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

Mark and Save Date in your Calendars:

August National Immunization Awareness Month


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

One of the interesting things about being the Editor of The Christian Recorder is the opportunity to interact with parishioners from across the AME Church, both here in the U.S. and abroad. I have learned so many things and have gotten to the point that I can say, as I said after I had been in the military for a number of years, “Nothing surprises me. I have heard it all.”  Oh, I still have some “‘Wow!’ moments” and all I can do is shake my head and think, “Wow!”

Some of the comments and queries send me scrambling to the Bible and to The Discipline, and even to colleagues; and those queries help me to learn and grow, and to share. 

I learn about some of the great things happening in the AME Church and at other times I hear about things that make me shake my head, and say, “Wow!”

Some of the parishioners who correspond with me ask questions, others share anecdotes and others give their opinions. The “thread” that ties almost all of them together is their love for the African Methodist Episcopal Church and their knowledge of the Bible and their knowledge about the AME Church. It brings to mind a saying in the fifties, “If you are an AME, we know you can read.” 

Some of the people who write or call request anonymity and at other times they don’t mind if their names are shared.

Last week Exhorter Doris Coffey who lives in Lexington, Kentucky asked me to respond to several questions and said that she didn’t mind if I shared her name. I appreciated her questions and wanted to share my responses to Exhorter Coffey, an active Bible teacher.


"Why do we baptize babies?"  I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that speaks specifically to baptizing babies. I am also under the belief that you do not have to be baptized in order to be saved, based on Jesus’ response to one of the thieves crucified with him. I believe people who accept Christ on their death-beds can be saved even if they have not been baptised. I understand that Jesus has commanded us to be baptized and that water baptism is a sign of obedience and a symbol /covenant for believers.  I appreciate any information you can share with me as to why we baptize babies. 

Since the Bible says, “One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism,” what if the “baby" decides to be baptized again when he or she is old enough to understand what baptism is all about?

My response

We do not re-baptize in the AME Church.  It is the responsibility of pastors to teach parishioners about baptism.  The “quick and dirty” answer is that those of us who believe in infant baptism believe that baptism has replaced Old Testament circumcision and is the religious ceremony of initiation into the Christian community. Infant baptism is also referred to as pedobaptism.

Generally, Methodists believe infant baptism has spiritual value for the infant. John Wesley believed baptism was a means of grace, and water baptism was symbolic. Methodists view baptism in water as symbolic and believe that water baptism does not regenerate the baptised nor cleanse them from sin. In Methodism, baptism is the doorway to sanctification and it is the water and the Spirit. We embrace water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

We baptize babies because baptism is a type of circumcision. Baby boys are circumcised, Jews do not, nor did they wait until the boys came of age to determine for themselves if they wanted to be Jews (circumcised).

We do not delay baptism; we make our children “Christians from birth.” They can decide later if they don’t want to be Christians. 

When people were converted in the Apostolic church (throughout the book of Acts (and the epistles), the person and his or her whole household were baptised (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:31-33, and I Corinthians 1:16) as well as "the promise to you and your children" (Acts 2:39) as including small children and infants.

One does not have to be baptised to be saved.  In Methodism, one does not have to be baptised to take Communion and that’s why in Methodism our Communion is called the “Open Table.” The “Open Table” is uniquely Methodist.

There is nothing in the Bible about the necessity for a person to remember his or her baptism; and nothing in Judaism that emphasized the notion that Jewish boys needed to remember their circumcision.

More questions
Is Leadership in the local AME Churches a dying art?

Response: Your question is probably being asked by other denominations.  The AME Church is not the only denomination experiencing leadership issues. I suspect that seminaries are not providing enough classes / seminars /workshops in leadership studies.

Colleges and universities expanded their leadership studies programs in the 1990s. Leadership should not be a dying art in the AME Church, but having said that, we probably have a number of pastors who have not been sufficiently trained in leadership and decisionmaking; or in conflict resolution. And, more sadly, local church leaders are not being trained in leadership. Leadership is an art and there is much to learn about leadership and decisionmaking.
What are the qualifications for leadership in the church in this day and time? 

Response: No specific qualification except that the AME Church thought requiring ordinands to have M.Div degrees from ATS (Association of Theological Schools) accredited seminaries would provide adequate theological, academic and leadership training.

Boards of Examiner programs were “beefed up” and some Boards of Examiners attempted to prepare future pastors with the skills and knowledge to be effective leaders.  We also have a leadership shortfall on the laity side because local church officers are not provided relevant systematic training.

Some episcopal lay organizations are attempting to address the issues and they are to be commended for doing so.
What has happened to the spirit and passion of the laity in the church?

Response: Some of the laity may have given up, but truthfully it seems that I see a lot more excitement on the part of the laity than I do many of the clergy. I hear and read about great programs the laity are doing.  I hear the laity talk more excitedly about how and what they would like the AME Church to look like. They are concerned about changes they see clergy implementing that do not help our Zion. The laity has a “fire” that I wish was more visible among the clergy. I would love to get the sense that the clergy is as “fired up” as the some of the laity appear to be.
Is it necessary for the leaders of the church to be visible and active in the local church programs, for example, attendance at Bible Study, Church School, church meetings, presiding elder district meetings, etc?

Response: It is extremely important for local church leaders to be involved in the life of the church. Far too many local church leaders are parochially “wedded” to their local church programs, but have no understanding or loyalty to the connectional church.  Unfortunately, some local church officers limit their involvement and participation to Sunday worship services and little else. The AME Church needs well-rounded church leaders; both clergy and laity.
Why has our Worship Services (barring the move of the Holy Spirit) changed so that sometimes you are not sure what church you are in or whether you are in an AME Church?

Response: Some of our pastors have not taken the time to understand the theological importance of AME liturgy and the origins of AME liturgy and how our liturgy evolved. Some pastors have not effectively mastered the “how too” of the AME liturgy. Unfortunately, some pastors think the AME liturgy is keeping people from joining AME Churches, but in my talking with pastors and laity, the AME liturgy is what they love about AME worship. It’s the lack of biblical preaching and teaching and the issues of how churches go about “asking” for money that discourages parishioners. I feel that some of our pastors have been watching too much TV and trying to imitate televangelists because they feel that the televangelists’ techniques are responsible for their growth.
Whose job is it to go find the sheep that are missing?  If local churches are failing, who bears responsibility? Pastor? Stewards? Lack of spiritual, relevant local church programs?

Response: The “quick and dirty” response. Remember that parable about the Lost Sheep? The shepherd rescued the lost sheep, but the ninety-nine sheep didn’t stray, they stayed together. Using the shepherd / sheep motif, it’s the responsibility of the sheep to grow the flock. Shepherds don’t grow flocks, sheep through mating, following the shepherd and avoiding dangerous precipices, precipitate growth. The shepherd cares for and nurtures the flock. In reality, everyone; pastoral leadership, local church leadership, and parishioners all have some responsibilities that lead to the growth of the local church.
Why are our churches practically empty on Sunday mornings?

Response: Many churches and many denominations are experiencing loss of membership. Denominations have struggled with best practices for years, so empty or near empty churches, are not something new. I am reading that there is movement of parishioners back to the mainstream denominations, even within Catholicism. If that is true, I hope the AME Church will be ready to meet the challenge.

In the article on CNN’s Belief Blog entitled, "Why millennials are leaving the church," Rachel Held Evans wrote about how various churches using modern techniques tried to woo her to attend their churches.

She shared, "Neither worked. I want calls to worship, benedictions, corporate prayer. I want corporate confessions of sin, and corporate assurances of pardons. I want singing where I can hear the congregation, and songs that are theologically accurate and Christ-centered. I want good, solid Biblical preaching where the pastor strives to preach the full counsel of God. I want benedictions, and pastoral prayers, and the reading of Scripture." She went on to write, "Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall...an updated website that includes online giving. But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives...we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances. In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular. Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions...precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being 'cool,' and we find that refreshingly authentic. What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

In response to Evans' article Brett McCracken in and article in The Washington Post in an article entitled "How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool" wrote, “We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.”

And let me add: “Some of our AME churches are adding hip-hop, electrifying choirs and upbeat music, dancing, musical instruments, ‘get your praise on theology’ as means of increasing attendance.  While those things are great, I hope we are adding more about Jesus and the importance of following Jesus.

As an AME lady recently wrote: “When we go to church, we should find something that we can find nowhere else! 
What has happened to prayer meetings?

Response: The world has changed and the world continues to change. Lifestyles have changed.  Fifty – sixty years ago, particularly in the black community, the church was the “big game” in communities. There wasn’t as much to do, especially on Sundays. 

Today, people are busier and there are more things to do and more things competing for our attention.  Technology and information-flow have changed the way we live and do business.  Unfortunately, many churches have not kept up with the societal changes. Some churches are using the same old Bible Study techniques they have been using for years, not realizing that young people are “wedded” to technology.

Prayer meetings and Bible studies might reach more people if local church changed some of its techniques.  Telephonic prayer meetings and even telephonic Bible study might be the “vehicle” to engage more participation. 

Why does Bible study have to be on Wednesday night? It might be helpful for churches to “look outside the box.” It’s probably time for churches to try new and innovative approaches to reaching, not only the unchurched, but also as a means to reach more of its parishioners. The local church has to be willing to try new things.
Is there a law that prevents surprise visits at Sunday worship services from the Presiding Prelate?

Response: There is no law prohibiting bishops from making surprised visits. 
What is the vision for the AME Church for the future?  Who has a vision? Are visions to be shared with the congregation? 

Response: Ideally, local church vision statements should be done in concert with the AME Church “Mission, Vision, Purposes and Objectives of the African Methodist Episcopal Church” as found in The Discipline. 

Vision statements should be developed by local churches specific to their locales because vision realities might be different from one locale to another. If local churches built their visions around the biblical AME Church Vision, we would all be singing off the “same sheet of music.”

Are we teaching that discipleship is costly?  Do we know that it requires sacrifice, commitment, accountability, leadership, to name a few? 

Response: I hope we are teaching that discipleship is costly. You have “hit the nail on the head,” discipleship requires sacrifice, commitment, accountability, and leadership.

I think that “Discipleship” is a buzzword around the AME Church. We are talking about discipleship and preaching about it, but I wonder if we are teaching discipleship and all that it entails at all levels of the Church? 

I also suspect that we have too many pastors and local church officers who are not committed to discipleship; they are still working on the notion of church membership.
I recently celebrated my threescore and ten and maybe I am just “old school,” but having dedicated the larger portion of my 70 years to the AME Church, I find myself extremely concerned (and truthfully downright frustrated) at the direction or non-direction I perceive the AME Church to be going. 

Response: I am concerned too. I want the AME Church to get “off the dime” and let’s live the “Mission, Vision, Purposes and Objectives of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.”  Our “mission, vision and purposes and objectives” are biblical and we should celebrate the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s biblical foundation.


*The Rev. Mark Whitlock

Our nation cannot yet celebrate the freeing of slaves 150 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. This is because the plight of Black poverty, unemployment, health care, housing and a variety of social ills remain unaddressed. But, President Obama, now in his fifth year, is in a unique position to correct two of the greatest concerns of the Black community- limited life expectancy and extremely high infant mortality rates. This can be achieved through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which will go into full effect in 2014. It is overwhelming supported by the Black community.

In America today, black life expectancy is four years less than for whites (78.8 for Whites versus 74.7 for Blacks). The disparity between black males and whites males is even greater (76.4 for Whites versus 71.4). As a result, the average Black male will only be eligible for five years of social security benefits compared with ten years for White males.

Similarly, the infant mortality rate for blacks when President Obama first took office was more than twice the rate for whites and Latinos and almost three times greater than for Asian Americans.
In very large measure, this disparity is attributable to our pre-Obamacare lack of focus on pre-natal care and the early years of childhood. In contrast, a quarter or more of the U.S. three trillion dollar annual healthcare costs are expended primarily on the last six months of life for those in their 80s and 90s. In significant part, this is why the United States’ infant mortality rate is almost three times higher than in Japan and twice as high as poorer nations, such as Spain and Italy. And, surprisingly, our infant mortality rate is 20% higher than in the underdeveloped nation of Cuba and even higher than in our unincorporated territory of Guam.

Obamacare does not yet focus on the limited Black life expectancy rate or the gaps in our infant mortality rate. Many of our Black church leaders, however, believe that there is hope, particularly in the context of President Obama’s recent forceful speech on the need for upward mobility to eradicate these differences. Preventive care services within the larger health reform agenda must come from the back burner to the forefront.

A Church-led Plan to Enhance Obamacare

Our goal is to cut the Black infant mortality rate to the same level as in Japan (2 per 1,000). Our plan is also to raise, under Obamacare, the Black life expectancy to at least the 84 years achieved in Japan today. These plans will commence at our August 19th Orange County Interdenominational Alliance meeting with pastors from the minority community. Orange County was once home to one of the least progressive movements in modern history, the John Birch Society.

These dreams are realistic dreams. Life expectancy for Blacks has increased from 33 years in 1890 to over 74 years today. And, infant mortality for Blacks, which was 210 per thousand births in 1890, now has been reduced to just 6 per 1,000.

Our interdenominational alliance efforts, led by black, brown, and Asian pastors, will benefit all Americans, since health resources properly allocated will also increase White life expectancy. For example, life expectancy in America was just 48 years in 1890 for Whites but could soon be 84 years under Obamacare and thereby match the rate in Japan.

To ensure the success of our plans, we will seek insights from the Latino and Asian American pastoral communities. For many years, the Latino and Asian American life expectancy rates have been higher than for Whites and their infant mortality rates lower than for Whites.

Two Percent of Budget Dedicated to Be First in the World in Life Expectancy under Obamacare

As in any major national plan, there are omissions that could be corrected. The first is the need to effectively reach out to the most underserved communities, such as to our nation’s 44 million Blacks, in a culturally sensitive fashion. Effective outreach is especially important, since our nation spends twice as much per capita on healthcare than any other nation in the world, including the almost thirty nations with higher life expectancies.

A second omission, so far, is the absence of a specific set of targets and goals.

A third, and perhaps the most important, omission is the absence of a specific allocation of our three trillion dollar annual healthcare budget to a.) specifically decrease infant mortality, b.)  enhance healthcare for mothers and young children and c.) aid our most vulnerable senior citizens. These objectives can be reached, along with far greater public support for Obamacare, by allocating as little as two percent of our three trillion dollar annual healthcare budget, or sixty billion dollars a year over the next five years, to this effort.

As Dr. King stated when Black life expectancy was less than 64 years and the average Black did not live long enough to qualify for social security benefits, “We Shall Overcome.”
Mr. President, we have great confidence that you will implement Dr. King’s dream of full equality before your second term is over and help all Americans be a part of the middle class.

*The Rev. Mark Whitlock, Senior Minister, Christ Our Redeemer AME Church and Executive Director of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement


(August 2, 2013 – Washington, DC)

More than 2500 people from across the United States as well as Guyana, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Liberia, Nigeria and South Africa will attend the 116th Annual Session of the Lott Carey Global Christian Missional Community convenes August 12 – 16, 2013 at the Washington, DC Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2600 Woodley Park Road, NW.

The purpose of the Annual Session is to inform and inspire people to invest in Christian missions around the world.  Additionally attendees will provide special support for Washington, DC area residents who are hungry and homeless through service and generosity. 

 We are pleased to announce keynote speaker, Bishop Sarah F. Davis, Presiding Prelate of the 16th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal church, which encompasses the Caribbean, South America, Great Britain, and Holland, will deliver the missional message on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

Special events include:

• On Monday, August 12, some 300 attendees will provide volunteer service with Washington, DC area programs and services that seek to relieve hunger and homelessness through a “missions blitz.”
• On Monday, August 12, the organization will host 300 homeless residents of Washington, DC for dinner and a gospel music concert.  Washington, DC based, award winning recording artist Richard Smallwood will headline the concert.  

• On Wednesday, August 14, hundreds of attendees will participate in a “Pilgrimage of Remembrance” visiting the National Mall in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Attendees will visit the King and Lincoln Memorials to reflect on the past and to recommit themselves to empowerment and advocacy toward a more just world.  2013 is also the 200 anniversary of the liberation of Rev. Lott Carey, for whom the organization is named, who was born enslaved in Virginia in 1790, purchased is freedom in 1813, and led the first Baptist missionaries to Africa from the United States in 1821.  He settled in Liberia and died in 1828.

• On Friday, August 16, the event will conclude with a Golf Tournament at Laurel Hills Golf Club, Lorton, VA.  Proceeds from the tournament will support education in Liberia through the Lott Carey Mission School that provides high quality education pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

“The Annual Session is an amazing opportunity for people to expand their horizons,” says Dr. Gregory K. Moss, Sr., President of Lott Carey and Pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC.  “Churches connected to the Lott Carey network to not have a myopic view of the witness of the church.  We have a broad view, and we are enriched by our partnerships with people from continents all around the world.”

According to the Rev. Brenda K. Harewood, Superintendent-Pastor of Guyana Missionary Baptist Church based in Georgetown Guyana. “Lott Carey doesn’t invest in programs.  They invest in people.  And that makes all the difference in the world.”

The public is invited to evening worship and witness services at the Washington, DC Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m.

About the Organization: Founded in 1897 in Washington, DC by African-American Baptists committed to the Christian witness in Africa, today Lott Carey is an ecumenical, multi-cultural network with impact partnerships in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America.   The Lott Carey Global Christian Missional Community (www.lottcarey.org) extends the Christian witness around the world.  Through prayer partnerships, financial support, and technical assistance, Lott Carey builds the capacities of indigenous communities engaged in ministries of evangelism, compassion, empowerment, and advocacy.  Together we are touching lives through transforming love. 


On Saturday, June 22, 2013, The New Jersey Human Development Corporation, a 501c3 non-profit Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of the New Jersey Annual Conference, hosted The National HIV Testing Day.  The venue for this event was Greater Mt. Zion AME Church located at 42 Pennington Avenue in Trenton, New Jersey.

In preparation for this very important observance, letters were mailed, spots on the WIMG Radio Station were made; flyers were distributed to churches, barber shops, beauty salons, market places; and of course, the old fashioned “word of mouth" were used to get the word out!

The agency planned a "Free Concert" featuring singing artists Minister William Carter, III, and Evangelist Dorothy Hayward.  Other performances were given by liturgical dance ministries from the First Baptist Church of Princeton, New Jersey, and Greater Mt. Zion AMEC.   Among other highlights of this observance was a testimony given by a guest who was HIV positive.  The testimony was both informative and spirit-filled.  It reiterated the reality that even if one is HIV+, if they take their medicines, eat right, exercise, trust in God and involve themselves in the life of the church, they can not only live longer, but more importantly, be a witness of the grace and mercy of God!  Mr. Bennie Macklin, radio personality from WIMG, served as the Master of Ceremonies. 

During this event some 22 persons were tested.  The HIV test was administered by Kendall Clark, the Director of St. James Social Service Corporation's Wellness Program of Newark, New Jersey, in affiliation with St. James AMEC. 

 It is widely known that HIV/AIDS continues to plague African Americans at a higher rate than any other ethnicity. African Americans continue to represent over 50% of reported new HIV infections and AIDS cases in the United States.  

HIV Testing is not "A Black Thing, A White Thing, A Gay Thing, A Straight Thing, A Young Thing, or An Old Thing, It's the Right Thing!" 

Routine testing can reduce the stigma and silence that feed HIV transmission and disease progression.  HIV infects anyone it encounters regardless of income, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, geographical location or social status.  Anyone who hasn't been tested should get tested!

Logistics of this event were coordinated by the staff of NJHDC, including Rev. Vernard Leak, CFO; Rev. J. Stanley Justice-CEO; Rev. Lynda Rassmann, Director of Programs; Administrative Asst. Troy Bright and Quality Assurance Officer, Beverly Hill.  Included in the attendance of more than 125 people were NJHDC Board Members Mr. Michael Brown-Chairman and Ms. Patricia Smith-Treasurer.

Also, during the month of June, the Southern Office of the New Jersey Human Development Corporation participated in (2) HIV/AIDS Testing Day Events in the city of Atlantic City.   The June 1, NJHDC partnered with  St. Paul All-Purpose Outreach Center – Pleasantville, New Jersey, the Atlantic City Department of Health,  and the Wiser Charitable Organization and coordinated an  HIV/AIDS Testing event during "VetRock" at Baders Field in Atlantic City.  “VetRock” was an event that honored Vietnam Veteran's which featured a family friendly rock band concert and Lt. Col. Oliver North as the Keynote Speaker.      On June 2, NJHDC partnered with The Fellowship of Churches of Atlantic City & Vicinity to coordinate HIV/AIDS testing during "Gospel on Tour," a free gospel concert held at the Atlantic City Surf baseball stadium.  There were performances by John P. Key, Bubby Fann & Praise Beyond, Regina Belle, and a host of gospel groups.  Each of these events was advertised by way of billboards, local television advertisements, flyers, and newspaper articles.  Between these (2) events, 10 persons were tested for HIV/AIDS on the Atlantic City Health Department Mobile Testing Van.

The New Jersey Human Development Corporation is funded by The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Public Health Services Branch Division of HIV, STD and TB Services.  
The Rev. Dr. J. Stanley Justice is the CEO of The New Jersey Human Development and the pastor of Greater Mt. Zion AMEC in Trenton, New Jersey


The Rev. Glenell M. Lee-Pruitt, Ph.D., M.Div.

Research indicates that Alzheimer’s disease is the “silent disease” that is disproportionately impacting the African American community.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “by the year 2030, the number of African-Americans 65 or older is expected to more than double to 6.9 million.  In order to bring awareness to the community St. Matthew AME Church in Shreveport, Louisiana co-sponsored its 2nd Annual African American and Alzheimer’s Disease Symposium with the Louisiana Alzheimer’s Association and Caddo Parish School System as co-sponsors.  The organizer of the symposium was Mrs. Rosalyn Thibodeaux Goodall.

Professionals from throughout the Alzheimer’s community shared with participants of the symposium the signs, symptoms and care for persons living with Alzheimer’s.  Persons who have been personally impacted shared their stories of being the caretaker of loved ones who have struggled through this debilitating disease.

Although African Americans are disproportionately impacted by this disease, they are a small percentage of persons who are invited to participate in trials or research.  As this point was highlighted in this symposium, a clergy outreach component was established to partner with the local Alzheimer’s disease researcher to disseminate information about trials and research to the community.  Dr. Glenell M. Lee-Pruitt will lead the effort to keep the African American community aware as well as assist in the establishment of an Alzheimer’s support group in Shreveport and the surrounding communities.

This symposium was an ecumenical effort with individuals from the Christian Methodist Church (CME), United Methodist Church (UMC), The Catholic Church Diocese, and local Baptist churches attending and participating.


*Brother James A. Beatty

On August 17, 2013, Payne Chapel AME Church will celebrate its 5th Annual Sweet Potato Festival.  Payne Chapel AME Church is located at 601 Priscilla Avenue in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. The Rev Dr. Helen Milner Burton is the pastor.

The Sweet Potato Festival celebration marks a tribute of a food item that was introduced to the Americas during the period of the slave trade. 

The sweet potato originated in the mother-country of Africa and was a staple of the African diet.

Some of the Africans subjected to the slave trade brought the seeds with them to America and soon it became a staple of the American slaves’ diet. 

The members of Payne Chapel thought it only fitting to honor this staple food.  Many denominations have festivals such as strawberry, peach and blueberry. Payne Chapel thought a Sweet Potato Festival was a wonderful fundraiser.

During the Sweet Potato Festival each organization of the church can sell any food item, but all food items must be prepared from sweet potatoes.

Payne Chapel has become famous for its delicacy of sweet potato ice cream and people come from long distances to eat it.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church has a wonderful and gracious history, so join us and celebrate the history we have with sweet potatoes.

*Brother James A. Beatty is a member of Payne Chapel AME Church in Duquesne


*The Reverend Eraina M. Ross-Aseme, D. MIN

Oftentimes the police are criticized for the way they have handled the perpetrators of crimes in the community.  Unfortunately history has shown for some undesirable cases where justice has not been properly served.  With the number of crimes in our community; politicians and community leaders saw fit to create a day to focus on ways to bring community police awareness to the communities nationally in the United States. For that reason, sources stated that the National Night Out affair was created nearly 30 years ago, 1984, and is the first Tuesday in August.  Also it was stated that during this time awareness is made of: drug prevention, neighborhood groups, and anti-crime efforts.

In holding to this special day, on August 6, 2013 the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council held the National Night Out outdoors of their headquarters. The Executive Director Margaret May and Board members organized the affair in Kansas City, Missouri.

Community leaders and residents from all walks of life were in attendance including the media. As the affair was taking place you could see smoke coming from the grills, as volunteers prepared grilled food for the attendees. Lots of food and beverages were available for consumption at the National Night Out.

The event was sponsored by Target Stores, Inc., which underscores the importance of neighborhood groups forming partnership with area businesses.  The Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council continues to do to improve the standard of living for area residents. The Ivanhoe Neighborhood has approximately 6,000 residents, and nearly sixty-nine percent are registered voters.

Other activities took place in the Jim Nutter Park adjacent to the Ivanhoe Neighborhood headquarters at the National Night Out.

Some of the National Night Out activities included face-painting, bingo, stocking ball, poetry reading, and speeches. 

As the children were enjoying their time on the playground equipment and participating in the recreational activities, I couldn’t help but to think on how the church can be more involved in such a magnificent time of meeting the residents of the community. A number of churches are co-located in the area meet from time to time.  The faith community must take a more active role in crime prevention and drug awareness.

In visiting with the residents and others during the National Night Out I was reminded the relationships are formed “one person at a time.” Communicating with others and discovering their interest goes a long way in forging and “cementing” relationships.

As a pastor in the Ivanhoe Neighborhood community I have developed new friendships that would have gone unnoticed if I had remained behind the four walls of the church. 

The body of Christ must step out of our comfort-zones and make sacrifices by leaving the comfort of our homes and church pews to find out what’s going on in the community. 

According to sources, the word ‘Go appears 1,492 times in the King James translation of the Bible.  Therefore let the faith community expand its territory in getting involved in the community. 

At the end of the National Night Out outdoors of the Ivanhoe Neighborhood headquarters and the James Nutter Park, the attendees were invited the join hands by the Reverend Dr. Eraina M. Ross-Aseme.  She also announced that free school supplies were available.  

*The Reverend Eraina M. Ross-Aseme, D. MIN is the pastor of Cain Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri


(North Carolina) – The NAACP mourns the loss of civil rights icon and attorney Julius L. Chambers. Chambers passed away Friday night.

“Julius Chambers was one of the great legal minds of the past few decades,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “He understood the inherent value of diversity in education, and also understood how to go about achieving that ideal. He changed North Carolina, and the country, for the better, and he will be sorely missed.”

“Julius Chambers lived through the bombing of his car, his office and even his home, but he never stopped working to advance civil and human rights,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “He was a tenacious defender of the right to a fair education and a fair shot at a better life.”

“He also gave me a shot early in my career,” added Jealous. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for Julius Chambers.”

“We can learn much from his low-key, but militant approach to the duty of our generation--to complete the work of dismantling the structural and psychological racism that grips our society,” stated NC NAACP State Conference President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II. “He knew no fear. He never took one step backwards, always marching forward together, directly into the ugly ignorance and violence against him by white racist vigilantes who torched his car, his law office, his father's business in Mt. Gilead, and dynamited his law office. Brilliance in the law was his weapon --courage in the face and commitment to justice was his ethical compass.”

“The North Carolina NAACP has over 24,000 members in over 100 Branches across the State,” stated NC NAACP State Conference First Vice President Carolyn Coleman. “Julius Chambers must have represented hundreds of them, knew thousands of them, and changed the lives of all of them by his steadfast life of justice. He filed many major suits on behalf of our members.”

“The state of North Carolina and the nation have lost a tremendous civil rights leader,” stated NAACP Board of Directors Member Leonard Springs. “Julius and I were good friends. Personally I am sad to hear from the loss, but from a civil rights perspective, Julius paved the way – particularly here in North Carolina – fighting injustice. The community as a whole has lost a tremendous leader. If you look back at his life fighting school desegregation cases, education in North Carolina is much better off because of Julius. His home was bombed, his office was bombed, but he never gave up. He is a true civil rights pioneer.”

Chambers argued a number of important civil rights cases, including Swann v. the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education in 1971, which helped integrate schools in North Carolina. His firm was the first racially integrated law practice in the state.

From 1984 to 1993, Chambers served as president and chair of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He later served for eight years as Chancellor of his alma mater, North Carolina Central University.


*Dr. Oveta Fuller


A younger brother of one of my host families died two weeks ago. He was 29 years old. Another gone too soon.

His two years older brother could not believe that this younger comrade would no longer sit across the table at a meal, or share a laugh as they met at the flat again at the end of day. They would no longer discuss the latest ways they might earn a few kwacha or, while sharing a Mosi on a Friday evening, mull over what they would do to further enjoy the weekend in Lusaka.

I have not asked the cause of his death. At the appropriate provided time we also will talk about this.

Trusted messenger leaders act

One USA team member from my home university is in Zambia for three weeks to better understand the impacts of HIV/AIDS. He has come to a country where the Ministry of Health states that 1 in every 8 persons are infected with HIV. We are making follow-up site-visits in Lusaka and Livingstone communities with clergy leaders, pastors, missionaries, teachers and presiding elders who have gone through the biology-based education approach designated as the Trusted Messenger Intervention (TMI).

TMI provides biomedical insights to bring about more than a surface level understanding of how HIV leads to AIDS and what can be done to stop this. Some of what has been in the Getting to Zero (G20) column over its inaugural year is content that is part of TMI sessions. The G20 content also is part of an intensive course on “What Effective Clergy Should Know about HIV/AIDS” taught at Payne Theological Seminary.

In the site-visits, we find that religious leaders who complete the two-day TMI workshops and attend a follow-up session provide even more services to their congregations and communities. Gaining a deeper understanding of HIV as simply a fragile virus helps such dedicated leaders to more confidently address HIV/AIDS and related issues. These leaders understand that AIDS is not a mystery disease or a punishment for sin. They get that HIV/AIDS is not witchcraft nor just something that happens. They understand that it is preventable and that progression to AIDS from infection with HIV can be slowed. They get that AIDS will occur eventually if nothing is done to fight against virus destruction of CD4 T-cells that are a central coordinator of the body’s immune defense system.

These leaders are tired of burying people who die too young. They want to reduce the ongoing struggles for basic needs of shelter, food, education, guidance and care by young children who too soon lose their mother and/or father. These trusted messenger leaders want to meet the needs of older dependent mothers, usually widows, or fathers who are left behind when their daughters or sons are no longer alive.

These religious leaders engage in a range of ways to more effectively address HIV/AIDS. They incorporate the subject in sermons, Bible studies, counseling sessions and church planning and official board meetings. They better know what to do or say, or where to make referrals when counseling people for new marriage, baptisms, marital issues or illness. They seek out, encourage and support church members who want to address health issues including HIV/AIDS. From a place of knowing, a place of confidence as prepared disciples, they are welcoming in worship and in membership to people who are living with HIV/AIDS. They are more supportive of community activities with other clergy leaders and congregations and eagerly partner with neighborhood agencies.

Most importantly, these leaders model the first required step to stop HIV. They get HIV testing and counseling (HTC) often, regardless of their marital status.  It’s what responsible leaders do.

A fresh example in Christian Education

At the Board of Christian Education (BOCE) Congress in April 2013 in the 17th Episcopal District, the Episcopal leaders, Bishop Wilfred J. Messiah and Supervisor Carol Messiah along with the Episcopal Director of Christian Education, the Rev. Dr. Royd Mwandu- made sure that HIV/AIDS was incorporated throughout the week long 2013 BOCE agenda. There was a first day plenary session to update attendees on progress and directions of ongoing research in Zambia to validate effectiveness of the Trusted Messenger Intervention approach.  There were afternoon breakout discussions sessions on other days with the Lay Organization on “De-stigmatizing HIV/AIDS” and with the young adult and missionaries on “Preventing Cervical Cancer and HIV/AIDS.” 

There was free on-site HIV rapid-testing all day on Saturday. The conference attendees were well-prepared to take advantage of such an opportunity.

Over 160 attendees at the 2013 17th Episcopal District BOCE Congress eagerly lined up to get a number so they could participate in the on-site HIV testing and counseling (HTC).  While attending their various conference meetings and mingling with colleagues, they kept an eye on the chalkboards that displayed, in intervals of 10, what numbers would be up next. They knew when to be “on deck” to be guided to one of the three outdoor confidential test sites conveniently set up among sites of other activities on the BOCE campus grounds.

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday in April and three testers and a coordinating nurse tested 124 people. The HTC personnel, rapid test kits, equipment and privacy screens were provided by the District Office of the Ministry of Health in Zambia. Although the three testers did more than the usual daily number for one HIV counselor, at the end of the day, conference attendees who had numbers above 124 had to wait for the next HTC opportunity. Those with 124 or lower numbers received HTC and were given a simple solid orange dot lapel sticker. This sticker identified them as engaged leaders who took the first responsible step in controlling HIV/AIDS for themselves, their congregations and their communities.

At this BOCE Congress whose theme was “Making Disciples for Radical Transformation”, there was an excited atmosphere of empowerment and collective purpose on many issues including HIV/AIDS.  Throughout Saturday, more and more orange lapel stickers appeared among the over 400 attendees.

Moving forward

This is but one example of how we move forward.  To eliminate HIV/AIDS, we move forward one person at a time. One person at a time can understand more and then decide to do more.

This is how the number of new infections begins to decline and continues to decline each year to eventually get to zero.

This is how the deaths too soon from AIDS-related illness, or whatever other causes, can decline and eventually get to zero.

This is how no informed person willingly exposes themselves to HIV through contact with semen, vaginal fluid, blood or breast milk as the only fluids in which HIV can be transmitted.

This is how one well-established religious network, the global AME Church, can work even more effectively through its individual Episcopal Districts, conferences, presiding elder districts and local congregation levels to exponentially amplify the many efforts that already occur in various locations.

This is how we move forward to higher consistent effective sustained levels of taking control of HIV/AIDS, a preventable virus infection.

Stopping HIV is a matter of what we do with what already is known.  The necessary transformation is happening with HIV/AIDS in our Zion. It must continue. The 17th Episcopal District BOCE Congress in 2013 is one example. It is not the only Episcopal District, whose committed leaders has been and continues to be on-task in addressing HIV/AIDS to move towards zero. We CAN stop HIV/AIDS. 

Vision for “Getting to Zero”

Last week was the one year anniversary of the debut of “Getting to Zero” (G20). I sincerely thank the TCR Editor, Dr. Calvin Sydnor, for the invitation and encouragement to initiate the column, and for his input on its metamorphosis. I am deeply grateful to TCR readers who have communicated your responses. We applaud and encourage those on multiple continents who have begun to implement the actions suggested. 

In the last TCR issue, Dr. Sydnor announced plans for continuing G20.

We realize that HIV/AIDS, unfortunately, is not the only illness that contributes to a disproportionately heavy disease burden for people of color all around the globe.  In the upcoming year, G20 will provide biomedical insights and discussions for a deeper understanding of other preventable or treatable illnesses.  Some examples are asthma, cancer, chlamydia, COPD, dementia as in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, depression, diabetes, fistula, hepatitis, herpes, hypertension, human papilloma virus infection, influenza, kidney disease, malaria, stroke and tuberculosis.  You are invited to suggest others that should be addressed and invited to make written contributions.

We implore AMEC members and leaders to engage, however you can best engage to individually and collectively move forward for wellness.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”  Hosea 4: 6a  


I drove past one of Charleston, South Carolina’s high schools today and saw something that made me nostalgic - a high school band on the practice field, braving the August heat to get ready for another marching season.  That sight took me back to my days as a member of the “Booker T. Washington High School Marching 100” in Columbia, SC and the “South Carolina State University Marching 101” in Orangeburg, SC.

Summer band practice - or “band camp” as it’s called these days - was no easy endeavor, especially for those in their first year on the band.  First year band members had to adjust to memorizing music, learning drills and formations, running laps around the practice field to build up endurance and taking “grief” from older band members who enjoyed putting “rookies” through the difficulties that they’d once endured.

Some of those who started out in summer band practice found the regimen to be too demanding and the rules to be too strict so they gave up and walked away, but those of us who hung in and measured up had the great pleasure at the end of the summer of being fitted for and picking up our band uniforms - the tangible evidence that we’d made the band.

Remember my summer band experience as you face life’s daily demands.  There’s no such thing as a trouble free life.  The best of us face struggles, trials, criticism and disappointment that can easily make us want to back up, give up, give in and settle for simply getting by and coping with what comes our way as best we can.

We’d do well, however, to realize that the same God who helped those like me to make it through band camp helps each of us to bear life’s toil, endure life’s pain, come forth stronger at the end of the struggle and claim and enjoy the blessings that are tangible evidence that we’ve triumphed and made it over.

Living in this world will bring all of us our share of demands, trials and challenges, but that’s not what matters.  What matters is that when trust the God who is still our refuge and strength to sustain us, even in our most difficult times, we’ll be clothed in new victory, new comfort and new joy that give us a new appreciation for why one hymn writer said, “When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown in the New Jerusalem.”


- Email posting modifications and requested submission guidelines -

"O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good, His mercy endureth for ever."

On Wednesday, August 7th I underwent total knee replacement surgery on my right knee at the Williamson Medical Center, 4321 Carothers Parkway, Franklin, TN.  I encourage your prayers for my strength of focus, patience and for perseverance during my rehabilitation process.

Posting modifications and requested submission guidelines: Episcopal district headquarters, presiding elders and others may continue to email bereavements notices to Amespouses1@bellsouth.net or to the ministry domain email address, Oeasleyl@amecfic.net.  I plan to monitor communications on my iPhone and I anticipate being able to set up a temporary portable office with bulk email capability as soon as possible and am able to do so.

Bereavement notices "only" will be posted through Wednesday, August 21, 2013.  Posting of congratulatory announcements received will resume on Friday, August 23, 2013. My telephone contact number: 615-403-7751 (cell).

To free me from making telephone calls to bereaved clergy families or to mortuaries for the purpose of obtaining service information during the next couple of weeks, all persons submitting bereavement notices are respectfully requested to adhere to the following submission guidelines:

a. Bereavement notices should contain service-date, service location (address) and the service hour. Family visitations may also be included. Please check calendar for the service day of the week. Include as well, any “in lieu of” requests.

b. Include the name, address and telephone number and fax number for the mortuary (funeral home) providing services.

c. Include contact information for sending expressions of sympathy and condolences to the bereaved family member(s), mailing address, accompanied by a telephone number and a valid email address, if available. Make certain that all names are spelled correctly.

d. Send all information to be posted in "one" email communication and send as a Microsoft Word email attachment.

e. Bereavement notices not submitted from Episcopal District headquarters or presiding elder's offices should include the name and title of the person submitting the notice.

Thank you in advance for your understanding, your conformity to the submission guidelines and for your prayers.

God Bless!
Ora L. Easley, Administrator
The AME Church Clergy Family Information Center
(615) 833-6936 (O) * (615) 403-7751 (C) * (615) 837-9736 (H) & FAX


We regret to inform you of the passing of Brother James Egbert Thomas, the son of the Late Bishop C. E. Thomas & Supervisor Susie Jamar Thomas of Birmingham, Alabama.  Brother James Thomas made his transition from labor to reward on Saturday, August 3, 2013.

The information for the celebration of Life for Brother James Egbert Thomas is as follows:

Saint John AME Church
Thursday, August 8, 2013
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon


Saint John AME Church
Thursday, August 8, 2013
12:00 Noon

Funeral Home:       

Smith & Gaston
102 6th Ave. SW
Birmingham, AL   35211
Telephone: 205-322-3581

Condolences may be sent to:     

Mrs. Dawn Thomas
1403 Miami Circle
Birmingham, AL   35214

Church Address:                

Saint John AME Church
708 15th Street North
Birmingham, AL   35203

Office Telephone: 205.251-3764
Fax: 205-251-3757 (fax)


We regret to inform you of the passing of Mrs. Rosie Lee Jones. Mrs. Jones is the mother of the Reverend Dr. Leah Gaskin Fitchue, President of Payne Theological Seminary, and Ms. Khadijah Kauthar-Muhammad, East Orange, New Jersey. Mrs. Jones is the former president of the Nurses Unit of St. James AME Church, Newark, New Jersey.

The following information has been provided regarding funeral arrangements.

Friday, August 9, 2013
Wake - 9:00 a.m.
Funeral - 11:00 a.m.

St. James AME Church
588 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Newark, New Jersey 07102

Telephone: 973-622-1344
Fax:    973-622-6912

The Reverend Ronald Slaughter, Pastor

Eulogist: Bishop Jeffrey N. Leath
Presiding Prelate of the Thirteenth Episcopal District

Expressions of Sympathy may be sent to:

Dr. Leah Gaskin Fitchue
C/o The Jones Family
1 Court Street, Apt. 14-I
Newark, NJ  07102

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting a donation to the Rosie Lee Jones Scholarship Fund to support the educational agenda of the St. James AME Church Nurses Unit. Donations may be sent to:

Dr. Leah Gaskin Fitchue
PO Box 276
Xenia, OH  45385


Bishop William P. DeVeaux and the Second Episcopal District Family share news about the Celebration of Life for the Rev. Norman Blackston as follows:

Viewing will be held on Friday, August 2, 2013, 6-8 p.m. at Grace AME Church, 67 1/2 Winters Lane, Catonsville, Maryland 21228; telephone: 410-744-3120; the Rev. Howard Wright, Pastor.

The Funeral Service was held on Saturday, August 3, 2013 at Mt. Olive AME Church in Worton, Maryland the Rev. Isaac Wilson serves as the pastor. 

Expressions of sympathy may be sent to:

Mrs. Trina Blackston
717 Wildwood Parkway
Baltimore, MD 21229

Telephone: 410-566-6204


It is with sorrow that we inform you that Donald Eugene Spiller, the son of the Rev. Donald Spiller, pastor of St. Paul AME Church in Milton, Pennsylvania passed away on Friday, August 2, 2013; he was 61 years of age.

The Homegoing service was held on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at the Dale Ranck Funeral Home in Milton, Pennsylvania. The Rev. Bertha Morrison was the eulogist.

Expressions of sympathy may be mailed to:

The Rev. Donald Spiller
325 Beaver Street
Milton, PA 17847
Telephone: 570-742-4358


Ora L. Easley, Administrator
AMEC Clergy Family Information Center
Phone: (615) 837-9736 (H)
Phone: (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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