Report from the 2017 Annual Session of the General Board and Council of Bishops
TCR Staff Report
From June 20-21, 2017, African Methodist Episcopal Church clergy and lay leaders gathered at the Hilton LAX Airport Hotel in Los Angeles, California, for the Annual Meeting of the General Board and the Council of Bishops. Under the leadership of Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie (president of the General Board) and Bishop Clement W. Fugh (president of the Council of Bishops and host), the various departments, agencies, and Episcopal Districts of the AME Church gathered to share their stewardship for the 2016-2017 church year.
Bishop McKenzie called the opening plenary session to order promptly at 9:00 am on June 20. The devotion was conducted by members from the 10th District with a brief homily from Presiding Elder Brenda Payne entitled, “A Turnaround Prayer,” from 2 Chronicles 7:14. After her message, the General Board engaged in several minutes of corporate prayer. Senior Bishop McKinley Young encouraged the General Board and the connectional church to be open to restructuring to better serve the needs of the present age.
President of the Council of Bishops Clement W. Fugh welcomed the assembly to his district and in turn received a rousing reception from the 5th Episcopal District contingent present. First Vice-President of the General Board Gregory G.M. Ingram acknowledged the various dignitaries with special mention of the Episcopal supervisors. Silver Lining Entertainment debuted the trailer for their upcoming film, “Question of Faith.” The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Marcus of Turner Chapel, Marietta, has assisted the production company in creating the picture with several Hollywood A-listers. The Rev. Roderick D. Belin, president/publisher of the AMEC Publishing House (Sunday School Union) gave a presentation on “Immunity to Change,” encouraging the General Board to position itself in a way that it could indeed shift and change. After the plenary, members adjourned to their respective commission meetings.
In the evening of June 20, the Investiture Banquet was held for Bishop Fugh. In a testament to the popularity of the honoree and the servant spirit of the 5th Episcopal District, the hosts allowed their connectional guests to have their seats in the oversold banquet area. After spirit-filled entertainment from the 5th Episcopal District, Bishop Fugh was formally invested with the medallion of office. During his and Supervisor Fugh’s remarks, quoting Nehemiah 8:10, the following donations were made totaling $68,500: First to Serve $12,500; Fair Housing Opportunities $12,500; The Rightway Foundation $12,500; Excel, Inc, $10,500; and the 5th District Fund for Homelessness Initiative $20,500.
On Wednesday, June 21, the closing plenary session was devoted to the commission reports. Devotions were again led by the 10th Episcopal District. Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr. presented the Rev. Arbra L. Bailey, the National Director of African American Relations for Compassion International to share with the General Board. Bishop McKenzie presented Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, Ambassador and Permanent Representative for the African Union Mission to the United States of America, who spoke on the need of the global African Diaspora to come together for the good of the continent of Africa. The various commissions reported (see below for approved recommendations). An announcement about the Richard Allen Stamp and its discontinuation for sale by June 30th came from the Council of Bishops and the Social Action Commission. Twenty-one thousand stamps were sold on-site with members encouraged to call the United States Postal Service to purchase the remaining stock. Bishop Anne Henning Byfield and the 16th Episcopal District shared an update on the situation in Haiti. An audited accounting of the $148,000 collected was presented and updates on church reconstruction were shared. A special moment of recognition was given to Supervisor Ainsley Byfield who attended his first connectional function since undergoing successful cancer treatments. Visiting Bishop James C. King of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church gave greetings. Senior Bishop McKinley and Supervisor Dorothy Young and the Third Episcopal District informed the assembly that on September 29, 2017, they would host a 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration and the proceeds would go toward Wilberforce University. The assembly then adjourned.
The Council of Bishops Worship Service was held at First AME Church, Los Angeles, where the Rev. Dr. J. Edgar Boyd is the pastor. Bishop David R. Daniels, Jr. preached an inspiring sermon from 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 entitled, “It’s Warfare but the Victory is Ours.” He wove together an engaging narrative with anecdotes from his own life encouraging the congregation to always remain faithful. The proceeds of the mission offering were divided between the African Union and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The General Board will next convene in June 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. It will be hosted by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson and the 6th Episcopal District.
Recommendations approved by the General Board from their commissions include:
Commission on Statistics and Finance (Bishop Clement W. Fugh, Chair)
- Episcopal District requests for funding within the district, which have no impact on the connectional budget, reviewed and approved: Districts 3,6,8,11,12
Commission on Church Growth and Development (Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Jr., Chair)
- The digital Secret Chamber
- The Bible Literacy Campaign
- Evangelism and Discipleship in Districts 14-20
Commission on Christian Education (Bishop David R. Daniels, Jr., Chair)
- AME members, particularly church leaders, pastors, clergy, and Christian Educators at each level, of the church sign-up for the Daily Spiritual Vitamins
- Episcopal Districts will support TEACH, Inc. as a non-profit partner with the Department of Christian Education for character, resource, and leader development
- Former CED Director Dr. Daryl B. Ingram will be on the Board of Trustees for the Vincent F. Foster Trust Fund
- Each Church School is encouraged to subscribe to The Journal of Christian Education
- Each Episcopal District is encouraged to incorporate the Disciple Bible Study Series in its Christian Education offerings.
- Leaders in the Music and Christian Arts Ministries of the AME Church, as well as pastors, ministers, and others, attend the 2017 Music and Christian Arts Ministry Conference, August 15-18, 2017.
- Persons with gifts and interest in writing (particularly curriculum development) be encouraged to join the Writers Guild
- AME members submit articles related to Christian education themes, best practices, and events to The Journal of Christian Education for publication.
- AME members on social media, particularly church leaders, pastors, clergy, and
Christian educators at each level of the church, connect to the Department’s Twitter (@ame_ced) and Facebook accounts.
- AME members, particularly church leaders, pastors, clergy, and Christian educators at each level of the church, purchase the 2017 Advent/Christmas Devotional Meditation Guide jointly produced by the Christian Education Departments of the AME, AMEZ, and CME Churches.
- Episcopal Districts encourage strong participation in the 28th Christian Education and Youth Congress to be held June 2018, immediately following the Council of
Bishops and General Board meetings in Atlanta, Georgia.
Commission on Social Action (Bishop Frank M. Reid III, Chair)
- Engage members at the seat of the General Board each year in the critical issues of the day that expands ministries beyond the walls of the Church.
- While in Los Angeles, members would purchase the Richard Allen stamp.
- Convene AMEs on the Hill as well as encourage similar visits at the local and state levels securing justice for all.
Commission on Publications (Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Chair)
DEPARTMENT OF RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP
- Initiation of a connectional database of all archive holdings throughout the church. This would begin as a formal request to all local church, annual conference, and episcopal district historians to provide listings of archival holdings (papers, recordings, books, and objects) in their current archive or church history collection. The inventory should be submitted to the Historiographer/Executive Director of Research and Scholarship for the establishment of a digital connectional compendium of archival resources ordered by episcopal districts. The listing would be linked to the Department website for access to all members of the church. Completion projected December 2018.
- Usage of the Department of Research and Scholarship website for all research requests, article submissions, archive databases, subscription updates, and payments beginning January 1, 2018.
AME SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION
- That the Church supports the vision of the AMEC Publishing House to be the sole provider of all print and digital media for all the connectional departments of the AME Church.
THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER
- Churches are encouraged to purchase at least two copies of The Christian Recorder. One copy should be mailed to the church address.
- Bishops of the Church are encouraged to apply the Discipline provision to chaplains and supernumeraries that “All traveling preachers in the Connection are required to subscribe to The Christian Recorder and to The Voice of Missions, or The AME Church Review or The Journal of Christian Education. Presiding elders, at their quarterly conferences, shall require all local preachers to subscribe to at least one of the church periodicals.”
- The laity of the church—especially stewards, trustees, and class leaders—are encouraged to subscribe to The Christian Recorder. Pastors should display copies of The Christian Recorder in a public area and make an appeal for subscriptions the month before the Annual Conference.
- The bishops of the Church are encouraged to assist the Editor in identifying a network of volunteer reporters to cover pertinent events in the various Annual Conferences and Episcopal Districts.
- Clergy and laity are encouraged to share news stories about churches and AME Church ministries produced by other news outlets and obtain formal permission for reprinting in The Christian Recorder.
Commission on Seminaries, Universities, Colleges, and Schools (Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Chair)
- Develop a strategy to increase alumni support
- Each institution develop three or five-year strategic plan to chart out future goals
- Develop a marketing strategy to promote the achievements of the schools that can be shared throughout the connection
Commission on Ministry and Recruitment (Bishop Ronnie E. Brailsford, Sr., Chair)
- A three-year, three-pronged plan related to the broad theme of vocational discernment
Commission on Health (Bishop Harry L. Seawright, Chair)
- Adoption and support of the International Health Commission calendar at all levels located on AMEChealth.org
- Link district websites to www.AMEChealth.org for online health calendar, store, and ongoing health information and resources. Support the International Health Commission Facebook page and Twitter account.
- Ensure a health commission director is in place at all levels and in all Episcopal districts to promote health calendar activities, programs, and resources available from community partners.
- Promote the Annual July Faith-Based Wellness, Health, Nutrition, and Fitness month established by the IHC in partnership with The Association of Black Cardiologists, Prostate Cancer Awareness Network, Heart and Soul Magazine, and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Pastors and churches are encouraged to host walks, health screenings, healthy food contests, jogging suit and sneaker day, and deliver sermons and Bible studies focused on health and wellness.
- Promote walking groups. M.W.W. Men Walking for Wellness and Girl Trek for Women Enrollment available online at www.AMEChealth.org. Get fit and healthy with the worldwide AME Church worldwide!
- Promote the various wellness, health, disaster preparedness, solar, fitness, nutrition resources, and training tools available on AMEChealth.org.
- Promote the Annual August Clergy and Clergy Family Wellness Month established by the IHC. Clergy is encouraged to participate in retreats, Sabbaths, family vacations, personal vacations, times of rest, self-reflection, annual doctor visits, marriage enrichment, single life enrichment, and events to promote wellness in the mind, body, and spirit. Clergy that makes time for self-care will experience a more fruitful and productive ministry, both professionally and personally.
- Heath Commission Directors at all levels to promote the training available to health directors on www.AMEChealth.org. Encourage all nursing units to be active members of their church health commission.
- Reaffirm the Health Commission’s advocacy for the implementation of disaster preparedness protocols, including preparedness drills and safety checks. The Health Commission website www.AMECHealth.org store provides disaster preparedness first aid kits, disaster kits, portal solar backpacks, water testing kits, and more. Church Safety Tips can be found on www.amechealth.org as well as links to the FBI’s “Active Shooter Event Quick Reference Guide.”
- Encourage all Episcopal districts to actively support the resolutions that were approved in July 2016 regarding persons who are differently challenged, the healthy food and beverage toolkit, and smoke-free campuses.
- Promote Prostate Cancer Awareness programs including PHEN annual Father’s Day Prostate Rally, PHEN Symposiums, Prostate Cancer PSA screenings events, M.W.W. = Men Walking for Wellness and June Men’s Health Month events
- Partner with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to conduct free Mental Health First Aid courses. Contact your local chapter to make the arrangements.
Commission on Retirement Services (Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr., Chair)
- All eligible pastors be encouraged to be enrolled in the annuity and insurance programs
Commission on Global Witness and Ministry (Bishop John F. White, Sr., Chair)
- Clergy and churches in Districts 1 through 13 subscribe to The Voice of Missions
Commission on Global Development (Bishop Paul J.M. Kawimbe, Chair)
- Funding for seed money for church planting in Brazil is referred to the Commission on Statistics and Finance. Individuals willing to invest and partner with the 16th Episcopal District should contact Bishop Byfield.
- LOADI (Lay Organization African Development Initiative) date be published on the connectional church calendar. Proposed date is the end of May hosted by the 17th Episcopal District.
- Chair Kawimbe along with Bishop Byfield will continue the discussion with the organization Compassion to determine partnering opportunities.
Commission on Women in Ministry (Bishop Anne Henning Byfield, Chair)
- Each WIM Commission member is empowered to complete an introspective analysis of its Episcopal district’s key leadership and pastoral positions regarding female clergy and report its findings to the commission within 90 days.
- That the General Board empower its members to encourage presiding elders to work with WIM leadership to prepare and provide workshops and training at a presiding elder district meeting to assist pastors and congregations in fulfilling the Church’s intentional commitment to Gender Justice and Equality by the June 2018 General Board meeting.
Commission on the Lay Organization (Bishop E. Earl McCloud, Sr., Chair)
- Encourage continued registration for the upcoming Biennial Session
- Remind Episcopal district presidents of the registration procedures and the need to provide complete and accurate information for all registered persons to facilitate the electronic registration check in process.
- Continue to encourage all laity to subscribe to The Christian Recorder
- Promote active involvement by the laity on all levels of the church
Commission on Economic Development (Bishop Harry Lee Seawright, Chair)
- The AME Church sponsor an International Stewardship and Economic Development Summit to be hosted tentatively in May 2018 in partnership with Beeson School of Divinity at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.
- A collaboration between the Commission on Economic Development and the Department of Retirement Services to convene an International Stewardship and Economic Development Summit in 2018. The objective is to share practical and innovative approaches to stewardship ministries and economic development best practices for churches, communities, and individuals.
Special Committee on Strategic Planning (Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Chair)
- That members of the General Board take the survey, commend those who have taken the survey, and encourage anyone who has not taken the survey to do so by the end of June 2017.
- That we continue to work with Payne Theological Seminary professors and Master of Divinity or Doctor of Ministry students as they look to develop coursework to assist with this endeavor.
- That we present results of the surveys to the General Board, CONVO, and General Conference. That we distinguish what needs to be legislative, suggested, and common consent after the data has been gathered and the analytics completed.
- That we gather as much data as possible to give an accurate picture of leadership and ministry that is counted in the General Board of this denomination.
- That we utilize technology in a greater way to disseminate information about the General Board self-study and that we continue our work through conference calls, emails, and webinars until the Committee meets again when the General Board convenes next year.
- That we tell the authentic story of the AME Church so that it resonates with the next generation.
- That we ask our auxiliaries to include information about the General Board Self-Study on their websites and that the information is on the main AME Church’s website as well.
- That we partner with the Commission on Publications to provide them with the material they need to promote the vision and goals of the General Board Self-Study.
- That we fill the vacant positions of a young adult representatives on the Self-Study Committee from the 2nd, 8th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Districts.