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

The AMEC Sunday School Union will be closed for Christmas break on December 18 and will reopen on January 4, 2016


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

I have been blessed to have worked with the young and old. As a pastor, I interacted with a number of older people. In the military and as a college professor, I was blessed to have worked with young adults.

I have worked in both military and civilian communities. I have even had the experience of working in a wartime combat environment.  I have had a wide-range of experiences and as a result, there are very few things that surprise me. As a counselor, I have heard it all. I can almost say that I cease to be amazed and “almost” is the operative word, because I am, today, amazed.

I ask myself, “Why” each time I encounter an “amazed moment.”  Maybe I am making too big a thing about “amazed moments.” 

In the Army, I have been known to say, “That’s amazing!”   Even as Editor of The Christian Recorder, I frequently remark, “That’s amazing.”
When our children used to do something out of the ordinary, positive or negative and if it overwhelmed me, I could be heard saying, “That’s amazing!” or “I am amazed…”
When I think about it, people have been amazed for centuries.  I am sure that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was amazed when she discovered that she was pregnant in the twilight of her life.
In the Gospels, we read the responses of folks who were amazed when they were touched by Jesus or those who were amazed because they witnessed something Jesus did.  Jesus said something and they were amazed; he healed somebody and they were utterly amazed.

In Matthew 8:27, the disciples were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" and in Mark 5:20, it is recorded the people were amazed when they saw a demon-possessed man in Decapolis had been healed. The gospel of Luke records that Jesus was amazed at the faith of the Centurion (Luke 7:9).

In most instances, it seems to me that unusual, “out of character,” and things that result in unexpected good results most often cause people and individuals to be amazed.

Mark 6: 1-6 records that Jesus went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples and when the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, "Where did this man get these things? ... Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. And the scripture reports, "He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.”

In the case of Jesus, he was amazed when he found faith of the Centurion where it wasn’t expected and in the other, Jesus didn’t find the requisite faith in his hometown, where it should have been.

I am going some place with this

I am utterly amazed because I have mentioned December 6th in at least one previous editorial and December 6th is significant in the life of America and in the lives of black Americans and I suspect the date passed by most Americans like a “thief in the night.”

I am amazed that not one person in our database mentioned December 6th, not even a statement from our episcopal leadership and nothing on Google about churches celebrating the auspicious occasion of the ratification of the abolition of slavery.  

It was 150 years ago this week in 1865 that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, officially abolishing slavery. I thank God that President Obama remembered and took the time to honor the anniversary. I doubt that any of our churches took the time to celebrate that auspicious occasion. 

I am sure if Richard Allen, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, Josiah Henson, Susan B. Anthony, John Greenleaf Whittier, John Brown and even Abraham Lincoln could speak from their graves, they would be utterly amazed that we do not honor and celebrate the ratification of the abolition of slavery. I am sure they would be appalled.  And, I know Frederick Douglass would have a lot to say!

And, to add insult to injury, we celebrate Independence Day, the 4th of July with vigor and enthusiasm and July 4th had no impact upon black Americans.

The statement about “liberty and Justice for all” did not apply to us! Black Americans in the United States were kept in legal bondage until December 6, 1865.  December 6th should be celebrated as an “Independence Day” by all Americans because December 6, 1865 abolished slavery in America! And, it was not without a fight.

The ravages of slavery still impact America.  Slavery was abolished, but we are still dealing with the residue of forced bondage of millions of black and Native Americans.

I am amazed and perplexed at the neglect of the important dates in our history.

Not only am I amazed that we neglect December 6, but I am utterly amazed when I read about AME Churches that celebrate Valentines Day to the neglect of Founder’s Day, the birth of Richard Allen on February 14, 1760. 

We fail to celebrate Jarena Lee’s birthdate, February 11, 1783; Bishop Daniel Payne - February 24, 1811; or Bishop Morris Brown - February 13, 1770.  We have had other significant bishops and general officers and noted laypersons whose birthdays and significant contributions are ignored and forgotten. 

I suspect most clergy cannot recall the dates of their ordinations, but that’s another editorial.

For those who might be concerned, there are still a few days to make amends because it was on December 18, 1865 that Secretary of State William H. Seward proclaimed its adoption. Just maybe on Sunday, December 13 or Sunday December 20, a reminder of the abolition of slavery might be mentioned.

The abolition of slavery was a “big event” in the lives of our newly freed slaves. I am old enough to have seen several persons who were born in slavery when I was a young child. I heard stories and slavery was still fresh in the minds of black Americans. 

I am amazed at our failure to celebrate such a significant date as December 6th!


-- The Rev. Joe Darby, presiding elder of the Beaufort District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

"I've had the privilege of knowing Joe Riley since 1998, when I came to Charleston as pastor of Morris Brown AME Church. We've had numerous ..."

-- Delaware Wants to Apologize for Slavery

The governor announced a state resolution that will apologize for slavery and its modern-day reverberations. “For generations, our country denied and actively contested a basic fact of humanity: that nothing about the color of one’s skin affects that person’s innate rights to freedom and dignity,” Democratic governor Jack Markell told the congregation at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington on Sunday"


John Thomas III (13th Episcopal District)
From December 3-4, 2015 over 400 AME clergy and lay leaders assembled in Atlanta, Georgia for CONVO XVII.  Under the leadership of Bishop James L. Davis (Chair of the CONVO Committee) and Bishop Clement W. Fugh (Chair, Legislative Committee of the Council of Bishops), the attendees built upon the dialogues held at the 2014 CONVO in Nashville moving towards strategies and concrete actions to address pressing concerns affecting the AME Church at all levels of the Connection. The theme for the 2014 CONVO was “First Thing First” based on Matthew 6:33.
The meeting opened with devotions lead by the Rev. Carl A. Moore (6th District). The meeting was presided over by Bishop William P. DeVeaux, Sr.  Following brief logistical instructions, words of greeting were given from Bishop Julius McAllister, Sr. (President of the Council of Bishops), Bishop Preston Warren Williams (Host Bishop), Bishop John R. Bryant (Senior Bishop), Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie (Chair, Strategic Planning), Bishop James L. Davis and Bishop Clement W. Fugh.   Rev. Luvenia Johnson (9) provided insights on the theme to guide the CONVO’s discussions. 
Bishop Adam J. Richardson delivered the CONVO Keynote Address.  After explicating the CONVO theme, he outlined four items that need to be on the agenda of African Methodism as we seek to put “first things first”: 1) youth and young adults; 2) civic engagement; 3) education; and 4) courage to face uncomfortable issues.
The afternoon session featured break-out groups along five lines: 1) Spiritual- Retired General Officer Dennis Dickerson (Spiritual Foundations); 2) Social- the Rev. Dr. Michael Brown (Interim President of Payne Seminary) (Relevance of Theological Perspectives of Issues of Social Justice); 3) Physical- the Rev. Dr. William Watley (6) (General Desire to see the whole community prosper); Communal- the Rev. Dr. Patrick Clayborn (9) (Relational); and Missional- the Rev. Mark Griffin (11) (Holistic Approach).  Each session had a presenter with several respondents and a key goal was concrete legislative proposals that could be passed to the CONVO drafting committee. 
On the second morning, devotionals were led by Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry.  Bishop Phillip R. Cousin gave a stirring homily, “From Rhetoric to Reality” (Matthew 6:33 and 7:21).  His prophetic message set the tone for the remainder of the meeting.  He preached with power and Spirit. Bishop Vashti McKenzie presided and a special appeal was made on behalf of the American Cancer Society (ACS) by Bishop William P. DeVeaux.  The Reverends Tamika Townsend Jones (2) and Glenda F. Hodges (2) spoke of the partnership that is developing between the ACS and the AME Church and discussed the Bicentennial Run at the General Conference that is to be a charitable fundraiser for the ACS.  Retired General Officer Jamye Coleman Williams gave a testimony as a multiple cancer survivor.  At the end of the appeal over $40,000 in cash and pledges had been collected for the ACS.  Persons who are interested in making a pledge or participating in the run can contact their Bishop.
The five breakout sessions reported and laid out their recommendations and legislative objectives.  Copies of the summaries as well as the legislation will be available from the General Secretary. Additionally, Bishop Richard F. Norris brought salutations from the General Board.   Bishop McKinley Young and the 3rd Episcopal District reporting that Wilberforce University had retained its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and that the “Show Cause Order” had been lifted.  A request will be made from the Third Episcopal District for the AME Church allocation for Wilberforce to be redirected to the Third Episcopal District to finance the loan that had been taken out to assist the school to make the necessary improvements mandated by the HLC. 

The Richard Allen postage stamp

Bishop Reginald T. Jackson and Mrs. Jackie Dupont-Walker of the Social Action Commission reported on the Richard Allen stamp.  The stamp will be publicly unveiled on February 2, 2016 in Mother Bethel at 11 a.m.  60-80 million stamps will be initially produced and they will be available for order 6-8 weeks prior to the unveiling.  The AME Church is in negotiations with the United States Postal Service to have the stamp available for purchase in time for Christmas.   Bishop Gerald Ingram provided updates on the Richard Allen Statue, the AME Encyclopedia and the April kick-off of the Bicentennial celebration.  More information can be found at http://2016generalconference.org/.

After the formal end of CONVO, the General Conference Commission, the AME Board of Trustees and the Commission on Statistics and Finance met to conduct business in preparation for the April 2016 meeting of the General Board and Council of Bishops in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


*The Rev. Velma E. Grant, M.Div., Th.M is President Women In Ministry, Sixth Episcopal District and associate minister at First Saint Paul AME Church in Lithonia, Georgia

The December 3-5, 2015 gathering at CONVO XVII in Atlanta, Georgia certainly proved that members are concerned about the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). Whether or not that concern is beneficial, it simply proves that the AMEC, despite dwindling membership, is still relevant in the lives of many people. Those in attendance traveled across city, town, and state lines and even across international time zones to express their opinions, listen and learn from an intergenerational group of presenters and panelists. The presenters and panelists included bishops, scholars, preachers and members of the laity who provided the attendees with relevant and timely information.

I suspect that others will write about the specific sessions and relevant discussions during the three day meeting in Atlanta, but I will instead focus on two items observed during CONVO XVII, that I found either refreshing or disturbing.

First, the item that was refreshing, in my opinion, was the presence and participation of the young adult demographic of the AMEC, who seem to have a vested interest not only in the present status of the Church but also its future. The young adults, female and male were eloquent and passionate as they expressed their views, opinions, and desires for the AMEC to continue the rich legacy of Bishop Richard Allen, Mrs. Sarah Allen, and pioneer preacher, Sister Jarena Lee. Continuing the legacy of our founders and pioneers does not mean that the AMEC has to be static or stuck in a previous century “doing the same old things, the same old way” without thought to “a new kind of people.”

This present day young adults will not look like, dress like, sound like, preach like, act like or sing like a previous generation because every generation emerges with its own distinct identity. While it is unfortunate that they are still experiencing the racism, stereotype, and social ills of previous generations, they will not necessarily address these “isms” in the same manner as their parents and grandparents. Using their distinct identity marked with modern technology, young adults are recording, tweeting, sharing their social activism, and making these activities visible to the world with the touch of a button. This modern method of activism does not diminish their ability to address the issues that not only affect their lives but the lives of the general population.

The gospel of “good news,” the history and mission of the AMEC will never change, however, the methods; delivery of the aforementioned will certainly change with each new generation. In other words – today’s church is not your mama’s or even your grandmother’s church. This present generation of young adults wants to be involved in the life and work of the Church; they have voices that speak clearly about their love for God and the AME Church and their desire to be involved in every area of the Church, now and in the future. It is truly refreshing to hear and see these young adults as they interact with others and navigate their way through the channels of Church bureaucracy.  

Church bureaucracy sometimes intentionally or unintentionally marginalizes, denies, or ignores the gifts and presence of others, particularly females in leadership roles. Quite disturbing to this writer was the picture on the cover of CONVO XVII’s booklet. A picture is worth a thousand words, a picture can reinforce or dismantle stereotypes, a picture can provide encouragement or discouragement, and a picture can affirm or disaffirm the presence, role of an individual or group of people.

The picture on the cover of CONVO XVII’s booklet was an excellent piece of graphic artwork that highlighted and displayed the skills of the artist; however, this writer could not designate the artwork as a masterpiece because it was incomplete (in my opinion). The picture featured a young adult male stepping up (walking up) on an elevated staircase of stacked Bibles with the theme of CONVO XVII “First Things First” prominently displayed in the color red. The premise of the graphic is that the focus is on young adult males who are disproportionately missing from the AMEC (and or seminary?) and thus the aim is to reach out to these young men and increase their presence in the Church (or seminary) by getting back to basics.

Getting back to basics (per the selected theme scriptural text) is emphasizing Matthew 6:33: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (NIV).” The scripture is certainly not relevant for or to only one gender and we certainly hope that “getting back to basics” is not an implicit way of stifling the progress that females are making in terms of ordained ministry or leadership roles in the AMEC.

Yes, females are entering and graduating from seminaries at an increasingly larger percentage rate than their male counterparts, but, the reality is that some of those males sans seminary training or degrees are still being promoted over females that have completed the rigorous coursework to obtain a seminary degree (no, quantitative data will not be shared in this article).

To include a graphic that only shows a young adult male will not address the underlying issues that are at the core of the issues that the theme “First Things First” wishes to address and correct. To achieve true kingdom worthy results and to address or correct the issues that plague the 21st century Church requires a look at the aliments that affect both male and female in our great Zion. The fate of the AMEC does not lie only in the hands and endeavors of young adult males but it also lies in the hands and endeavors of young adult females. The graphic on the booklet could truly have been a masterpiece if it had included a demographic that represents both male and female. After all, even when males are missing, the Church still continues but the Church will only become its best when all of God’s children are represented in whatever role that God provides and bestows the gift of salvation. “First Things First,” appropriate but should be inclusive because a picture is worth a thousand words and our young adult females and males are not only the future of the Church but also the present.

*The Rev. Velma E. Grant, M.Div., Th.M is President Women In Ministry, Sixth Episcopal District and associate minister at First Saint Paul AME Church in Lithonia, Georgia


*Brother George Brown

I am George Brown the Connectional President of the Sons of Allen, and we have spoken several times while in Nashville during the Christian Education Congress/Meeting.  We also share one additional thing in common we are fellows Officers and “Comrades - At – Arms.”
Thank you so much for the snippets concerning CONVO XVII, I was overwhelmed and delighted that someone would keep us informed about what was going on at CONVO XVII.

As you probably know by this writing I am not present at this expressive occurrence.   As I was preparing for this event my health unexpectedly failed, my heart started to flat line, in other words my heart would stop beating for periods up to 8 seconds which denied oxygen from getting to my brains causing periods of blackouts therefore, a pacemaker had to be implanted and on this past Monday I had a heart catheterization and am unable to travel.  Currently, I am in and out of the hospital.

Since I was selected by the nominating committee to serve as a respondent to be present in the group to spark discussions for the presenter, Dr. William Wately, I didn’t want anyone to think that I was shunning my duties and responsibilities therefore, I informed Bishop James L. Davis and Sister Marcia Fugh concerning my health which was required. However, no one responded to the receipt of my emails. Please lift my name up in prayer and that of my family during this event.   Thank you so very much for what you have done for the General Church over these many years.  May God continue to bless you and your family as you move to another juncture in your life.  Hope to see you several times before your second retirement.  “Thank you, Thank you and Thank you”.
*Brother George Brown is the Connectional President of the Sons of Allen


*The Rev. Anne Henning Byfield

The end of every calendar year is a natural time of reflection.  This year is no different.  At the end of 2014, African Americans responded to the rallying call from Bishop John R. Bryant that “Black Life Matters.”  We started the year 2015 with continued discussions, activities, and actions toward the treatment of African Americans in general and with specific concerns about police action shootings and Black on Black urban violence.

Then the massacre of the nine people at Mother Emmanuel AME Church shook the very foundation of our souls.  This violent, heinous act stunned the AME church, the Global Church, and the world in general.   We prayed, rallied, had services, wrote litanies and songs, and responded with generosity. 

Bishop Adam J. Richardson penned a liturgical response, “The Doors of the Church Are Still Open” that reflected our courage in the face of assault.  Amani Henry of the 4th District wrote a moving song, “The Doors of the Church are Still Open.”  Our themes of “no hate, no fear response and our determination to not let these kinds of actions deter our worship, our love of God, and humanity” have been and are still appropriate.

Shortly after the Charleston massacre, several people criticized the wonderful people of Mother Emanuel AME Church because they did not have guns in the church and no other means to adequately protect their members.  But, nothing in the article implied that the victims of a deranged man acted inappropriately. 

I do not believe that the victims could have done anything to change the tragedy.

However, how can we, looking toward the future, reasonably protect our congregations and buildings without limiting our doors and access to all who desire to worship?

I found it stunning that on the Sunday immediately after the massacre, and the days that followed, how people continued to enter our fully accessible buildings and sanctuaries across the country with few, if any, barriers, limitations or filters by anyone in the church.  While I celebrate our freedom, I wonder if this is good stewardship and if, as good Levites, our failure to plan is a proper Levitical response.

This discussion is not new for me.  Like many, I have had numerous opportunities to try to reconcile this dilemma. 

In the mid 1990’s, during a Sunday morning service, a young white male burst through the sanctuary door as I preached. As he marched toward the pulpit, one of the young preachers stood and invited him to sit down on the front row.

After I preached, I told another minister to escort him out of the sanctuary. 

As I started the invitation, the young preacher brought “visitor” back in saying “he had a testimony.” 

I refused to let the “visitor” give his testimony because he had disrupted the service and that this was not the time or place to address his concerns, but could do so later. 

At that point, the visitor grabbed me and started shouting “Baby killers, you are all abortionists.” As several men in the congregation approached him, he ran out of the sanctuary.

During this time a member had slipped out to call the police, but the dispatcher did not send anyone because, as we later found out, when she heard that a white person has disrupted a black church service she said, that the report was simply a case of prejudice against white people in a black church.  At that time several members, who were in law enforcement carried weapons, but none of them had attended church that Sunday.  We had not developed a security policy because we had relied on the fact that so many members in law enforcement attended the church.

When I pastored in Detroit, the environment dictated some form of a plan since the mental health facilities located near the church had closed and a house across the street housed people with “interesting behaviors” who would “escape” and “visit” to our church. We often encountered people entering the church with extraordinary mental issues.

Like many churches, people attended church simply because they needed food, clothing, and shelter. We provided for their needs. 

On at least three different occasions people, even with church security, disrupted the service; two actually entered the sanctuary. We praised God that church members handled the incidents without violence.

These reported incidents began my requirement for every church that I pastored to have a security, evacuation, and/or emergency plan. This policy has continued even after I became a presiding elder. 
Over the years I, along with individuals in church leadership, have developed foundational guideposts for creating a security plan. 

I am sharing these security guideposts to assist local churches in security planning.   

The Church is a refuge and must be treated as such and people want a safe place for their sacred time and fellowship.

Designing clear explanations and expectations for and with the congregation will empower the congregation to expect a calm, protective and caring place to worship.

Biblical Mandate:

Every church must empower the Levites to operate in their biblical model.  

A review of the duties of the official board: stewards, trustees, choirs, ushers, class leaders, etc., suggests that we already operate under a biblical model and that we must continue to utilize it for each church. 

The office of the Levite is more than a praise leader; it covers a spectrum of handling the sacred things of God.  The sacred things include more than managing the vessels; they include the gate-keeping of the people and the building. 

I Chronicles 9: 19-27 defines the duties of the gatekeeper.  They took charge of the work of the worship service, guarded of the thresholds of the tents and the entrance.  Verse 27 states, “and they would spend the night near the house of God, for on them lay the duty of watching, and they had charge of opening it every morning.” 

The duty of watching is a serious responsibility, and if nothing else, watching has to be a major part of providing protection to the people and the building.

Educating the Congregation:

The church Levites must educate the congregation, sometimes even against their will.  This education is more than giving men and women something to do, but it is an opportunity to represent true biblical stewardship.  We must answer their questions that belie inaction.  The answers include, but are not limited to, statements like:  “It won’t happen here.” 

Many members correctly feel that their church is a close-knit family and their church doesn’t get much traffic, therefore, it just won’t happen to them. They feel that they do not have to do anything because the greater odds are that no one will target their church. While that is most likely true, unfortunately, no one expects trouble to target them and prayerful preparation is critical.

We do not need to overreact: Many churches think that their quasi-plan will suffice because they only have small opportunities for disasters. However, having a part-time security guard or people getting up walking around checking for possible trouble from time to time is not a plan. 

We do not have the money for security: It is sad that many of our local institutions make decisions solely based on income.  It is a false belief that a solid secure plan can’t be initiated simply because the church does not have a large budget.  Many of the conditions that require planning only require thought and cooperation.

A plan is not an over reaction but an action, and in every institution where violence has occurred, the congregation never thought that they would be victimized.  Talking about a security plan is not an invitation for an attack; it is a plan that if there is ever an attack, the church is reasonably ready.

Evaluation of the physical plant and administrative process

Knowing and understanding your physical plant and church operation is essential to a strong security plan.

Take a moment to review these additional questions:

- Is their adequate lighting inside and outside?  

- How many doors do you have?

- Where are the doors? 

- Do the doors have panic-bars so that anyone can get out but, restricts who enters?

- Are there adequate emergency controls? 

- Are there exit signs, alarm systems, designated security code holders and persons designated to make emergency calls? 

- Who is and when are they designated to call the police?

- Who is designated as the building contact person and do they have all of the keys needed in an emergency situation?

- Is the parking lot protected?

- Are there environmental blockages - areas that are compromised such as roof damage and broken windows?

- Who provides security during service, meeting and rehearsal times?

- Is there a monitored alarm system and how does it work in a case where there is a need to call for assistance in an emergency.

- You need to address these issues no matter whether you have implemented a full security plan.

Initiating the plan

The church must identify a team that will represent the congregation in planning, preparing, responding, and implementing the security plan.  The team must carefully identify the required framework of the plan, and all who will be involved in its implementation, the person(s) who will train the church membership to implement the plan should the need arise and   all of the additional needed resources. 

The church leadership should complete these initial steps before contacting a professional to assist them in finalizing the written security plan. 

Follow these next steps to assist in finalizing the security plan. 

Have a conversation with professionals who can help you shape the final the plan.

The suggested security professionals include, but are not limited to persons in your congregation, such as law enforcement officers, TSA agents, security personnel, health practitioners, emergency services personnel.

These persons can help the church complete a workable plan.

Have a conversation with the board of trustees and the board of stewards to get their input and concerns.
Develop a security team that represents the various stakeholders in the church membership. 

Teach all members to be alert and not judgmental.  There is a fine line between observation and a rush to call the police. A decision must be made if this person needs immediate ministerial rather than removal. Have specific written protocol for when someone should call the police.  

Decide who will lock and unlock the doors, protect the parking lot and other environmental property, and greet worshippers.
Determine where the security team, both men and women will stand so that they will not disrupt the atmosphere or diminish the spirit of worship, how to handle the stewardship period, who will guard the process and where the counting of offerings will occur, etc.

Determine who will protect the vulnerable population including the children, youth, elderly and differently abled and who will protect the pastor and the pastor’s family.
Set an annual date for the implementation of the plan and a review of the church building by the board of trustees.  
Be sure to get the plan approved by the church and all of its stakeholders.

It is my hope that we will be good stewards in all that we do for our trust is in God.  

We will not trust in chariots or horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). 

Teaching our members to be discerning, prayerful, loving and spiritually responsible will greatly strengthen our “duty to watch.”

 *The Rev. Anne Henning Byfield is the Presiding Elder of the North District Indiana Annual Conference


Washington: It is gratifying that many faith leaders, media figures, and politicians have denounced the demand by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that Muslims be banned from entering the country. The National Council of Churches joins our voice to those who have expressed outrage at his comments.

At the recent meeting of the Governing Board of the NCC, a statement on hateful rhetoric was adopted which “calls on all candidates for office to refrain from utilizing speech that reflects hatred of others and results in the division of society as a way to promote their candidacies.” This statement speaks to the larger matter but does not address Mr. Trump's most recent comments.

The New York Times has carried out a careful examination of Mr. Trump's rhetoric and has concluded it bears disturbing demagogic tendencies similar to “Goldwater, George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy, Huey Long and Pat Buchanan, who used fiery language to try to win favor with struggling or scared Americans.” Demagogic rhetoric, while sometimes popular, is damaging to the body politic and we reiterate our request that political candidates not employ it.

Finally, we not only express our solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers, we pledge to protect and shelter them physically and spiritually with our words and our deeds. It is a certainty that many Christians will give active aid and assistance to Muslims if efforts are made to ban them, register them, or harm them.
We urge Christians across the nation to respond to hate with love, and to the stranger with hospitality and generosity, taking the Great Commandment to heart:

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40, (NRSV)


Online Registration is available through the website through the website of Turner Theological Seminary.

Dr. John F. Green, President/Dean
Turner Theological Seminary
The Interdenominational Theological Center
702 Martin Luther King Jr Dr SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30314

Telephone: (404) 527-0080
Fax: (404) 527-4687

Submitted by the Rev. Rae D. Fitch, Administrative Assistant to the President/Dean


*Alice Bernstein

As South Carolina was enduring terrible flooding and continuing rains, I tried to reach many friends my colleagues and I have made over 15 years, to say how much they mean to us and to offer encouragement.  Among the men and women we’ve met through our work with the nonprofit Alliance of Ethics & Art, are unsung pioneers I interviewed for "The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights" oral history project, and participants in our free educational performance event, "The People of Clarendon County"--A Play by Ossie Davis, & the Answer to Racism!  And as a journalist, my articles about what Eli Siegel, the great American poet and founder of the education Aesthetic Realism, explained is the cause and answer to racism, appear around the country, including in the Tennessee Tribune. The cause of racism and every injustice is contempt, “the addition to self through the lessening of something else”—and the answer: learning to criticize contempt, including in oneself, and to see the depths of others are as real and alive as our own.

And, I am personally grateful to have learned from Aesthetic Realism, that our hope to like reality--even under terrible or difficult circumstances--and to do all we honestly can to like reality, is our deepest desire and the most sensible way to take care of ourselves.  
A poem I care for is, “Somewhere Along the Line" by Eli Siegel, from his series of "Hope Poems."  In it, the world as known and unknown, logical and confusing, is given musical form that is graceful and matter-of-fact, true and comforting at once.  

"Somewhere Along the Line" by Eli Siegel:

As we look in any direction,
We don't know, but there may be some good thing
Somewhere along the line.

And now I'd like to tell you about something truly hopeful--a "good thing"--that happened in South Carolina in recent days. 

Bishop Frederick C. James & Prosperity's Rosenwald School

When I finally reached the revered A.M.E. Bishop Frederick James (now 93) in Columbia, I was relieved to hear that he and his wife are faring well. Then I gingerly asked how his dear, unfinished Rosenwald School building in Prosperity, SC had fared. Before I tell his answer, I'll give some history.
This school was one of over 5,000 built in the South in the 1920s-30s to provide quality education to black children which the racist Jim Crow laws deprived them of. These schools were the vision of Jewish businessman Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), encouraged by educator and former slave Booker T. Washington. They were built to improve the lives of black Americans, and would educate hundreds of thousands of children.  
Frederick James attended the Prosperity Rosenwald School from 1st to the 10th grade (1927-37). His treasured education led to a life as a distinguished theologian and advocate for education, human and civil rights for people of all faiths and ethnicities--in the US and beyond. He marched with Dr. King, opposed the racist apartheid system in South Africa--and attended the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as that country's first black president. 
For 30 years he has dedicated himself to restoring and preserving the dilapidated building--originally one of the most beautiful of Rosenwald schools--so it may be a center of education, culture, and economic uplift for the entire community in the 21st century.
The Alliance was proud to partner with the Bishop in his effort to raise funds, by applying for a grant in his behalf, which would enable us to come to SC and produce our Clarendon County/Answer to Racism event as a fundraiser for the school. The Puffin Foundation answered the call and sent a $1,000 grant for this purpose. And while other grant-seeking efforts at the time didn't pan out, Bishop James used the Puffin funds to further restore the building's many large windows.

Hope Was "Somewhere along the line" 

When I asked how his dear Rosenwald School had fared with the flood and rains, he said that because it was on high ground, it was not flooded. And he added, "I'd like to thank you for your role in helping to preserve those windows; it also led to helping our school building to withstand these great rains. I will be forever appreciative of that."
And he continued, "That Puffin Foundation grant triggered other people to have faith enough to give large gifts--there is encouragement in numbers. I can't talk enough about your role in this."
Bishop James said further: "I'd like to say what's in my heart. What this nation needs is more caring across ethnic lines. I think our nation and the world needs what Eli Siegel, the great founder of Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy of life in America and the world, teaches. It's certainly in harmony with the great religious scriptures and the heart of all faiths across this globe."
We are proud to be a means of preserving history, some of which might never have become known and of encouraging people everywhere to study Aesthetic Realism's scientific, kind, and urgent explanation of the cause and answer to racism. To learn more: www.Allianceofethicsandart.org

Alice Bernstein is a journalist, Aesthetic Realism Associate, and civil rights historian.


The fall 2015 inaugural edition of the Sable Health and Human Development Journal has been dedicated to Dr. Algeania Marie Warren Freeman who the editorial board cited as a Living Legend in Higher Education for her stellar contributions to the academy. 

Dr. Freeman is being honored with a plaque from the journal's editorial board for her devotion and outstanding contributions in saving and making a difference at HBCU's. The editorial board staff wrote:  "...we decided to dedicate this inaugural issue to the contemporary living legend Dr. Algeania Marie Warren Freeman-Ph.D., President of Wilberforce University.  Dr. Freeman is a contemporary leader who has managed to accomplish much against great odds. 

Her record of professional achievements is simply exceptional.  Moreover, Dr. Freeman's higher education leadership accomplishments, in our time are truly legendary. However, there are three professional achievements in higher education that standout among all of the rest.  Those three achievements are centered on her exceptional acumen and demonstrated leadership skills as a president of three different institutions of higher education.  Those institutions are Martin University, Livingstone College, and Wilberforce University where she is the current president. 

Her most recent accomplishment against great odds is her extremely successful launch of a renaissance at Wilberforce University. Many in the higher education community and many outside of that community had already begun writing the epitaph for Wilberforce University. 

Of course, after Dr. Freeman received the call she simply went to work doing what she has proven expertise in.  That expertise is the leadership in reviving and moving toward renaissance institutions that often "experts conclude cannot be and are not worth reviving." Therefore, we were determined to provide recognition of Dr. Freeman's most recent accomplishment "against great odds."

An eminent daughter of Benson, North Carolina, Dr. Freeman, this one is for you!"  Dr. Freeman was featured in the December 4, 2015 and November 23 issues in BlackEnterprise.com for her accomplishments in saving the accreditation of Wilberforce University. She also received the Citizen of the Year Award from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity in Dayton.   Dr. Freeman was one of the first recipients of the Harlem Renaissance Awards as an Outstanding HBCU's President. 

For additional information, please contact Dr. D.R. Buffinger, Provost of Wilberforce University at drbuff@wilberforce.edu


The Rev. Dr. Alice Hubbard Crenshaw, pastor of St. Stephen and Morris Brown AME churches once again saw the need to bring about awareness in the Jefferson and Orleans Parishes concerning Impetrative Women’s Issues. The sub-title of this year’s conference was “Saving Our Sisters” (SOS). The conference explored God’s Mission for Humanity-Spirituality and the Psychological, Healthcare for Women, Economic and Financial Empowerment, God’s Purpose and Plan for my Life: Spiritual Foundations foe Human Sexuality & Reproductive Health, Religion and Psychiatry,  How to Combat Human Trafficking; and Domestic Violence and Abuse Awareness. God moved in mysterious ways as women became liberated from wounds that were caused during childhood and young adult stages of their lives. The session ended with panel discussions. Persons were so caught up that the entire group session lasted an hour and a half longer that the schedule.  It appeared that no one was ready to go home.

The workshops were conducted at the Hilton Honors Hotel airport location. Co-Sponsors were Mayor Mike Yennie, Dr. Martha Stewart, along with friends and business associates of Dr. Crenshaw who felt that the issues were serious enough to support.

Highlights of the presenters and their presentations were:

Carla Cargle a financial expert, author and inspirational speaker, has committed her life to economically and financially empower the community. She is a graduate of Hampton University in Hampton, VA. As an Advocate for Economic and Financial Empowerment across the country, Carla is a frequently featured television and radio guest throughout the United States, and has been featured in national publications. Carla serves as a featured Financial Contributor for Houston’s major television networks.

She is the author of “The Financial Truth” ™ book series and the National Urban League’s nationally acclaimed Economic Empowerment program entitled, “Know Your Money”.  Programs written and taught by Carla have impacted over 1 Million Americans since the year 2002. Carla is a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors where she has served on the Board of Directors, Houston chapter.   In addition Carla has been a qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

The Financial Truth is dedicated to transforming the souls and minds of God's people throughout the universe to embrace and live a life of wealth and abundance. Her teaching was a rewarding and enjoyable experience. She told the group to open up their soul and let God's love, creative power and wisdom be poured into their minds, hearts and financial storehouses. Carla’s motto is “I am the financial truth, building wealth 4 all.”

Miaisha Mitchell, Executive Director of the Greater Frenchtown Governor's Revitalization Council and co-chair of the Health Equity Alliance of Tallahassee. Dr. Boston is her copartner who came to New Orleans and the two of them tagged team a wonderful workshop that incorporated the health environment of women.  Ms. Mitchell envisions equal health for all. Her mission is to bridge the gap between research and action to explain and eliminate the causes of social inequalities in health.

Her desire for us was to increase our scientific knowledge and raise our consciousness about the causes of health inequities. She creates equitable partnerships between researchers and community members; promotes community capacity building and empowerment; and translate research into policy to change the unequal social and economic conditions that harm people’s health. She challenged us to do the same here in the State of Louisiana. Ms. Mitchell’s Health Equity Alliance of Tallahassee (HEAT) is a community-academic partnership for health equity in Tallahassee, FL

Dr Anita Major is an Education Consultant at Education Connection in Lakeland, Florida she is also a Professional Training & Coaching and a graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit. Because of the magnitude an impact on the people of color, HIV/STD is once again a priority and was addressed following-up from where we left off last year.           

Beth Salcedo, M.A. Human Trafficking she is the Free Indeed Home Director, Co-Founder. Beth earned her Master's degree from the University of Northern Colorado in Communication Disorders. She has been practicing in the New Orleans area for 27 years. Beth has extensive experience in the development and implementation of rehabilitation programs, with an emphasis on communication/social issues and life skills training. Her view of rehabilitation is based on her belief that faith-based treatment is relevant for healing and restoration, particularly in the area of severe trauma, as experienced by children who have been victims of human trafficking. She also interacts with the courts concerning a variety of psychological-legal issues in the Greater Metropolitan area of New Orleans. Her experience and knowledge of human trafficking enables her to provide education, engage in legislative advocacy, and enhance community awareness.  Beth has been working diligently in this field since 2012 when she retired from her private practice as a speech pathologist and she and her husband, Dr. Rafael Salcedo founded Louisiana’s Coalition against Human Trafficking in Louisiana. She brought awareness that most in the room could not believe.  The majority of us were AME’s who stick our heads in the sand.  We are so holy and religious that we don’t know what is going on in our communities.

Bridget Gibson was the presenter of Domestic Violence and Abuse Awareness.  In 2013 in her home town of Crowley Louisiana, three people were murdered due to domestic violence – one of these was her mother’s beautician of 16 years.  She founded “Tell the Truth 225 318 337 504” – A Non-Profit organization.  Its function is to make all people aware of domestic violence and event planning. This is a very serious issue in our communities. 
According to its data tracking statewide in Louisiana crime and media reports, the coalition found 71 domestic violence-related deaths in 2011 — an additional 21 incidents that resulted in 32 deaths missed by the VPC report. Those deaths include nine incidents with multiple victims resulting in 20 deaths from a single offender.

"Louisiana is one of the few heavily populated states that consistently rank in the top five for murders of women,"

The report also notes that black women are killed by men at a rate more than two-and-a-half times higher than white women, and 94 percent of those black women knew their killers. The coalition says 81 percent of murdered women in Louisiana were killed by a husband, partner or ex-partner.

Those reports reflect a bleak era for the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) as it faced intense scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2010, the DOJ's results of a yearlong probe found NOPD failed to adequately address domestic violence cases, with complaints ranging from poor response to 911 calls to failure to perform follow-up interviews. In at least one case, the NOPD never responded at all. Between January and July 2010, the NOPD took 6,200 calls for service regarding domestic violence: 1,200 were assigned to domestic violence unit detectives, and officers in corresponding districts handled 2,700 cases, while another 1,500 reports — nearly one in four calls — went "missing."

  The report notes that neither the NOPD's operations manual nor the domestic violence unit's manual contained any guidelines for 911 protocol, identifying and documenting injuries (including failing to note symptoms of strangulation or ask follow-up questions related to strangulation), and procedures for follow-up investigations. The report notes one case where a neighbor heard screams and called 911, yet the neighbor was never interviewed. "The absence of specific guidance for officers and detectives not only impedes effective response and investigations," the report notes, "but also creates potentially dangerous conditions for victims."

  The report also quotes a victim of domestic violence who asked that the 911 dispatcher tell officers not to tell the batterer that the victim was calling — or was inside the house — an instruction the officers ignored. "They did it the way they wanted to do it," the victim said.

"The majority of places are just barely keeping their heads above water and not working on the same systemic changes as New Orleans."

The Rev. Leona Spears Fisher Graduated from: St. Helena High School;  Delgado Junior College; Jefferson Parish Nursing Licensed Practical Nurse Ochsner Hospital; Psychiatric Nursing Program; LSU Medical School; Trainer in Child/Adolescent Psychiatry  Served on the LSU Board of Examiners; Oral Roberts University; Trainer in Religion & Psychiatry; University of Galveston, Texas; child/Adolescent Milieu Therapy Certification.

She shared with us that psychiatry and traditional religion haven't always co-existed happily. These days, though, the relationship between secular shrinks and old-time faith isn't usually as hostile or mutually exclusive in practice as these battle-cries would suggest. Both in academic scholarship and the everyday experience of people who need help or provide it, the two worlds seem to be overlapping more and more. The idea of a link between spirituality and mental health has gained respectability across America with the creation of research like the Spirituality and Mind-Body.  Fisher stated there are conclusions which include "investigation...on spirituality as protective against mental illness and as a source of resilience in building respectful relationships and personal meaning and purpose."

The Rev. Fisher said, "For many people, religion and spirituality are key resources that can facilitate their growth. For others religion and spirituality may be sources of problems that need to be addressed in the service of their health and well-being." Meanwhile, from the point of view of people seeking help, problems and solutions are rarely divided into neat boxes.  She says many patients have drawn strength both from conventional therapy and religion while coping with a history of abuse. Rev. Fisher also experienced that many of her clients gained gain from "Christian Biblical Counseling." She proved by Scriptures from Old and New Testament into Revelation, that psychiatry was needed in the Garden of Eden after “the fall” - Spirit, mind, body and soul were missed up!

*Submitted by the Rev. Dr. Jennie L. Curry


Kathy L. Gilbert

United Methodist Bishop James E. Dorff admitted to violating his marriage and ordination vows and has voluntarily resigned as episcopal leader of the Rio Texas Conference, effective Jan. 1, 2016.

Dorff resigned after a complaint was filed, Bishop Michael McKee, president of the South Central Jurisdictional College of Bishops, said in announcing the resignation on Dec. 4.

Dorff, who is also surrendering his credentials effective Jan, 1, expressed his regret in a letter to the college of bishops.

"It is so difficult to admit and share, but I must inform you that I did not uphold the sacred vows I made to God at my wedding, at my consecration as bishop, and at my ordination as elder. I crossed what were the clear expectations of relational boundaries.

“For this transgression, I am profoundly sorry. I offer my sincerest apologies to all concerned. My actions have caused pain to many, including my family, the person involved, each of you, members of the annual conference, and the greater church. I am so, so sorry," Dorff wrote.

Interim bishop to be named

McKee said that an interim bishop will be appointed to serve beginning in January. Until the interim bishop is appointed, he will provide episcopal oversight. During the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in July 2016, a new Rio Texas bishop will be appointed to a term beginning on September 1, 2016. The conference serves South Texas with nearly 400 churches.

“This is a difficult situation for everyone involved, but we are confident that the ongoing ministries of the conference will continue under the capable leadership of the experienced, faithful conference staff and laity,” said McKee, who will work with the leaders of the Rio Texas Conference to ensure a smooth transition.

Dorff is resigning eight months before his planned retirement.

Prayers and sadness

He was elected bishop in 2008, after serving as a pastor in the North Texas Conference for 36 years.

As episcopal leader, he oversaw the merger of the Southwest Texas and Rio Grande conferences. He also dealt with the controversy that surrounded the clergy candidacy of M. Barclay, who identified as lesbian. The Book of Discipline forbids the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.

Byrd L. Bonner, who co-chaired the unification steering team during the merger, said he was "profoundly sad" to hear the news.

"I am praying for Bishop and Mrs. Dorff and all affected. That includes our new Río Texas Annual Conference. Thankfully our new conference is strong and is born of a resilient spirit. It is that spirit that will serve her well in persevering this and any challenges," said Bonner, who is also president of The United Methodist Church Foundation,

"In this season of Advent, we must focus on the future and the promise that God holds for us all, including and especially the Dorffs," Bonner said.

Complaints against bishops are handled within that bishop’s regional College of Bishops under the denomination’s law book, the Book of Discipline.

Churchwide leadership

Beyond his episcopal area, he has provided churchwide leadership through the Connectional Table, which coordinates the mission and ministry of the general church. He has been president of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry and a member of Africa University's board. He has been a leader in the Global Health Initiative and the World Methodist Council.

As a member of the Global Health Initiative Executive Committee, he led the former Southwest Texas Annual Conference in becoming the pilot project for the Imagine No Malaria campaign. The campaign to raise $75 million formally launched with a celebration and free concert event at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on World Malaria Day, April 25, 2010.

"Our entire annual conference embraced the opportunity to lead the way by supporting Imagine No Malaria," Dorff said at the time. "We are excited to showcase this initiative to the Austin community and to the entire denomination."

The campaign was launched simultaneously in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Dorff was part of a delegation of United Methodist leaders who were on hand to help distribute anti-malaria bed nets there.

Higher education impact

A highlight of Dorff’s tenure as president of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry included attending the International Association of United Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities’ 2014 Conference in Hiroshima, Japan, where scholars and students from five continents focused on peace, reconciliation and human rights.

During the conference, Dorff emphasized the role that Methodist-related institutions have played for centuries in developing leaders for the church and world. “As we look to develop principled Christian leaders as one of our four areas of focus, it is extremely important that we engage our United Methodist schools, colleges and universities – that we support them, encourage them and challenge them to continue to provide and develop the leaders that we need so much.”

In Texas, Dorff also has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Methodist Mission Home of San Antonio, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas and the Texas Methodist Foundation.

He married Barbara Langley Dorff in 1975, and they have two sons and three grandchildren.

Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. Heather Hahn contributed to this story.

*Used with permission of the United Methodist News Service


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

Based on Biblical Text: Ephesians 5:8 KJV: For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.

Let me begin by reminding us that there are essentially two walks available in the life of a man. One walk is in darkness; the other walk is in the light. I must also remind us that there is a vast difference between the two walks we can choose. The fact of the matter is our eternal future depends on the walk we choose.

You see, ever since the fall of Adam, in the Garden of Eden, we are born to take the path that leads toward darkness. Unfortunately we are not only in darkness, but we are darkness. That means that every person born who never comes to know the Lord is all alone.

It is deceiving because although there appears to be plenty of people around, and we seem to be enjoying the fruits of our labors, in the end if we never come to know the Lord we will just die and spend eternity in hell. We are destined to spend eternity apart from God because while the blood still ran warm in our veins we never enjoyed a relationship with the Creator.

The problem is there are a whole lot of folk, maybe even someone reading this today, that don’t believe there is a hell. That is not so unbelievable in light of the information gathered in a recent poll indicating that less than 10% of the people interviewed believed that hell even existed. Worse than that, there have been other reports that have shown that about 30% of all Christians may not believe that there is a hell.

When folk don’t believe that there is a hell the door is open for science to come in and blind you. 
When you don’t believe there is a hell science can sneak in blinding folk to the truth about where we came from, confusing us about where the world came from. Science can actually take over confusing folk to the point they don’t even know why they are here! There is then no real meaning, no real purpose to life. The real purpose, meaning and significance of life remain a mystery.

That is what it means to live in darkness. That is what it means to be destined for hell. Folk who choose to live apart from God have neither connection with life nor any connection to the truth. Apart from God there are only shadows, darkness and a permanent separation from our Creator.

I do not want to even think about life apart from God! I can’t even imagine waking up every day without God in my life. Without God we would just be headed to a dark death and destined to an eternity separated from God.

However, the Bible claims that men love darkness. “Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) I can’t speak for you but as for me I would rather live in the Light. Since I have a choice, I would rather choose the path of light, wouldn’t you? The path of light is Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).

So what does it mean to live in the light of Christ? When we live in the light of Christ, we are living true to our spiritual destiny rather than our natural destiny. That means that when we live in the light we may have been born to die, but we chose to live.

When we live in the light we chose to be the very embodiment of light by allowing the light of Christ to live in us. When Christ is in us we have to change because our old nature has to leave. In other words when Christ moves in the old man has to get out because the new man takes over.

What I’m trying to get us to understand is that when Christ moves in He brings the light. He shines a divine light on everything we use to have trouble seeing. Christ literally changes our darkness into light. When we let Christ move in we are saying Christ take over. The fact of the matter is when Christ moves in there is a transformation and the reward for the transformation is eternal life with Christ.  The Bible says, “For ye were sometimes in darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)

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


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

The Rev. Dr. Fuller is currently on Sabbatical leave from the University of Michigan.  She will submit her column as her schedule permits.  She has been a faithful columnist and has shared powerful information for which we are appreciative.

We trust that the Rev. Dr. Fuller is getting a much needed rest. She is a busy lady! We will receive her columns when she sends them, but we hope she will take some time for rest and relaxation.


*Brother Bill Dickens

Key Verse: Therefore you will keep my commandments, and do them: I am the Lord.  Leviticus 22:31


My twenty-five plus years of working in the economics profession has taught me many important lessons about how the market for economic resources works. 

One of the more important “rules” economists acknowledge is consumers of goods and services are extremely picky about the product prior to purchase.  Products must exactly match customer expectations.  These expectations are competitive price, product functionality, appearance and safeguards in the event of failure. Any product that is perceived to have defects will result in client dissatisfaction, product rejection and no sale.  In short, for picky consumers, quality matters.  Second-best options are not acceptable to customers who only demand the “best.”  

The December 13, 2015 Adult AME Church School Lesson investigates the reasons for why Yahweh is “picky” when it comes to certain ceremonial offerings.  The author of Leviticus outlines a specific framework for presenting offerings.  Some may consider the requirements about acceptable offerings as being overly burdensome.  Such a conclusion however would be premature and myopic.  If we desire to have an intimate, personal relation with a perfect deity, shouldn’t it be logical that requirements to show our devotion and respect, through ceremonial offerings, be the best we can offer?  This is the central question and as we see below there are unambiguous answers.

Bible Lesson

It is important to emphasize that the tradition or practice for Jews to give offerings is rooted in sound Old Testament theology.  As far back as the competitive offerings between Cain and Abel we see God approving one offering and rejecting the other. An offering was used in order to restore one’s relationship with God.  Sin resulted in Jews having an estranged relationship with Yahweh.  The offering was presented to show the degree of contriteness and sincerity by the transgressor to a holy God.  In examining the offerings in Leviticus Chapter 22 we find diversity, integrity and sensitivity in the offering tradition.

Diversity of Offerings

In Leviticus 22: 17-25, we see various offerings.  The author describes a freewill offering, a burnt offering and a peace offering. 

A freewill offering in the Bible is a spontaneous gift (Ex. 35:29), a voluntary sacrifice (Lev. 22:23; Ezra 3:5), as opposed to one in consequence of a vow, or in expiation of some offence. 

The Hebrew word for “burnt offering” actually means to “ascend, “literally to “go up in smoke.” The smoke from the sacrifice ascended to God, “a soothing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 1:9). Technically, any offering burned over an altar was a burnt offering, but in more specific terms, a burnt offering was the complete destruction of the animal (except for the hide) in an effort to renew the relationship between Holy God and sinful man.

A peace offering in the Old Testament Law is described in Leviticus 7:11–21. It was a voluntary sacrifice given to God. A peace offering could be given as a freewill offering, meaning that the worshiper was giving the peace offering as a way to say “thank you” for God’s unsought generosity. It was basically just a way to praise God for God’s goodness.

Integrity of Offerings

The author of Leviticus is unambiguously clear that God is both “picky and choosy” regarding what type of offering is acceptable. 

God does not compromise His expectations about sacrificial offerings. 

Sacrificial animal offerings must meet the highest quality standard.  The offering must consist of an animal with no physical blemish, defect or deformity. God is holy. Offerings therefore should reflect God’s holiness criterion by being perfect in design and composition. 

The New Testament implications for this practice is assuring for 21st century believers.  Jesus is our perfect sacrifice.  He was without blemish or sin.  His death was a “sweet smelling savor” to God the Father. 

Offerings in Leviticus required biological purity and perfection.  The sacrifice provided by Jesus transcends this practice by assuring us that the work of propitiation is complete in the redemptive work of Christ.

Sensitivity of Offerings

The practice of offerings was not as rigid as some think. Leviticus 17:23 describes certain conditions when God provides exceptions to the requirements described in the integrity discussion. Provided the offering is not to fulfill a vow and it is provided by participants who were economically poor, some relaxation of the “no defect” rule for animal sacrifice was permitted.  The exception illustrates that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was sensitive to the poor and showed grace and mercy to the needy.

Bible Application

A typical 21st century worship service asks parishioners to participate in offertory act of giving.

Instead of using animals or agricultural products, we transact in legal tender or money.  We provide a monetary (cash, check or bank card) offering to support our local mission work, local church expenses. Connectional obligations, church building fund and/or replenishing a depleted college scholarship fund.  

Supporting the ministry and mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is an important endeavor.  The financial offerings are deeply appreciated since the act is done voluntarily. 

The key question we must ask however is this.  Are we giving God our best in the practice of financial offerings?  Are our offerings purged of impurities, e.g., bounced checks, stingy limits, and dishonest monetary acquisition? 

God requires that our offerings be pure and unblemished from the stain of sin and deceit.  This is a commandment that is applicable today.  God is holy, ergo, we should be holy. QED

Homework Assignment

What are some non-financial offerings you can provide for your local AME church?

*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 took the time today to give thanks to God for a major blessing - I’m five years free of colorectal cancer.  I did so, however, two months after the September anniversary of that blessing.

The fall of the year is “Annual Conference Season” in the Seventh Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church - with bi-weekly sessions of the six Annual Conferences of the District from late August to late October, followed by a November Post-Conference Episcopal District wrap up meeting.

I got caught up in the demands of being a Presiding Elder in that busy season - which also included the Charleston NAACP’s Freedom Fund Banquet, my oldest son’s wedding and an international meeting of the AME Church - and only thought about the blessing of being cancer free for five years when I sat down to pray on a subject for this meditation.

A little more than five years ago, I had just finished chemotherapy and radiation, was recovering from surgery and was focused on getting well.  God blessed me to recover, so much so that present day concerns pushed the five year old memory of my healing down on my priority list.  I finally took the time today to whisper a prayer of forgiveness for my “spiritual amnesia” and a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s healing power.

I offer my experience to you in the midst of this Advent Season, when Christians should focus on what the coming of the Messiah - the birth of the Christ - meant for this world and for us.  Advent should be a season of prayerful contemplation and thanksgiving, but it can easily become a season of putting up Christmas decorations, Christmas gift shopping and Christmas celebration planning.

We’d all do well, in the midst of planning to celebrate the traditions of Christmas, to pause, prayerfully contemplate and give thanks for the essence of Christmas - that the God who created all that is chose to send His Son into this world to save us from our sins, to make us worthy recipients of daily blessings through His grace and to grant all who believe everlasting life.

Take the time, in the midst of your Christmas preparation, to reflect on and count your blessings.  You’ll find restored and strengthened hope, experience spiritual renewal, and rediscover the meaning in the words of the hymn that says, “From sinking sand, He lifted me; with tender hand, He lifted me; from shades of night to planes of light, oh, praise His name, he lifted me.”

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

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


-- Dr. James S. P. Cooper, First Gentleman of Empowerment Temple AME Church Liberia received the Distinguished Service Award for over 40 years of Exceptional Leadership Service in Banking and Financial Management

Congratulations to Dr. James S. P. Cooper, First Gentleman of Empowerment Temple AME Church Liberia and spouse of the Rev. Dr. Katurah York Cooper for receiving the "Distinguished Service Award." James Cooper was honored for over 40 years of exceptional leadership service in Banking and Financial Management. He was honored along with other past Presidents of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), including Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, at The 50th Anniversary Gala of the Bank. James Cooper is presently the Senior Director on the Board of LBDI and chairs the Audit Committee. James Cooper not only leaves a legacy in the financial world but he has served the AME Church as a member of the Finance Committee of the 14th Episcopal District, Treasurer of the Trustee Board of Eliza Turner AME Church, and presently serves as Treasurer of the Central Liberia Annual Conference.  We salute him for his generous spirit and years of selfless service to his country and his church.

Congratulatory messages can be sent via email to: jspcooper@gmail.com, Dr. James S. P. Cooper.

The Rt. Rev. Clement W. Fugh Presiding Prelate, 14th Episcopal District
Mrs. Alexia Butler Fugh, Episcopal Supervisor

-- Mrs. Carla Benson Green was confirmed by the State Senate in Dover, Delaware to serve as the Secretary of Children Youth and Family Services by a unanimous vote

Congratulations to Mrs. Carla Benson Green, daughter of the Rev. Frances Benson, pastor of John Wesley AME Church in Dover Delaware and the late Mr. Carl Benson.

Mrs. Green is a graduate of Morgan State University and has been employed by the department for 33 years. She is a member of John Wesley AME Church in Dover Delaware. She is married to Mr. Ernest Green and they have two children.


Mrs. Cassie Mae Parham, the widow of the Reverend Homer J. Parham (retired pastor in the 12th Episcopal District) passed on Friday, December 4, 2015.

Services have been entrusted to: 

Premier Funeral Home
1518 S. Battery Street
Little Rock, AR 72202

Telephone: (501) 376-4800

A Family Hour will be held Friday, December 11, 2015, 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. at Premier Funeral Home.

A Celebration of her life will be held Saturday, December 12, 2015, 12:00 noon at the F. O. Jones Christian Center, 749 Ouachita, Bearden, AR 71720.

Condolences may be shared with the family c/o her daughter:

Deborah (Tim) Woods
4 Sugar Maple Court
Little Rock, AR 72212

Telephone: (501) 517-6693

 The Family requests that floral expressions be sent to the funeral home.

Thank you in advance for remembering the family in your prayers.


We regret to announce the passing of Sister Velda Fletcher Jones, the sister of the Rev. Michelle Pinkney-McBeth, the pastor of Bethel AME Church in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania of the Philadelphia Conference. 

The following information has been provided regarding funeral arrangements.

Friday, December 11, 2015
Viewing – 9:00 a.m.
Funeral – 11:00 a.m.

Mt. Tabor AME Church
961-71 North 7th Street (7th & Girard Ave.)
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Telephone: (215) 574-1310
Fax: (215) 574-1312

The Rev. Albert D. Johnson, pastor

Expressions of kindness can be sent to:

Mrs. Sara Fletcher (mother)
3104 N. Stillman Street
Philadelphia, PA 19132


Brother Melvin Clipper Driver II passed away on Sunday, November 29, 2015 in Titusville, Florida.  He was the husband of Sister Shirley Lee Driver, the sister of Presiding Elder Hartford Lee of the Daytona Beach District in the 11th Episcopal District, passed away on Sunday, November 29, 2015 in Titusville, FL.

Arrangements for Mr. Melvin Clipper Driver

Wake and Viewing
Friday, December 4th
5 PM – 7 PM
Lewis-Ray Mortuary Inc.
1595 S Hopkins Avenue
Titusville, FL 32780

Telephone:  (321) 269-5811

Funeral Services:

Saturday, December 5th
3:30 pm
St James AME Church
625 Dummitt Avenue
Titusville, FL 32796
Telephone: (321) 269-3645

Services are entrusted to:

Lewis-Ray Mortuary Inc.
1595 S Hopkins Avenue
Titusville, FL 32780

Contact Information for cards etc.:

Mrs. Shirley Lee Driver,
1955 Tropic Street
Titusville, FL 32796

The Reverend Hartford Lee


The Third Episcopal District sadly announces the passing of the Reverend Dr. Charles "Rikki" Howard, a retired Itinerant Elder who pastored Ross Chapel in Jamestown, Ohio; St. Mark, Columbus, Ohio; St. Paul, Circleville, Ohio and Cyrene, Piqua, Ohio.  At the time of his passing he was serving as an Associate Minister at Upshaw AME Church in Dayton, Ohio.  Dr. Howard transitioned on Friday, November 27, 2015 after several weeks of illness.   We unite in prayer with his wife, Moida Howard and other family members in the loss of their loved one.

Funeral services will be held on Monday, December 7, 2015 at 11:00 AM at:

Wayman Chapel AME Church
3317 Hoover Ave.
Dayton, OH 45402

Visitation from 09:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

His family will be present to greet visitors at 10:00 a.m. until the service begins.

Arrangements by:

Lorritts-Nielson Funeral Home
3924 W. 3rd St,
Dayton, Ohio 45417

Telephone: (937) 262-0065

Condolences may be sent to:

Mrs. Moida Howard
7306 Brandt Pike
Huber Heights, OH 45424

Telephone: (937) 974-5816


The Alachua-Central District sadly announces the passing of the Reverend Robert D. Postell, an Itinerant Elder who was currently pastoring Mount Tabor, Lake City, Florida. The Rev. Postell had previously served: Galilee—Woodville, Mount Zion; Lloyd, Little Bethel—Perry; Union Chapel—Sawdust; Lake Jackson Circuit—Tallahassee; Bethelonia — Tallahassee, Florida Conference; Mt. Zion—Arcadia, Tampa Conference; Mount Moriah--Jacksonville, East Conference; St. James—Quincy, Florida Conference; Payne Chapel—Sarasota, Tampa Conference; and St. Paul Windsor, East Conference. He was a soul stirring preacher, caring pastor and a fervent gospel singer. He will sorely be missed by all who knew him.

The Rev. Postell quietly transitioned on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 after several months of illness.   We prayerfully unite with his wife, Lareese and other family members in the loss of their loved one.

Visitation from Thursday, December 10, 2015 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, December 11, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at:

Saint Paul AME Church
6910 New Kings Road
Jacksonville, FL. 32219

Telephone: 904-764-2755
The Rev. Marvin C. Zanders II, pastor
Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson Jr, Eulogist

Visitation from Thursday, December 10, 2015 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Arrangements entrusted to:

Postell’s Mortuary
811 N. Powers Dr.
Orlando, FL 32818

Telephone: (407) 295-3857
Fax: (407) 295-0307

Condolences may be sent to:

Mrs. Lareese B. Postell
12171 Evans Oak Court
Jacksonville, FL. 32218


It is with great sympathy and sadness that we announce the death of Bishop L. Foday Farrar, the cousin of the Rev. Dr. Ann Lightner-Fuller, pastor of Mt. Calvary AME Church, Towson, Maryland.

Funeral arrangements for Bishop L. Foday Farrar are as follows:

Friday, December 11th at 12 noon
Solid Rock Ministry International
401 Creech Road
Garner, NC 27529
(The viewing will be at 11:00 a.m.)

Arrangements have been entrusted to:
Haywood Funeral Home
2315 S. Wilmington St.
Raleigh, NC 27603

Telephone: 919-832-2835

Condolences may be sent to:
First Lady Kay Farrar
537 Sherrybrook Drive
Raleigh, NC 27610-3340

Or to:

The Rev. Dr. Ann Lightner-Fuller
Mt. Calvary A.M.E. Church
300 Eudowood Lane
Towson, MD 20416

Email: adminasst@mtcalvaryame.org     


We are saddened to announce the loss of Sister Henrietta Jackson-Potter, the aunt of the Reverend Troy McWilliams, Sr., associate minister at St. Jude AME Church in Germantown, Maryland.

Funeral Services were held on this past Saturday, December 5, 2015:

St Luke AME Church
4009 Jackson Community Rd
Vernon, FL 32462

The Rev. Gloria Wynn, pastor

Words of Comfort may be sent to:

The Rev. Troy McWilliams, Sr.
St. Jude AME Church
11040 Brink Road
Germantown, MD 20876


We are saddened by the passing of Sis. Caroline Inyamah, the sister of the Rev. Deborah C. Inyamah, associate minister of St. Jude AME Church, Germantown, MD.

The funeral services will be held:

Friday, December 11, 2015
10:00 a.m. - Public Viewing
11:00 a.m. - Service
Interment immediately following service.
Repast immediately following interment.

Services entrusted to:

Snovel Givnish Funeral Home
1200 Rte. 130 North
Cinnaminson, NJ 08077
Telephone: (856) 829-8000

Condolences may be sent to:

The Rev. Deborah Inyamah
St. Jude AME Church
11040 Brink Road
Germantown, MD 20876


Mrs. Reola Powell McClellan, former First Lady of Robinson Chapel AME Church-Chicago, transitioned from labor to reward on Friday, December 4, 2015.  Mrs. McClellan is the mother of the Rev. Wesley McClellan, pastor of Robinson Chapel AME Church, and the widow of the late Rev. John McClellan, who served as pastor of Robinson Chapel AME-Chicago for over 12 years. Mrs. McClellan was a dedicated and faithful member of the Women's Missionary Society.

The Celebration of Life for Mrs. Reola Powell McClellan is as follows:

Monday, December 14, 2015
10:00 a.m. - Wake
11:00 a.m. - Celebration Service

St. James AME Church
9256 S. Lafayette Avenue
Chicago, IL

The Rev. J. Leon Thorn, Pastor

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery
20953 W. Hoff Road
Elwood, IL 60421

Services are entrusted to:

Unity Funeral Home, Inc.
4114 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60653

Expressions of sympathy may be sent to:

The Rev. Wesley McClellan and Family
561 Moray Terrace
Crete, IL 60417

(708) 890-6943

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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