The 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church concluded on July 13, 2016. Tens of thousands of AME members converged upon the Pennsylvania Convention Center to celebrate the denomination’s bicentennial and transact its business guided by the theme “An Extraordinary History. An Incredible Future.” The First Episcopal District, under the leadership of Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram and Reverend Dr. Jessica Ingram, set the tone through an impressive array of pre-General Conference Activities. AMEs left an indelible print on the city of the denomination’s birth with activities such as the Bicentennial Torch Run, the Commemorative Mural Reveal, the Richard Allen Statue and Plaza Dedication and the Bicentennial Gala. In addition to the planned activities, AMEs took to the street on July 6 to protest against police brutality and the use of excessive force by police authority, as seen in the tragic shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
For eight days and seven nights attendees worshipped, fellowshipped, and attempted to conduct the business of the AME Church. A bold decision was made to go completely paperless and have all documents available electronically. The results were decidedly mixed as the hardware and the Convention Center capabilities were incompatible. Thirty-three (33) separate pieces of legislation of which eight (8) were Constitutions of Connectional Organizations were passed. (In contrast, in 2008 forty (40) bills were passed including nine (9) Constitutions and in 2012 forty-five (45) bills were passed including six (6) Constitutions). Another highlight of the General Conference was the recognition of the life and ministry of the Reverend Jarena Lee. Acclaimed as the first woman licensed to preach in the AME Church, she was granted the title of Itinerant Elder honoris causa. The nominee for President of the United States of the Democratic Party Secretary Hillary Clinton addressed the assembly. In addition, six new bishops and three new General Officers were elected.
In this Commemorative Edition of The Christian Recorder, we feature General Conference reflections from contributors representing the diverse constituency of African Methodism around the globe. Each voice nswers the question, “Where does the AME Church go from here?” The General Conference is not an end unto itself. It is a beginning for the new quadrennium and sets the tone for the next four years—and beyond.
In 1787, a new era dawned as Richard Allen and Absalom Jones led the walkout from St George’s Methodist Church. As we enter into the Third Century of African Methodism, the Church must be continuously seized with “serving the present age”. In 2016, a new era is indeed dawning on a the AME Church. Time will tell what challenges and triumphs it will bring.