent church officers and "leaders" because they have the "deep pockets" and carry weight with the presiding elder or bishop. Pastors are afraid to challenge these so-called leaders and allow them to make poor decisions which do not serve the best interests of the church.  In the best of circumstances, however, I have seen good pastors worn down by mean-spirited congregations.  As a parishioner, I say failure primarily vests with the leaders in the membership because they hold the "Sword of Damocles" over the pastors' heads... "appointments"/ appeals to the bishop.  pastors live to survive another year for a renewed appointment or a better appointment...

If pastors could be assured that they would have the support of their presiding elder and bishop, perhaps they would demonstrate stronger leadership.

Name Withheld


-- Baltimore clergy on riots: 'It was our rites of passage'

"It was our rites of passage," said Bryant, with Empowerment Temple AME Church. "(It was) a defining moment where we became connected to the ...

-- 150-year-old Allen Chapel church somehow loses address

Somehow, a new condo development was assigned the church's address – and the church wants it back.

All the mail that comes to the Allen Chapel AME Church is addressed to 629 E. 11th Street. But now that same address is assigned to the Park 10 condominiums being developed by Milhaus Construction.

-- Oldest African-American church in Indiana capital sold to hotel developer after failing to collect...

The front and western side of Bethel A.M.E. Church, located at 414 W. Vermont Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Built in 1869, it is listed on the ...


*Dr. Cora H. Reed

The Men of Allen of St. Paul AME Church of Jacksonville, Florida have embraced young men associated with the nationally recognized 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project. This initiative assists at- risk minority boys. Members of The Men of Allen serve as Mentors. On Sunday, April 24, 2016, Joseph Coppock, local president, presented dress shirts and red ties for Mentees that were donated by St. Paul disciples. Participants wear long sleeved dress shirts and red ties when making group appearances. Representative Tony Hill and Larry Roziers, administrator with the Duval County School System, gave accolades to the Sons of Allen for serving as Mentees and connecting with our black youth. He further stated that the young men went to the Capital in Tallahassee and were elevated from, "suspect to prospect." He further reported that their program is about bringing HOPE. The oldest Mentor, Dr. Sollie Mitchell is 97 years old.

As Reverend Dr. Marvin C. Zanders, Il Pastor of St. Paul introduced the preacher of the hour, Rev. Henry E. Green, Jr., Pastor of Mt. Herman AME Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He remarked that it was so appropriate to have Reverend Green as speaker because he served as the First Connectional President of the Sons of Allen of the AME Church.

Dr. Green's selected text was recorded in 1 Samuel 30: 1- 8. His sermon topic was “I Want My Stuff Back." 

God's anointed conduit delivered a powerful message. He stated emphatically, that we can take back everything that the devil has taken from us: our children, grandchildren, marriages, joy, wealth, and character.  He assured us there are always reasons to praise God. He further declared that we should praise God because He awakened us this morning, with the activity and use of our limbs and clothed in our right minds. When we are working for God, it is important to stay prayed up. David, a man after God's own heart stole away and talked to God for himself, when his family and wealth had been taken by the enemy, while he and the soldiers were away.  God assured David that he should, "Go and take his stuff back." 

We too must talk to God for ourselves and take back all that the devil has taken from us. Dr. Green's message was so compelling and clear that two visitors accepted Christ as their Savior. It is important to note that one of the persons who accepted Christ was a male youth.

*Dr. Cora H. Reed is the Public Relations Chairperson at St. Paul AME Church in Jacksonville, Florida


Trinity AME Church, located in Waukegan, IL, is one of 20 churches in the Milwaukee District/Chicago Conference/4th Episcopal.  The Reverend Walter Bauldrick is the Presiding Elder and our bishop is the Right Reverend John R. Bryant, who is the Senior Bishop of the AME Church.

Trinity AME regularly participates in the AME Connectional Church and this year we adopted the local theme, "Prayer Is What We Do! “

There were many planned activities throughout the day and our nearly 14-hour day of prayer began with a 6:30 a.m. Morning Glory prayer conference call facilitated by Trinity AME’s pastor, the Reverend Janice Brazil Cummings. The meditation and prayer theme was "I Am Thine O Lord."   Trinitarians also participated in a second conference call with the Connectional Prayer and despite the initial technology challenges, we were very grateful to share the this wonderful experience with other AMEs.

For the day’s activities, we specially decorated the sanctuary, using a throne room motif; it was also utilized as a place to simply come and pray. Chairpersons Sisters Renee Jones and Ella Williams arranged activities that for all members, including our youth, young adults and adult male members. 

Additional activities included:

“With Our Hands Lifted Up”- Prayer in the Church Sanctuary led by Pastor Jan and the Reverend LaWanda Pope; a workshop on Transforming Your Prayer Life (participants were treated to lunch); a nursing home visit/ministry to church members by Evangelist Sylvarita Bell; “Somebody Prayed for Me” Neighborhood Walk led by Sister Renee Jones; a Young Adults Prayer Time on Face book led by Sister Rochelle Shipley; a Men of Trinity Outreach Prayer Time led by Brothers Ali Cobb and Don Quinn and a S.W.A.G. Prayer time for the youth led by the Reverend LaWanda Pope.  

Sister Gaylis Shakir also conducted an Intercessory Prayer and Devotion Session. It began with the singing of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” followed by prayer, Scripture: John 17 (verses where Jesus prayed for the disciples and for the believers). Then she lifted the names before God of everyone who had submitted a prayer request.  The circumstances surrounding the requests for prayers were lifted confidentially, while participants first prayed quietly individually and then aloud in a prayer circle.

The entire day was spirit-filled, with much prayer and high praise, and it was obvious that The Day of Prayer event planners were intentional about structuring activities to pray for the Church membership, our own families and our community.  

Trinity AME is the oldest African-American church in Lake County, Illinois and is located on the north shore of Chicago. Nearly 4 years ago, the Rev. Janice Brazil Cummings was appointed by Bishop Bryant to lead this historical church to greater heights.  Through the power of persistent and fervent prayer by the saints, we are enjoying new and fresh spiritual winds, and lives are being transformed.  The church is quickly becoming an Intergenerational Church and one where neighborhood residents are finding shelter, in God’s house, from life’s storms.

Submitted by the Reverend Janice Brazil Cummings, Pastor


The Rev. Tarachel Benjamin Goodman
The Reverend Dr. Saundra Bullock-Hunter saw a need for local women to be honored for their work and proceeded to do something about it. On March 12, 2016, Pastor Bullock-Hunter and the members of Poplar Springs AME Church in North Carolina honored 7 inspirational women for their efforts in the Sanford community. The Rev. Dr. Bullock-Hunter and the members of Poplar Springs AME Church hosted an awards banquet to recognize their service to the community and honored persons to include the former mayor of Sanford, North Carolina and a Moore County justice department paralegal.

In the midst of Women’s History Month, the Women of Distinction banquet, allowed the community to further celebrate the accomplishments of women in their local community.  As Reverend Dr. Saundra Bullock-Hunter said, “The glue that holds a house together is a woman. The glue that holds a community together will be women because we work hard. We think beyond the normalcy.”

This banquet signified the first of many future banquets that will honor the many women that help hold the Sanford community together.


*The Rev. Darryl R. Williams

Jesus intended for the Gospel to go global. That’s exactly what Jesus had in mind when he stated, “And you shall receive power, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The power wasn’t to be given to “get your praise on” (and yes, God is worthy of our praise”), it was given so that we may be his witnesses all over the world.

St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church in Milwaukee, WI clearly understands the missional nature of the church. Recently, we collected 5000 toothbrushes for some of the most impoverished places in each of our overseas districts and 3000 bottles of water for Flint, MI. The Gospel, our pastor, the Rev. Darryl R. Williams states is “best expressed in our scattering and not our gathering. The nature of the church is missional, and that is best expressed in deed, and not solely by Word. I believe one of the major tasks of every pastor is to discern what God is already doing, and then rally the people of faith to participate in it.”

I think we forget that Jesus had a mission. That mission was to share the Good News with the entire world. The calling of the disciples was for the fulfillment of that mission. At St. Mark, we understand that we are the fulfillment of that mission. We don’t have programs to make it appear we are missional, but through daily interaction with the Word of God, we become the living embodiment of that mission.

Finally, the “Ekklesia”, the Body of Christ is corporate in nature, though it has various expressions in the form of local congregations, the entire Body had been called to the mission of being witnesses to the world. Knowing that, under the leadership of our pastor we pulled together the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Top Ladies of Distinction and various local churches.

We are thankful for a pastor who challenges us to “go and be”, and not one who wants people to “come and see”. He is a servant and teacher for us as well as for the entire city.
A Religion that Counts

Take away from me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear them, but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:23-24).

In the formative years of Israel’s history it was not uncommon for the people of the religious community to hear readings from the torah such as:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with your soul and with your strength. These commandments I give unto you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you lie down and when you get up (Deut 6:6-8).

This scripture and those similar to it were meant to give the nation instruction and by doing so, give them an identity and a purpose. As long as they stayed faithful as a people of the covenant, they could always expect to hear readings that affirmed them as a nation. However, even a casual reader of the scriptures knows that they did not stay faithful, they did chase after the other gods.

You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your        god-which you made for yourselves (Amos 5:26).

My brothers and sisters it is very difficult to reconcile the dearth of prophetic preaching in twenty-first century America considering the many instances that makes it clear that America needs a moral compass.

It bothered me to see African American preachers supporting political candidates who disrespect the people they purportedly serve; it bothers me to see what Michelle Alexander calls the new Jim Crow - the mass incarceration of African American men for offenses a white person would get little or no prison time; it bothers me to see our urban streets turned into war-zones because there are too many guns and too few jobs; it bothers me to see the miseducation of our children because our schools are overcrowded and under-resourced. But, what bothers me most is Christianity’s deafening silence!

I am proud to be an AME because when there were voices heard across the land amidst the injustices done against humanity, more than often they were AME voices.  All too often, some of our other brothers or sisters in broader faith communities have been guilty of simply showing up for worship. Too often in the faith community the focus is on our needs rather than the needs of the people outside our doors of the sanctuary.

This was the sin of the nation of Israel that gave rise to Amos pronouncement. They were good at worship, but their worship was for their needs; they forgot about the larger community – the poor, the widows and the orphans. So their worship meant nothing to God. This is not an indictment against worship and praise, but against a religious culture that allows us to ignore the suffering around us.

Israel became so preoccupied with the Jewish religious system until they lost their social consciousness. That is indicative in our text. I believe God is calling us back. God is calling us to reconnect with our roots as a liberating and reconciling people; reconnect to the truth that one cannot be authentic in their relationship with God without helping those that are the least of these:

Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you? Then the king will reply, ‘I tell you to truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did it for me.’”

*The Rev. Darryl R. Williams is the pastor of St. Mark A.M.E. Church in Milwaukee, WI


*Linda Butler

On Sunday March 13, 2016, Embry African Methodist Episcopal Church in College Park (Lakeland), Maryland celebrated its 35th Annual Embry Day.

In 1981, then Pastor Dessie Carter presented an alternative idea to Women’s Day and Men’s Day.  He suggested that the women and men unite to support one annual program instead of the competition we had for a small church. 

The thought was that we could exceed the goals of the two separate programs by putting all our efforts into one day and giving a small portion of what the Lord gives us.  The second Sunday in March of each year is designated as Embry Day.  The success of Embry Day depends on the commitment of the Embry Family.  We’ve met our commitments through prayer, faith, and sacrifice.

For our 35th year celebrated, we were honored to have the Rev. Dr. Marie Philips Braxton, wife of Presiding Elder Ronald Eugene Braxton of the Potomac District as our preacher.

Dr. Braxton took her text from Hebrews 16:19-20.  Three questions were asked:  “What memories do you have from Embry Day of last Year? What spiritual awakening did you experience from Embry Day long ago?  And, what do you want Jesus to do for you?”

It’s one thing to hear about Jesus, but it’s another thing to know Jesus for yourself.  In order for a spiritual awakening to occur in our lives, we must be intentional in our request and know that everyone’s spiritual awakening is not the same.

Embry Day has continued under the leadership of our current pastor, Rev. Dr. Edna C. Jenkins who has been at Embry since 2004.
As we unite in worship on each Embry Day, we loudly proclaim “This is the day that the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it” 

God is our leader and we are prayerful that Embry African Methodist Episcopal Church will continue to celebrate Embry Days and rejoice in the Lord for years to come.

*Linda Butler is a member of commission on Public Relations and Class Leader at Embry AME Church


BALTIMORE, MD – The NAACP today released the following statement on the one year anniversary of Baltimore unrest:

“One year ago today, the NAACP and the nation watched in shock as police in riot gear confronted a mob of teenagers on the streets of Baltimore, sparking a series of fires and acts of violence that caused more than 200 arrests and resulted in millions in damage to property in one day. It was hard to witness, as the streets of the city that is home to our national headquarters became engulfed in chaos. 

“The unrest of Baltimore on April 27, 2015 shocked many people, in Baltimore city and across the country, into confronting the history of segregation, racism, and indifference of the past, and its role in mass unemployment, crime, poverty and neglect that remain today.

“As has happened in Ferguson, in Chicago, in Minneapolis, Charleston and in hundreds of other towns and cities across the United States, the death of Freddie Gray has also sparked a birth of new civic advocacy in its wake and spurred a new dialogue on the state of racism in our nation.

That day of violence last year has quickly shifted to meaningful and nonviolent actions that turned the conversation to the future. Last night, more than 123,000 residents of Baltimore city turned out to elect new candidates for mayor and city council running on platforms of change and new opportunity. Thousands of people have joined together in efforts to rebuild and work to create a safer, healthier and more inclusive city.
“Under new leadership, the city police are working with the U.S. Department of Justice to implement long-overdue reforms to police tactics, training and policy, and reestablishing strained relations and trust within communities across Baltimore. 

“The problems of poverty, crime, unemployment and neglect remain significant in Baltimore city and across this country. As we pause today to reflect on the life and death of Freddie Gray and the future of Baltimore and our nation, we hope that more people draw from the lessons of a year ago, confront the mistakes of past policies and work to resolve the inequities caused by racial and geographic separation.”


*The Reverend Dr. Charles R. Watkins

Based on Biblical Texts: Numbers 21:8: And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

John 3:14: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up

I guess the first thing we need to consider is what it is like to be bitten by a snake. Many of us have not had that unfortunate experience. However, those that have tell us that it is a painful experience. I am told that even if the snake is not poisonous, his teeth are so full of bacteria that we are certain to get sick from the bite.

The truth of the matter is many of us don’t even consider the dangers of snakebite until it happens. Think about it, we often work in dangerous territory without a weapon for defense. It is not until the snake bites that we are concerned about a cure. At that point we are frantic!

The text occurs during a time when Moses dealt with snakes while trying to find safe passage from the Red Sea to the Promised Land. The journey was so tough that folk started complaining. Mind you, these were the same people who a short time ago had witnessed God parting the Red Sea to save them from Pharaoh’s army. The same people, I might add, who had been in bondage for over 400 years before being set free.

The people got tired and began complaining. The Lord, tired of their mumbling and complaining, sent fiery poisonous serpents into their camp to bite them. They did not have an antidote or cure for snakebite so many died. Moses petitioned God for mercy and He gave him the cure. “And the Lord said unto Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” It proved to be the perfect cure as those who looked at the fiery serpent on a stick did not die.

This writing speaks to those who have been so dissatisfied with their situation that they have become a complainer. Warning, complaining is, for the most part, futile. The truth of the matter is that eighty percent of the people we complain to don’t care about our situation anyway, and the other twenty percent feel that somehow we deserve what is happening to us! 

Complaining can be dangerous, but complaining to God can be fatal. Do we dare complain to the One who provides the very air that we breathe, or the water that we drink? Imagine for a moment what would happen if God withdrew His divine protection from us and left us to the consequences of our own vices. Yes, we shudder to think of the consequences yet, we bite the hand that feeds us. We complain that we are not getting enough, and then we wonder why we suffer so many snake bites.

Please understand that Satan is a snake, and he bites. When God lifts His divine protection from us, Satan bites. Job is a great example. When God lifted the hedge of protection from around him Satan bit, but when God put the hedge back, God blessed. This lesson clearly warns that the Snake, Satan, is a formidable enemy. His venom is powerful and poisonous. And if we are not careful, he will bite us when we are not paying attention.

Complaining to God is dangerous, because He has the power to lift His protection from us. Satan is a formidable enemy, and not to be played with. We should learn from this text that it is wise to carry our snakebite cure with us.

The truth of the matter is we fool around with Satan as if he has no teeth. Some of us seem to be daring Satan to bite us. Warning, Satan does have teeth! If Satan gets his teeth into us it would behoove us to have our cure close at hand. Some may be asking, what is that cure? Well, for Moses and the Israelites, it was the image of a fiery serpent on a stick. However, for those of us who know the Lord in the pardon of our sins, we have Jesus and the cross, high and lifted up. We may have been bitten, but thank God we are still living, because Jesus is our cure for all of Satan’s snakebites.

The Word of God says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” We do not have to fear because we have the cure for whatever Satan threatens to bring our way. And that cure is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”

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


*Dr. Oveta Fuller and Payne Theological Seminary student co-authors

*The Rev. Dr. Fuller is currently on Sabbatical leave from the University of Michigan and will submit her column as her schedule permits. 


*Brother Bill Dickens

Key Verse: "And the disciples asked Him, increase our faith!" (17:5)


During economic recessions, business, labor and government officials seek prudent steps to address a wide-range of shortages.  Business leaders bemoan a shortage of customers to buy their products.  Labor officials cite a chronic shortage of jobs and government leaders worry over a shortage of tax revenue necessary to fund key social services.  A shortage suggests hardships are right around the corner.  Economic hardships can be corrected if society can somehow experience an increase in consumer spending, an expansion in jobs and an augmentation in bank credit and financing critical to support a growing economy.  An increase in these components restores consumer confidence and promotes stable, productive lifestyles. 

The Adult AME Church School lesson for May 1, 2016 examines the issue about “increase” applied to our faith-walk.   When we experience a shortage of faith we essentially become spiritual underachievers.  When the faith gas tank is approaching “E” we need to get a fill-up. 

Where can we go for a fill up?  Glad you asked.  The answer is below.

Bible Lesson - Faith and Honor

Our lesson communicates two key attributes about faith.  Faith brings honor and faith cultivates duty.  In verses 1 – 4, we see the first attribute, honor. 

Jesus opines that choices carry important consequences.  If anyone knowingly offended innocent little children the alternative of being choked with a millstone around his/her neck is better than facing a righteous God ready to dispense judgment.  This is stern warning to child molesters and serial abusers.  Such reprehensible behavior will be matched with proportionate punishment.  The conversation continues about heinous acts that are committed by perpetrators.  When should we forgive the offender and how long is the forgiveness period?  Jesus makes clear there is no strict numerical number for forgiveness.  If the offender repents of his misdeed(s) we are instructed to forgive.  Symbolically, if this occurs seven times we forgive the person seven times seven or as often as the act merits forgiveness.  The dishonorable response would be to limit forgiveness. The honorable response is to focus on forgiving independent of some cut-off period.

Faith and Duty

Given the honor of forgiving the disciples are in need of an infusion of faith to forgive.  They want their faith increased (v 5).  Jesus replies by offering two teaching examples. 

In the first example, Jesus cites the seed of a mustard tree.  Though small in appearance the seed can grow to a large tree.  Our faith can grow like the mustard seed.  In the second example Jesus conveys the compelling idea that faith is linked with duty.  When we are called upon to perform certain tasks, the expectation is that we will complete the task with efficiency and accuracy.  No extra applause or commendation is needed because this is what we are expected to do (v 9-10).  Faith cultivates duty.  Our duty is to do the right thing always without fanfare or special recognition.

Bible Application

The story of Jabez (I Chronicles 4:9-10) represents a person seeking specific divine favor. 

The author of Chronicles offers a brief biographical snapshot of Jabez noting that he was more honorable among his siblings and that his mother endured much pain during his birth.  Jabez asks Jehovah God to bless him, enlarge (increase) his territory and provide a hand of protection to avoid hurt and harm.  His appeal was heard by Jehovah God and his request was granted.  Jabez’s story is instructive because it demonstrates why faith is important in seeking Divine favor. 

We are quick to prepare a “wish list” but all too often we lack the essential quality of faith to translate the wish-list into concrete reality.   Our deficiency in faith prevents us from reaching our spiritual potential.  This deficiency can be overcome if we reset our priorities and redefine our focus.  A request for an increase in faith is an acknowledgement that we can be better witnesses for Christ. Just like shortages will slow down market economies a faith shortage will slow down a believer’s relationship with Jesus.  If you want to experience the fullness of life, it requires rejecting the status quo level of faith and seeks an increase in faith.  The best part of a faith increase is the economic cost is zero. QED

*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 have almost zero skills when it comes to actually doing building maintenance and repair, but 35 years of pastoral ministry taught me some basic lessons.  I learned a valuable lesson at one of my early pastoral assignments, when an enthusiastic member offered to repaint the church interior.  The immediate results were beautiful, but the job had to be done again within a year when the paint began to crack, bubble up and peel off.

I learned, when we brought a professional in to fix things, that you don’t just paint a wall. You first have to do some cleaning, scraping, patching of holes and sanding of rough spots before applying a coat of primer so that the new paint will properly adhere to the wall.  That preparatory work takes a little extra time and effort, but it’s worth it because new paint that’s simply applied over old paint may look good initially but doesn’t last.

That lesson in good building maintenance also applies to our daily lives. The simple process of living in this world - and making inevitable mistakes and bad choices along the way - leaves all of our lives scarred by imperfections, rough spots and old faults and failings that accumulate with the passage of time.

It’s easy for the best of us to choose the easiest and quickest way to fix those things on our own - to cover them up with our prosperity, our education, our friends, our “creature comforts” and possessions and even with our piety - without letting the Lord step in, repair us and change our lives.  Our doing so may make us look good on the outside, but can leave us with unresolved heartaches, headaches and problems on the inside that often come to the surface sooner or later.

When we take the time, however, to let the Savior who died for our sins fix, change and make us brand new creations, we can leave old problems behind and walk in newness of life.  We can find new strength, new hope, new joy and new direction, and let our old imperfections serve as reminders of what God can do.

Let the God of our salvation give you a “Spiritual makeover.”  When you do, your days will be brighter, your burdens will be lighter and you’ll understand why one hymn writer said, “I came to Jesus as I was, weary, worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place and he has made me glad.”

*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


We regret to inform you of the passing of Mrs. Ruby J. Alexander, the widow of the late Rev. Robert H. Alexander, Sr.  Mrs. Ruby J. Alexander transitioned to her heavenly home, Sunday night shortly after 10:00 p.m.  She is the mother of the Rev. James Avery Alexander, Sr., pastor of St. Paul AME Church in Columbus, Georgia; mother-in-law of Charmaine Alexander, Conn-M-SWAWO Financial Secretary, and grandmother of James Alexander, Jr., General Board Member. She is also the mother of Attorney Robert H. Alexander, Jr. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Dr. Sheila Alexander Kresch of North Haven, Connecticut.

She was a longtime member of Avery Chapel AME Church in Oklahoma City, where she served as the First Lady for 24 years during her husband's distinguished pastorate. She also served as First Lady of Allen Chapel in Oklahoma City for eleven months immediately prior to her husband's transition in 1976. Sister Ruby, affectionately called, "Mother Ruby," lived 99 years & 11 months, only nine days’ shy of celebrating her 100th birthday. She is greatly loved and is greatly missed by her children, family members, and many others.

The homegoing services will be Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. at:

Avery Chapel AME Church
1425 Kelham Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK

The Rev. D. Lavel Crawford, pastor
The Rev. Harvey Potts, Presiding Elder
Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr., Presiding Prelate

Mother Ruby may be viewed from 10:00 a.m. -10:45 a.m. in the sanctuary prior to the services.

Arrangement has been entrusted to:

Temple and Sons Funeral Home
2801 N Kelley Ave
Oklahoma City, OK 73111.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for continuous prayer.

Written expressions of sympathy to her family may be sent to the following:

The Rev. James (Charmaine) Alexander, Sr.
P. O. Box 1532
Newnan, GA 30264

Attorney Robert H. (Annita) Alexander, Jr.
2102 Silver Crest Dr.
Edmond, OK 73025

Dr. Sheila (Mitch) Alexander Kresch
Five Eleanor Road
North Haven, CT 06473


We regret to announce the passing of the Rev. James E. F. Lawrence, retired presiding elder of the First Episcopal District. The Rev. Lawrence served as Presiding Elder of the Western New York Annual Conference and the South District of the Philadelphia Annual Conference.

The following information has been provided regarding funeral arrangements.

Friday, April 29, 2016, Wake held 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.

First Israel A.M.E. Church
381 Hamilton Street
Albany, NY 12210

Telephone: (518) 463-8779
Fax: (518) 465-0495

The Rev. Edward B. Smart, Pastor

Saturday, April 30, 2016
Viewing – 10:00 a.m.
Funeral – 12 noon

Macedonia Baptist Church
26 Wilson Avenue
Albany, NY 12205

Telephone: (518) 489-4370

The Rev. Leonard D. Comithier, Jr. pastor
Eulogist: The Rev. Pedro Castro, Presiding Elder of the Western New York Annual Conference

Monday, May 2, 2016, Memorial Service at 6:00 p.m.

Hickman Temple A.M.E. Church
5001 Baltimore Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Telephone: (215) 476-6489
Fax: (215) 472-3617

Pastor: The Rev. Ronald L. Green
Eulogist: Bishop Gregory G. M. Ingram, Presiding Prelate of the First Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Condolences may be sent to:

Mrs. Mitzi J. Lawrence
207 ½ North Pearl Street
Albany, NY 12207


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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