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

The 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference, July 6-13, 2016
May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

-- Massacre of Emanuel 9, June 17


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

I am sure most of us have heard various reasons why some local churches are low-performing or ineffective. We have looked at local church officers, parishioners and pastors and now it’s time to look at another leadership component of local churches – presiding elders.

Let’s take a look at presiding elders

Presiding elders are often viewed as “money collectors” because they collect the funds for the general budget, pastors’ annuity payments, subscription funds for the various periodicals, the pre and closing offerings for the annual conference, and for the various connectional, annual and episcopal district projects meetings. If there is a special offering that needs to be collected, the presiding elder is the bearer of that news.  It is easy to understand how clergy and parishioners get the notion that a presiding elder's main function is as a money collector.

Presiding elders also conduct quarterly conferences and much of the business of the quarterly conference involves accounting of funds. In some quarterly conferences, a donation is collected for the presiding elder.

Unfortunately, some presiding elders appear to have little or no say about the annual conference pastoral appointments and pastors and the people know that their presiding elder has little or no input into the pastoral appointments, which diminishes the perception of the power of the position. Some presiding elders are open and upfront about their lack of input in the pastoral appointment process.

In the interim of the annual conference, some presiding elders are only seen at the quarterly and district conferences, Sunday School Convention, the annual conference, planning meeting and mid year meeting and all of those have a collection of funds component.  If there is a Christmas party, there is another collection of funds component, as is a birthday celebration. So, it is easy to see how clergy and parishioners can get a skewed perception of presiding elders.

Churches are struggling and unfortunately, presiding elders may not be in a position to assist with funds or strategies. So, the only interaction with presiding elders involves the collecting of funds.

I am not certain if presiding elders perceive themselves as middle managers, but that’s what they are – middle managers and middle managers are important to any organization if they are empowered and utilized to the fullest extent of their abilities. The presiding eldership should not be a catch-all appointment for itinerant elders for which bishops can’t find suitable pastoral appointments; that used to be the perception.

Competent itinerant elders who have been stellar master pastors should be elevated to the presiding eldership. They should be empowered to do the work of a middle manager.      

They are middle managers and their ministry is extremely important and it is imperative that they understand all of their duties, but it is also important that they, and the bishop understand their most important task.

Collecting funds for the connectional budget or apportionment is a necessary part of the job. It is an important part of the presiding elder ministry, but it is not the most important part of their responsibilities, because somebody else could do that task or the Postal Service could be an excellent “vehicle” for collecting funds. Any preacher on the district could be tasked with collecting and collating the funds for the annual conference.

It is important for the presiding elder to know all of his or her pastors and possess detailed information about each charge in his or her district.  It is important because, in a perfect world, the presiding elder makes recommendations to the bishop concerning the pastoral appointments. Making recommendations about pastoral appointments is an extremely important part of a presiding elder's ministry because they are so closely connected with the lives of pastors and their families. Presiding elders have to “know” and be intimately aware of a pastor’s ministry, gifts and graces and what’s best for the local church. A presiding elder’s relationship with his or her pastors is important. We certainly don’t want to think that a presiding elder is making recommendations on pastoral appointments based upon insufficient data or an “old boy" or “old girl” network. Getting to know and analyze a pastor’s performance takes time, wisdom and a bit of godly judgment.

Presiding elders need to be fair and impartial with those for whom they have supervisory responsibility. “Fair and impartial" is also an attribute needed by presiding elders. When they are elevated to the presiding eldership, they cease to be “one of the guys” or “one of the girls.” The presiding eldership is a sacred office and should be treated as such. A person appointed to be a presiding elder should possess professional acumen and the highest moral and ethical standards.

The biggest and most important job of the presiding elder or any middle manager in any profession is that of leading and managing subordinates and providing resources; and in the case of ministry, providing resources for the pastoral ministry.

If a pastor says, “Elder I do not have my budget assessments," it is not the job of the presiding elder to “run” to the bishop and “squeal” on the pastor and recommend that the pastor be removed from that pastoral assignment and it is not for the elder to bad-mouth the pastor.

The work or ministry of middle managers, read “presiding elders,” is to provide guidance; and more importantly, resources. If a pastor says, “Elder I do not have my budget assessments” or discloses some other shortcoming, that’s when a presiding elder starts “earning his or her salary.” The presiding elder sits with the pastor and together they strategize a plan to resolve the problem. A presiding elder, having been a successful master pastor, is expected to have pastoral experience that a local pastor might not have. Middle managers provide resources; if not money, pastoral expertise. Presiding elders need to “bring something to the plate.” They should see their mission as assisting pastors to navigate through the “sunshine” and the “storms” of the ministry.

A presiding elder should be available to the preachers on his or her district because the presiding eldership is a ministry of leadership and management.

Presiding elders are not counselors, they are supervisors. Every pastor should have a personal counselor, but it cannot be the presiding elder. The presiding elder and pastor relationship should be a professional supervisor/subordinate relationship.

My advice to presiding elders

As a supervisor, visit your pastors other than when you hold a quarterly conference. You can’t make an intelligent recommendation on whether a pastor should be transferred based upon what you observe at a quarterly conference. If you have an office or a study, provide times that your pastors can visit you. Presiding elders should have posted schedules when pastors can schedule appointments.  

When presiding elders hold quarterly conferences, they should understand that they are not conducting an annual conference. Presiding elders do not need to give “a sermon” on every topic that comes up at the quarterly conference. Do the business of the quarterly conference, give the benediction and let the people go home. A quarterly conference need not be longer than an hour or so.

Presiding elders should not engage in frivolous telephone or email conversations with the parishioners of their pastors because that’s called “pastoral interference.”

Presiding elders need to learn to use the computer. Learn to use technology, you just might get to the point that you can hold quarterly conference telephonically – would be easier for you and for your pastors and the local congregation; and you just might have more participation and free up some of your time to make presiding elder visits to the churches on the district.

Have some prayer times with your pastors.  Call your pastors and pray for them telephonically. I have had several bishops to call and pray for me telephonically and their prayers were so important to me.

Presiding elders should plan social events with their pastors and their families. Plan a luncheon or dinner social with just your pastors. Make it a social event, not a business meeting.  And, guess what? A lot of business will be unofficially accomplished.

Presiding elders should be trainers and mentors (not pastoral counselors) – teach, train and train some more, but don’t try to do it all at the quarterly conference.

The “sins” of a presiding elder and mistakes to be avoided

1) The presiding elder who is long-winded, holds long Quarterly Conferences, gives long-winded speeches at his or her district conference, and the same at the Sunday School Convention; talking about things of (in) which very few folks are interested, especially when they are ready to go home.

2) The presiding elder who tries to “pastor” churches in his or her district, especially the churches where he or she served as a previous pastor.

3) The presiding elder who interferes in the affairs of local churches on his or her district and who interferes with the local church pastor’s relationship with the pastor’s ministerial staff.

4) The presiding elder who uses the phrase, “With the power invested in me…” especially when confirming stewards and who fails to have the members of the quarterly conference to vote to confirm the stewards.

5) The presiding elder who doesn’t treat all pastors and churches equally and favors certain pastors and churches over others.

6) The presiding elder who does not have the courage to recommend to the bishop in writing that an ineffective pastor that needs to be reassigned to another charge; or who fails to inform the bishop the “marriage” of a local church and a pastor just doesn’t fit and impedes ministry.

7) The presiding elder who does not have the courage to stand up for a pastor in a situation where the presiding elder thinks that a pastor should not be moved; but who the bishop thinks should be moved.

8) The presiding elder who is just the collector of funds, and who fails to mentor and teach the clergy and laity on the district.

9) The part-time presiding elder who fails to do a fulltime presiding elder ministry, fails to hold quarterly conferences in every church and circuit “every three months, four times a year” and fails to visit all of the charges on his or her presiding elder district.

10) The presiding elder who fails to determine the efficiency of each pastor, the effectiveness of the ministry of each church, and who fails to give proper direction to all the affairs of all of the churches in his or her presiding elder district.

11) The presiding elder who thinks that he or she is a bishop and mimics the behavior and demeanor of the bishop when he or she conducts quarterly conferences; and when he or she presides at his or her district conference and Sunday School Convention.

12) The presiding elder who maintains inappropriate relationships with lay members on his or her presiding elder district, especially those who “milk” information about pastors and the local church.

13) The presiding elder who serves part-time, does not maintain office hours and/or fails to provide professional and ecclesiastical advice to the pastors in his or her district.

14) The presiding elder whose business cards have a P.O. Box, rather than a home or office address. A post office box tells people that you don’t visit, but don’t mind receiving a gift in the mail. 

15) The presiding elder who has not taken the time to learn how to use a computer and who refuses or is unable to submit electronic reports to the bishop and to the connectional departments.

16) The presiding elder who has not taken the time to be proficient about the contents in The Doctrine and Discipline - AMEC.

17) The presiding elder who fails to fellowship with the ministers on his or her district and who fails to have social functions, which allow the presiding elder and ministers to get to know one another more intimately and form deeper relationships that precipitate increased morale.

18) The presiding elder who is a “taker” and not a “giver”; who receives gifts, but doesn’t give gifts.   


-- Response to “The Church and the Transgender Debate” by the Rev. Dr. C. Dennis Williams

In his TCR Op-Ed entitled, “The Church and the Transgender Debate,” the Rev. Dr. C. Dennis Williams helpfully calls the AME Church to “discuss and debate” matters of sexual orientation and gender identity, but he frames this call in a way that invites a repetition of previous mistakes that have been made when these matters have surfaced for dialogue. 

To date, the AME Church has not acknowledged four important facts:

There are Christian perspectives on sexual orientation and gender identity that include and affirm people whose sexual orientation and gender identity do not fit into heterosexual, cisgender parameters.

There are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, quare, and same gender loving people – clergy and lay, chaste, dating, and married – in the AME Church.

We fail to engage in careful readings of scriptures that we think apply to contemporary questions of sexual orientation and gender identity.  We use, “the Bible says” as a "cane and a club."

We must adjust our belief system to embrace the physical reality and scientific fact that we, the human species, are more than male and female. 

Just as the church had to adapt its cosmology when it could no longer defend the earth as cubicle, the earth as the hub around which the universe and heavens revolved, or the earth’s moon as the light of our night, so too, there is sufficient evidence for us to be able to say with a certainty that G*d [God] created more than male and female.  Research shows, one of every 100 children born has genitalia that neither matches the standard male nor female. 

Refusing to engage these facts risks an abnegation of the distinct obligation that people of African descent have to the most vulnerable among us.  The fact that only .3% of the United States population reports as transgender is a poor reason not to defend that population.  If anything, this small percentage is a reason to protect this population.  Surely, I am not the first person to pastor or teach people of minority sexual orientations and gender identities and wonder how they survive church.  The church cannot afford to legislate ignorance and bigotry.  Some denominations struggle and/or split over questions of sexual orientation and gender identity; a few denominations take, what I believe is, a holy and prophetic stand, opening up their doors and making a way for the full participation of all G*d’s children.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. – Matthew 25:40b, 45b-46

The Rev. Jennifer S. Leath, Ph.D
Itinerant Elder, First Episcopal District
Assistant Professor of Religion and Social Justice
Iliff School of Theology (Denver, CO)


*The Rev. Velma E. Grant, M.Div., Th.M

The Church should be the one place where individuals should experience equitable treatment, where equal opportunity should reign, and the place where those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior can utilize their gifts and skills to the glory of God. I am wondering if the present model of hierarchy needs to be re-evaluated in order to make the Church the vehicle for an individual to become their best divine self.

Two recent Facebook postings provided "food for thought" and left me wondering whether the A.M.E. Church is squandering intellectual or spiritual resources (a term coined by a dear sister colleague). One posting lamented the absence of any young adult preacher during the opportune preaching times as noted on the agenda for the 2016 General Conference. After reviewing the agenda, I concluded that the author of the post was correct for pointing out the omission, not as a means of chastisement, but perhaps as a way to suggest that in the future there should be an intentional effort to include the various segments of the Church’s demographics.

The demographics of the African Methodist Episcopal Church boasts qualified females and males across the age spectrum and perhaps another model outside of tradition needs to be utilized to embrace the gifts and skills throughout the Church. Granted that there are young adult preachers scheduled to preach and participate at other times throughout the General Conference, the Facebook poster was correct in sharing that there should have been more inclusivity as to younger preachers. While I am writing, let me add that there should have been more inclusivity of women as well (still grateful for the lone female listed on the main agenda). At this point, I am speculating that seniority and tradition were the driving forces to determine the choice of preachers, my speculation might be incorrect, but if it is correct perhaps, it is time for a change or time for a new method of selection or appointment.

The other noted Facebook post was in regards to the perceived control yielded by a prominent family in our Zion or the preferential treatment afforded those who have family ties within our Zion. Many families can trace their roots, ministries, and active participation within the African Methodist Episcopal Church for several generations. That is indeed a historic feat worth honoring, appreciating, and celebrating throughout the life of the Church, but there should still be room for those who cannot trace their generational roots to serve, thrive, and receive equitable treatment.

The divine vineyard is vast enough to accommodate the skills, and gifts of all who choose to serve God within the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and while some families might have built dynasties and excluded “newcomers” there are others who have proven by their mission and inclusivity that the family of Christ is not determined by biological ties or bonds. Our entrance into the pearly games will not be predicated upon our biological genes or surname, but it will be determined by an individual’s love for and, commitment to God of which ministry and works are by-products.

 If there are family dynasties that determine leadership opportunities and appointments, where inept individuals are given opportunities solely based on family ties and not gifts, or skills then the Church is squandering its physical and spiritual resources. The Church would be squandering such resources by not utilizing the gifts and talents of others who are ready and willing to serve the Church but denied or locked out of certain leadership opportunities because of family dynasties. Again, let me reiterate that there are generational families that have worked hard, are qualified and willing to serve in any capacity within our Church, and those family models are worth emulating. 

It is also time to change the tradition of punishing individuals for speaking out against the status quo; it is time to change the tradition of isolating individuals who seemingly pledge allegiance to one individual or camp to the chagrin of another individual or camp. It is time to change the tradition of punishing some and favoring others (although sometimes one might not even know that one is being punished) when it comes to assignments and positions in the Church.

 It is time to change the tradition of burdening pastors with their individual pastoral assignments and saddling on the cumbersome duties of serving on several committees simultaneously. There has to be a more efficient way to spread the duties and responsibilities of making the A.M.E Church a progressive body without some feeling that their authority is being usurped or without isolating others.

The AME Church is bigger than any one individual, family, group, or camp and we need to ensure that the gifts, talents, and skills that are prevalent in our Zion are recognized and utilized for the benefit of all within our Church and community. As we move, towards the 2016 General Conference let us make an effort to change the traditions that hinder our Zion, and embrace the demographic gifts, talents and skills that will promote the growth and progress of our Church.

*The Rev. Velma E. Grant, M.Div., Th.M is the Associate Pastor of First Saint Paul AME Church, Lithonia, Georgia



-- The Latest: Portrait to be unveiled of slain church pastor

The Latest: Portrait to be unveiled of slain church pastor...

-- The portrait was unveiled Wednesday. It shows Sen. Clementa Pinckney in his beloved Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, hand on a pew...


In recognition of the first anniversary of the unfortunate occurrence at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, gospel legend Shirley Caesar has teamed with legendary gospel Grammy Winning producer, Sanchez Harley birthing an ageless musical tribute to Mother Emanuel Church and the families of its nine members who lost their lives last year when Dillon Roof, attending their bible study, drew a weapon and took the lives of nine precious souls.

The composition, appropriately titled "Mother Emanuel" has all the ingredients of a classic. It was co-written by the daughter of legendary gospel writer Dottie Rambo, Reba McGuire, Chip Davis, one of Nashville's most gifted seasoned writers, and former Christian music executive, Donnie McGuire.

Chip Davis, inspired the night of the event, was the catalyst in the songs creation. After presenting the concept to his co-writers and completing the song, chip reached out to Sanchez who immediately felt that Pastor Caesar should hear it. She fell in love with the composition and urged her company, e-one entertainment to make it a part of her current release.

Co-produced by Jacqui Whittmon Turner, a 10-year member of Aretha Franklin's band, the work is quite visual and emotionally charged as the message speaks against hate and applauds forgiveness.

The song will be available on Pastor Caesars forthcoming project scheduled for release on June 2, 2016, by eOne entertainment.


The Agenda for the General Conference is now available.

If you unable to attend 50th Quadrennial of General Conference in Person become a virtual observer!


If you are traveling into Philadelphia for the 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of the AME Church and booking transportation, please take advantage of the 20% discount from Delaware Express. This discount applies to online orders, made in advance.
When booking your ground transportation, please visit www.delexpress.com  and use Group Code: 273186.  You may also contact Gerry at Delaware Express by calling (302)-454-7800, Ext. 610 or via email at gerry@delexpress.com

*Submitted by the Reverend Steve Lewis, Chair, Transportation Committee, First Episcopal District AME Church, Host of the 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of the AME Church


By the members of Allen AME Church, Tacoma, Washington

-- A Fitting End to Black History Month 2016

On February 27, 2016, Allen AME Church Tacoma WA celebrated by unveiling a memorial to the victims and survivors in the Bible Study room that tragic night in June of 2015 at Mother Emanuel AME Church. The wall in the entry way of Allen AME is a beautiful permanent structure dedicated to the 9 victims and the 3 survivors in the room during the hail of gunfire. The structure is made entirely of glass it stands 10 feet tall by 9 feet wide produced by the Museum of Glass.

The memorial is designed with 9 glass teardrops each with the name of a person who died and 3 hearts each with the name of the survivor in the room except the minor who was in the room during this horrendous encounter, the name is replaced with the word “Youth.” When asked about why the word youth was used, Pastor Anthony Steele replied, “It was important first not to leave it blank because there was a very young person who was actually there that night that I did not want us to forget.” Pastor Steele went on to say, “This particular heart with the word Youth on it, also represents the many young people across our nation that endure senseless gun violence every day.”

The glass memorial at Allen AME Tacoma was unveiled by Mother Emanuel AME survivors Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard along with Pastor Anthony Steele, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer, Pastor Edgar Boyd of First AME Los Angeles, Pastor Timothy Tyler of Shorter AME Denver, and host of lead pastors from around the 5th Episcopal District of the AME Church. There were a number of media outlets, community leaders, and church members in attendance.

Pastor Steele served as the host for the affair and giving insight to the hundreds in attendance of how the memorial was God inspired and the miracles of working together made all of it possible. So many of the people were riveted by the words of Felicia Sanders after the unveiling as she said with tears in her eyes, “You will never know how much we appreciate your love for doing this.” Felicia went on to say about how appropriate the title “Forgive” was for this piece. As she looked at the glass memorial, she could hear her son Tywanza’s words from that night of the tragedy toward the gunman, “Why are you doing this, we mean you no harm.”

The day continued with a Black Tie Dinner at the University of Washington hosted by Allen AME Church Tacoma in honor of the survivors Polly Sheppard and Felicia Sanders. The Lieutenant Governor of Washington Brad Sanders and Bishop T. Larry Kirkland were in attendance. Scholarships for high school students were handed out and other awards for area honorees in building resources in the Black Community. The Reverend Edgar Boyd of First AME, Los Angeles delivered a soul stirring and thought provoking keynote address.

The evening was capped off with Bishop Kirkland being joined on stage with Pastor Anthony Steele and a host of Pastors and Lay leaders from the AME church with the survivors Polly Sheppard and Felicia Sanders. The ladies were presented with statues that read “We shall never forget you, love, The AME Church”. The program was completed on the stage with the survivors surrounded by Bishop Kirkland and the AME Church contingency. Polly and Felicia finished with the tearful words, before a packed audience, “You all will never know just how much this means to us. Thank you so much.”


*The Reverend Dr. Charles R. Watkins

Based on Biblical text: Mark 10:17-18: And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.

Our text from Gospel of Mark is the story of a sad encounter between Jesus and a rich, young man. This young man was challenged to take inventory of his faith.

Many retail organizations take an inventory of their stock, at least annually, to assess the true value of their assets. The inventory process normally is in at least three distinct phases. There is a count performed to determine the amount of finished goods in the warehouse. Next a value is set on all the materials in the plant that are used to create the finished products. Finally, an assessment is made to determine the value of land and equipment. The second phase determines “goods in process” and the final stage is capital assets.  The sum total of the physical inventory, assessment of materials used and value of land and equipment represents the company’s value.

Taking inventory is a tedious process that involves climbing, counting and digging in order to make absolutely sure every “thig-a-ma-jig” and every “do-hickie” is counted. It is however a very worthwhile and necessary undertaking as it is the only way to determine true value. The inventory is complete when leadership receives a financial report of the company’s worth. The final report is considered very valuable as it can be used to prove net worth when needed to secure loans, borrowing against the company’s value.

In our text we find the rich young man trying to borrow against the value of his faith. He wanted a guarantee that he would inherit eternal life. Jesus challenged him to take inventory of his faith to determine if he had sufficient assets to make the withdrawal on judgment day. The final assessment shows that the man actually came up short, merely posing as a man of faith, having a flaw in his relationship with God. In other words the man had insufficient “faith assets.”

The man’s faith lacked hope. By addressing Jesus as ‘Good Master”, the same courteous title everyone gave to all the religious teachers, we see that the man did not believe Jesus was the awaited Messiah. The man lacked a repentant heart. He already thought he was perfect. The man revealed his unrepentant position, replying “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” In essence, he was telling Jesus he was already ‘walking the walk’.

We cannot be too hard on this man. The truth of the matter is the man is very much like folk we know. He is like the many Christians who think they don’t have to come to church every Sunday, or study the Word of God with their church family, or pray at the prayer service. They don‘t think they have to, because in their mind, they’re already perfect.

When we begin to think our relationship with God is perfect, it is time to take inventory. When we have convinced ourselves we have done all we need to do to inherit eternal life, it’s time to take inventory. When we begin to think we are already walking the walk it is time to dust off our spiritual shelves and assess the commitments we have cast off, the projects we have not completed and the ministries we have left unattended.

It is easy to appear to be perfect. However, Jesus knows the real deal, the real us. He knows our heart. He already knows if we have taken an honest inventory of our faith.

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


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


*Brother Bill Dickens

Key Verse: The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. 19:10


History is filled with examples of people and institutions that make remarkable change.  The late Charles Colson is remembered in his latter years as an articulate spokesperson for Jesus.  Prior to his conversion Mr. Colson was a key advisor and architect of the rise and fall of former U.S. President Richard Millhouse Nixon.  Colson was once quoted as saying he would “walk over my own grandmother” to ensure the reelection of President Richard M. Nixon.  After spending years incarcerated for his crimes related to Watergate, he went on to found a worldwide prison fellowship ministry after his conversion to evangelical Christianity. 

C. S. Lewis is arguably one of the greatest intellectual thinkers of the 20th century.  Prior to his prolific writings in children's literature and lay Christian scholarship like Mere Christianity, the Oxford don was a leading voice of atheism. 

Change of behavior is reflected in the Holy Writ.  Perhaps the most famous change was that of Paul.  Paul's "Damascus Road" experience illustrates how we can go from persecutor of the Gospel to promulgator of the Gospel. 

The Adult AME Church School Lesson for May 29, 2016 looks at change from another unlikely person.  The key takeaway is the same for the prior three changed persons: A close encounter with Jesus will create change.  Let's see how this is done in Luke's narrative about change.

Bible Lesson - Challenge, Confession and Compassion

Our story in Chapter 19 opens with Jesus passing through Jericho.  As is typical of Jesus' itinerant ministry his travels generate large crowds of people anxious to see yet another miracle.  As Jesus continues his journey a male Jewish observer named Zacchaeus seeks to see the fame of Jesus for himself.   The meaning of the name, Zacchaeus is “pure.” 

We know three specific attributes about Zacchaeus:  He is a publican or tax collector, he is rich and he is of short statue.  The last attribute presents a challenge for Zacchaeus.  He desires to see Jesus, but his near dwarf-like stature prevents him from seeing our Lord due to the large crowds consisting of people much taller than he. 

To counteract this challenge Zacchaeus decides to climb a sycamore tree to get a look from on high and above the crowds.  Jesus notices Zacchaeus' position in the tree and insists that he come down because he (Jesus) wishes to have dinner at his home.  Many in the crowd were astonished that Jesus would have dinner with a man with such a notorious reputation.  Zacchaeus was so thrilled with the thought of Jesus coming to his home he confesses that he will redistribute any unjust taxes/fees on those he financially abused upwards to four times the amount!  The confession by Zacchaeus demonstrates that he was sincere about his conversion and is extremely joyous about being with Jesus.  The confession leads to Jesus showing compassion.  In a direct rebuttal to those who thought the dinner invite was inappropriate, Jesus teaches the essence of His ministry: “The Son of Man is come to seek and save the lost.”  That includes Zacchaeus!

Bible Application

Many men who were short didn't let that define who they were or what they were called to do. 

James Madison, 4th President of the United States of America and author of the U.S.A. Constitution, stood at five feet four inches and is still the shortest President in U.S. history.  Napoleon Bonaparte was a world ruler in the 18th and early 19th century, even though he was not a tall dominating military ruler. 

Professional basketball players like Mugsy Bougues and Nate Robinson have proven the critics wrong by having long and productive careers even though they are well-under six feet in height. 

Being short has nothing to do with who you are.  Adjustments can and will be made to compensate for a lack of reach.  Tyrion Lannister, cerebral dwarf character in the HBO TV series, Game of Thrones epitomizes this point.  Much like Zacchaeus, Tyrion is extremely short and is verbally abused by his family, friends and foes for his "lack of reach".  Despite his apparent handicap, Tyrion commits to reading, writing and intellectual thought games to keep his enemies at bay. 

We can use our height either as an excuse for not doing great things or we can do great things with the talents and abilities endowed by God.  Height is overrated.  QED

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


*The Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Darby

I learned today of the death - after a long and fruitful life - of Dr. Clifford Watkins.  I got to know him when he was the Director - and when I was a member - of the South Carolina State University Garnet and Blue Marching 101 Band. 

Dr. Watkins demanded excellence and never hesitated to “crack the whip” to achieve it.  He knew when to be tough, when to be compassionate and when to blend strict and demanding obedience with light-hearted joking, teasing and camaraderie.  He was an “old school” HBCU band director, whose well-crafted half time shows began with precision formations done to classical music and ended with the band dancing to contemporary music.

Dr. Watkins made the Marching 101 a force to be reckoned with among black college bands and also achieved what was arguably the Marching 101's pinnacle achievement - participation in the 1970 Tournament of Roses Parade - and although he had bad knees, he marched the entire seven mile parade route along with the band.

I last saw him in 2010, when we celebrated the 40th anniversary of that parade appearance.  He’d gone on to achieve with the bands at Tennessee State University and North Carolina A&T State University and had subsequently been slowed down by physical infirmity, but he still had a sharp mind and was the same Dr. Watkins I know forty years ago - still encouraging excellence.

Cliff Watkins was one of many special the people who shaped my life, and I share my memories of him with you in a fast-paced world where it’s easy for us to forget those who’ve impacted our lives.  It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of personal achievement and - if we’re able to achieve - to relegate the special people we meet down through the years to the dark corners of our memory and take personal credit for our achievements.

We’d do well, however, to remember the special people that God sends our way and to honor them and give them due credit as blessings sent from the Lord to make our lives better.  When we do so, we can cherish and celebrate their lives, let them live on in what we do, and find new appreciation for the God who, as my ancestors in the faith first sang, “...brought us from a mighty long way.”

Rest well, Doc - you’ve earned and deserve that - and I hope you resist the temptation to have heaven’s angel band “run laps” if they don’t measure up to your standard of excellence!

*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


Greetings from us in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands!  We ask our “Bethel” to join us in prayers for the Cooperative Republic of Guyana as its people celebrate its fiftieth anniversary as an independent nation on May 26, 2016.  Pray for the Executive President, the Honorable David Granger and his government, and for the goodwill and safety of all its people.  Pray also for our AME congregations which have served the nation and upheld our heritage since 1873.

Frederick Hilborn Talbot, S.T.M., D.Min, C.C.H.
90th Bishop (Retired)


-- General Officer’s Family Announcement - Announcing the Birth of Dennis C. Dickerson III

Dennis C. Dickerson III was born at Baptist Women's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee on May 26, 2016 at 2:21 A. M.  He was 6 lbs 4 oz.  He is the son of US Air Force Chaplain Dianna Nicole Watkins Dickerson, a member of the ministerial staff of St. James AME Church in Memphis, and Dennis C. Dickerson, Jr., a Latin teacher at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis. The Dickerson’s met as students at Vanderbilt Divinity School where they respectively earned the M.Div. and M.T.S. degrees. The grandparents are Ms. Jerrie Watkins and Retired General Officer Dennis C. Dickerson, Ph.D. and Mrs. Mary A. E. Dickerson.
The contact information for the parents is:
-- The Reverend Dennis Wilson Broughton, Jr. received the Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio

The Commencement Ceremony was held Friday, May 20, 2016, at the Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Broughton received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina and a Master of Divinity Degree from Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, Ohio. He is the pastor of Wayman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sumter, South Carolina.  He is the son of the Late Reverend Dennis Wilson Broughton, Sr. and Mrs. Wilhelmenia Broughton, former Seventh Episcopal District WMS Treasurer, and currently Columbia Conference MSWAWO + PK'S President; spouse of Mrs. Wendy Geiger; brother of Dr. Wilma Broughton, former Episcopal District YWI Coordinator, Big Mak Chairperson, and Columbia Conference DMC Commissioner; and brother of Ms. Yvette Broughton of Atlanta, Georgia.

Congratulatory Expressions can be sent to:
-- The Reverend Joretha Wright graduated with a Masters of Divinity Degree from Payne Theological Seminary

The Reverend Joretha Wright, Pastor of St. John AME Church Tuskegee, Alabama and Wesley Chapel AME Church in Waverley, Alabama, graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Payne Theological Seminary on Friday May 20, 2016. The Rev. Joretha Wright is the wife of the Rev. Maurice Wright, II the Associate Director of MCAM and the pastor of St. John AME Church in Ft. Mitchell, Alabama.

Contact information:

The Rev. Joretha Wright
1413 Fall Branch Drive
Phenix City, Alabama 36867
Telephone: (334)540-1436
Email: stjohnfirstlady@gmail.com 

-- The Rev. Steven L. Lyons graduated with a Master of Divinity from Hood Theological Seminary and Mrs. Nikki Walker Lyons received the Diploma of Funeral Service from Fayetteville Technical Community College

The Rev. Steven L. Lyons, pastor of St. James AME Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, North Carolina at the Commencement Exercise held on Saturday, May 21, 2016. His Professional Project is entitled, "Utilizing the Class Leader System and Official Board to Develop St. James AME Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina."  He and his wife, Mrs. Nikki Walker Lyons, the Western North Carolina Conference Branch WMS President, also own and operate the Steven L. Lyons Funeral Home located in Raleigh, North Carolina.  On Friday, May 13, 2016, Mrs. Nikki Walker Lyons, a graduate of St. Augustine's College, Raleigh, received the Diploma of Funeral Service from Fayetteville Technical Community College, Fayetteville, NC. 

Congratulatory expressions can be sent to:

Dr. Steven L. & Nikki W. Lyons
2004 Stamford Green Drive
Knightdale, NC 27545
Dr. Steven L. Lyons - sllyonsfuneralhome@gmail.com
Mrs. Nikki W. Lyons - nwlyons@hotmail.com


It is with great sadness that we announce news of the passing of the Rev. Dr. James Nathaniel Hoskins, who served on the ministerial staff at St. James AME Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Dr. Hoskins, age 80, a superannuated pastor of the 1st Episcopal District, relocated to Winston-Salem, NC after retirement.

The funeral arrangements are as follows:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

St. James AME Church
1501 N. Patterson Avenue
Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Visitation: 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 Noon
Service: 12:00 Noon
You may send cards and condolences to:
Mrs. Sylvia Burts-Hoskins, Wife
5485 Woodcliff Drive
Winston-Salem, NC 27106

Telephone: 336-409-5771

Services entrusted to:

Steven L. Lyons Funeral Home
1515 New Bern Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27610
Telephone: (919) 831-2596 


We regret to inform you of the passing of Marlo Deniece Moore, the youngest sister of Elder Larry S. Hinton, Presiding Elder of the Northern District of the North Carolina Conference of the 2nd Episcopal District and First Vice President of the Connectional Presiding Elder’s Council.

Marlo Deniece Moore was a resident of Los Angeles. Her Funeral arrangements are as follows:

Homegoing Services:

Monday, May 23, 2016 at 11:00 a.m.
Christ Temple Church
3125 W. 54th St.
Los Angeles, CA  90044

Telephone: (323) 295-4166

Viewing will take place one hour prior to services.

Services are entrusted to:

Boyd's Funeral Home
11109 S. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA  90044

Expressions of Sympathy can be sent to:

Elder Larry S. Hinton
P.O. Box 335
Clayton, NC  27528

Home Telephone: (919) 359-0575 
Cell: (757) 761-3368


We regret to inform you of the passing of Mr. Walter C. McNeely, a World War II Navy Veteran and a key figure in the Brunswick, Georgia - Golden Isles community for more than 60 years.

He was the father of immediate past Connectional WMS Worship Director, Dr. Barbara E. McNeely-Bouie and the grandfather of PK's, Paula Michelle Bouie, the Rev. Carla Lorraine Bouie, and Michaela Monique Bouie.

The Wake will be held on Friday, May 27, 2016 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. at the First African Baptist Church located at 1416 Amherst Street in Brunswick, Georgia.

The Celebration of Life Worship Service for Mr. McNeely will be held on Saturday, May 28, 2016, beginning 11:00 a.m. at the “Greater Works Than These Ministries” located at 4020 Wylly Ave, Brunswick, GA 31520.

McNeely served as the Associate Superintendent and later as interim Superintendent of the Glynn County Board of Education, a member of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board, Coastal Area District Development Authority, and the Glynn-Brunswick Hospital Authority. He was also one of the founding members of the 14 Black Men of Glynn County.

Services are entrusted to:

Hall, Jones, and Brown Mortuary
2005 G Street
Brunswick, GA  31521


Barbara McNeely Bouie
5632 International Drive
Jacksonville, Florida 32219


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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