Report from the 2016 Winter Session of the General Board and Council of Bishops

Staff of The Christian Recorder

From December 5-7, 2016, African Methodist Episcopal Church clergy and lay leaders gathered in Naperville, Illinois 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 John F. White, Sr. (President of the Council of Bishops and Host), the various departments, agencies, and Episcopal Districts of the AME Church gathered for the second organizational session of the General Board for the 2016-2020 quadrennium.

Bishop McKenzie called the opening plenary session was called to order promptly at 9:00 am on December 5. The devotion was conducted by members from the 10th District with a brief homily from Rev. Roderick Dawson entitled, “Fruitless Worship,” from Mark 11:15-17. Senior Bishop McKinley Young reminded the assembled body that as the Connection moves toward 2020 that we should strive towards perfection. President of the Council of Bishops John F. White welcomed the assembly to his District and stated that organizations rise and fall on leadership with the persons in the room holding the future of African Methodism in their hands. First Vice-President of the General Board Gregory G.M. Ingram acknowledged the various dignitaries with special mention of the Episcopal Supervisors. Bishop McKenzie addressed the General Board, advocating for institutional reforms and a renewed connectional focus on relevance through public relations and theological reflection. She recommended the empaneling of a self-study group for the General Board to examine its purpose and structure. The recommendation was approved. The Board adjourned to convene and organize the various commissions.

At 2:00 pm, the Council of Bishops participated in a conference call with United States Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) led by Bishops McKenzie and Reid and facilitated by Social Action Director Jackie Dupont-Walker. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she solicited AME thoughts and concerns on issues facing the 115th United States Congress. Concerns such as judicial vacancies, potential Department of Justice nominations by the Trump administration, fair policing, and hate crimes against African-Americans were raised.

In the evening of December 6, the 4th Episcopal District presented the Investiture Celebration Service for Bishop White at St. John AME Church in Aurora, where the Rev. Jesse Hawkins is pastor. Bishop Dennis Proctor of the AME Zion Church preached a stirring sermon from Matthew 14:22-31 entitled, “Stormy Weather.” He reminded the denomination that the storms of life come to build strength and courage in Christian believers. Bishop White expressed his thankfulness to the Connection by giving checks of US$10,000 to Edward Waters College and Turner Theological Seminary. Following the service, a jazz reception was held in four different locations on the St. John campus and attendees were invited to tour the expansive edifice.

On Wednesday, December 7, the closing plenary session was devoted to the commission reports. Devotions were again led by the 10th Episcopal District. The Rev. C. Dennis Williams preached a homily entitled, “Vacancy Filled,” from Luke 2:7-8. Bishop McKenzie announced the availability of the latest edition of the Anvil from https://squareup.com/store/the-council-of-bishops/item/anvil-1). The adopted recommendations follow at the end of this report. Two resolutions were adopted by the General Board: 1) A Resolution on Gender Equality from Women in Ministry and 2) A Resolution for a Connectional day of Prayer on December 18, 2016 preceding the counting of the Electoral College votes in the United States.

Bishop Anne Henning Byfield and the 16th Episcopal District shared an update on the situation in Haiti. Sixty-seven AME members were homeless. To date, US$23,000 has been paid out to affected persons. Of the 13 AME churches in Haiti, four were destroyed and four need significant repairs. It is estimated that US$100,000-$150,000 per church will be needed for reconstruction. Donations are still being accepted through the 16th Episcopal District Office or the AME Church Finance Department. The Bishop Sarah F. Davis Clinic has officially begun construction and it is projected to finish in May 2017. A nearby AME Church plant has received 52 members in the two weeks since its opening.

Bishop Julius McAllister, Sr. and the 8th Episcopal District delivered a comprehensive report of the US$255,612.64 collected and disbursed after the September flooding in Southeast Louisiana. A total of 120 AME households and four churches were impacted. (Note: total was revised after additional contributions during the General Board Meeting).

Attendance awards were given to the 19th, 10th, 2nd, and 1st Episcopal Districts for their registered attendance at the 2016 General Conference. Bishop Ingram indicated that the Bicentennial AME Encyclopedia will be available in February 2017. Bricks and paving stones are still available around the Richard Allen Statue as well as a host of Bicentennial memorabilia.

Preceding the adjournment, a trailer from the upcoming movie “Fences” was shown thanks to a partnership with Paramount. The movie is an adaptation of an August Wilson play and stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

The General Board will next convene from June 19-21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. It will be hosted by Bishop Clement W. Fugh and the 5th Episcopal District.

Recommendations approved by the General Board from their commissions include:

Commission on Statistics and Finance (Bishop Clement W. Fugh, Chair)

  1. The approval of the “Protocol for Connectional Electronic Communication”
  2. The approval of the concept for reviewing the Episcopal District allocations.

Commission on Church Growth and Development (Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Jr., Chair)

No recommendations.

Commission on Christian Education (Bishop David R. Daniels, Jr., Chair)

No recommendations.

Commission on Social Action (Bishop Frank M. Reid III, Chair)

  1. The Social Action Commission submits for consideration critical issues that will be lifted up for action, ministry focus, and policy crafting at all levels of the church
    • Affordable Care Act—Protecting Access
    • Immigration—Equity for all regions of the globe (especially Africa and Caribbean)
    • Voter Education and Mobilization—Partnership with AME V-ALERT and all components
    • Mass Incarceration and Prison Re-entry with Payne/ITC Theological Seminaries
    • Criminal Justice Mandate—Legislation, policy, re-entry, and prevention
    • Climate Change and Energy Conservation—With Eco-America
    • Public Education Protection—With the Expectations project
    • Gentrification and Displacement—Highlighting affordable housing and land banking
  2. Connectional theme for 2016 is Political Justice and proposed action includes:
    • AMEs On The Hill
    • Campaign to solidify liaison with elected officials at all levels of government
    • Strengthen ties with AME congresspersons and other stakeholders
    • Circulate a Talent Survey to identify AMEs who have talents, skills, access to facilitate our advocacy, and social justice interests

Commission on Publications (Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Chair)

  1. The Department of Research and Scholarship requests that each Annual Conference submit one check accompanied with a list of individual and church subscriptions to The AME Review
  2. The Department of Research and Scholarship requests any changes in physical addresses or subscription inquiries be submitted through the Department’s website at amehistoryinthemaking.com
  3. The Committee encourages Payne Seminary and other AME institutions with publications to seek competitive bids by the AMEC Publishing House
  4. The General Board approves the nomination of the Rev. Lisa Hammonds as the Assistant Editor of The Christian Recorder.

Commission on Seminaries, Universities, Colleges and Schools (Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Chair)

  1. Morris Brown’s goal for accreditation be accomplished by the end of 2018
  2. The consideration of sponsorship of two students from the 20th Episcopal District to attend RR Wright Seminary
  3. The Commission remain alert as it relates to the change in presidential administration in Washington, DC and its impact on our institutions of higher education

Commission on Ministry and Recruitment (Bishop Ronnie E. Brailsford, Sr., Chair)

  1. Systematic Retention
  • No safe haven to engage in self-care
  • Need for professional development and continuing education
  1. Systematic Recruitment: How to approach young men and women for ministries
  • Expose potential recruits to the different ministries that the church has to offer and the benefits they have
  • Provide a ministry fair at all of Episcopal meetings where materials and resources will be provided
  1. Systematic Training
  • Each local church develops a call to ministry training program that helps people discern their gifts
  • Develop a ministry training program for young adults to reach out beyond the walls of the sanctuary.
  1. Systematic Placement
  • Develop a board of training for alternative ministries
  • Have a conversation for persons coming into ministry

Commission on Health (Bishop Harry L. Seawright, Chair)

  1. Churches support the Solar Energy Program which is designed to provide solar panels for global churches. This project helps save on electricity and is an environmentally source of energy. Participation in the Solar Energy Program will help provide free solar panels for Haiti and Districts 14-20.
  2. A disaster can happen at any time; therefore, it is recommended all churches visit our website at www.amechealth.org to order disaster preparedness supplies and conduct periodic safety drills. We encourage each district to participate in GIRLTREK, which inspires thousands of Black women and girls to walk for healing, health, and wellness. For more information, visit the website at girltrek.org.
  3. Identify church space to create our own health clinics within our local churches and Episcopal districts. The space needs to be a dedicated space to comply with the HIPAA privacy laws. We also encourage everyone to sign up for the Affordable Healthcare Act before the March 31, 2017 deadline. December 7, 2016 is the deadline for Medicare open enrollment.

Commission on Retirement Services (Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr.,  Chair)

No recommendations.

Commission on Global Witness and Ministry (Bishop John F. White, Sr., Chair)

No recommendations.

Commission on Global Development (Bishop Paul J.M. Kawimbe, Chair)

  1. The appointment of an ad hoc committee to develop a strategic plan to form an alliance with other agencies for the purpose of aligning our Church to be in position for disaster response, i.e., Red Cross, OSHA, USAID, United Nations, and corporations
  2. District 19—RR Wright Seminary improve accreditations, faculty, staff, and student body housing
  3. Grant approval to the 19th Episcopal District to raise R20 million needed to fund the conference center and hotel for all meetings to be held at that site. This would be at no extra cost to the AMEC general budget

Commission on Women in Ministry (Bishop Anne Henning Byfield, Chair)

  1. The month of March is designated as Herstory, OurStory. Lay and clergy women are asked to submit their stories for a digital celebration of all women. Formal launching will begin during the month of January 2017.
  2. Women in Ministry will develop liturgical aids for use for WIM and the Connectional Church, including a partnership with the 16th Episcopal District for liturgical aids.
  3. Adoption of the resolution entitled, “The African Methodist Episcopal Church: A Social Justice and Liberating Faith,” inclusive of action steps.

Commission on the Lay Organization (Bishop E. Earl McCloud, Sr., Chair)

  1. Initiate a special call for a Connectional Church revival to remind us of our relationship with and increase our dependence on God.
  2. Reevaluate our structure and governance to make both more relevant for current times
  3. Evaluate and revise connectional, episcopal, and presiding elder budgets to make them more accurate and transparent in reflecting real membership of the Connectional Church.
  4. Begin the process of equalizing Episcopal Districts. Analyze District assessments to see if conferences can be consolidated or downsized. Consider having bishops of smaller districts preside over two districts.
  5. Review the roles and responsibilities of general officers and decide if consolidation of duties is possible and if positions can be phased out.
  6. Create a Code of Ethics for all clergy with consequences and take the necessary steps to have it included in the Doctrine and Discipline of the AME Church.
  7. Create the elected position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to oversee the administration of the Connectional Church with all the rights associated with such a position, including the power to enforce the Code of Ethics.
  8. Foster globalization across the Connectional Church. Implement a plan so Episcopal Districts 14-20 are better represented on the Council of Bishops.

Special Committee on Strategic Planning (Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Chair)

  1. Engage in self-study of the General Board
  2. Two persons from each Commission shall be designated to participate in the self-study committee (one clergy and one lay)
  3. The secretary should receive the contact information for the designated persons within the next 10 business days
  4. Initial processes should include:
  • A virtual meeting that will occur after January 1, 2017
  • Utilization of a survey to narrow the work of the study
  • Review of the strategic plan to see what can be utilized now
  • Use of electronic media, e.g., Group Me and Google docs, to optimize our virtual work

 

 

Resolution on Gender Equality presented by the Commission on Women in Ministry to the General Board

WHEREAS, it is asked in Micah 6:8 “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” We stand in solidarity with the Church, fully committed to the Quadrennial Theme “The African Methodist Episcopal Church: A Social Justice and Liberating Faith” and;

WHEREAS, justice is a human right that must encompass the indispensable right for persons to live and work in our churches, communities and countries with dignity and pride free from oppression; and

WHEREAS, our pursuit of justice should include an intentional commitment to gender justice, so that we might live in a world where everybody, women and men, boys and girls are equally valued and able to share equitably in the distribution of power, knowledge, resources and access; and

WHEREAS, AME/WIM challenges the African Methodist Episcopal church to recognize that in addition to addressing Political Justice, Criminal Justice, Environmental Justice, and Economic Justice, A Social Justice and Liberating Faith must also address Gender Justice, both in the world and in the church; and

WHEREAS, it is our desire to see the sons and daughters of God, free from cultural, religious, institutional and interpersonal systems of privilege which have long oppressed persons through violence, imperceptions, oppression and repression based on gender; and

WHEREAS, as the adverse impact of gender injustice is primarily and most severely experienced by women and girls, who are discriminated against in the home, work place, community and church; and

WHEREAS, it is imperative that we consciously and intentionally work for equitable and impartial treatment of all in accordance with the word of God which says to us God created them male and female, and God blessed them and called them “human” Genesis 5:2; and

WHEREAS, our Sister Communion, the United Methodist Church, having apologized to the AME Church for its injustice to people of color and desiring not to repeat a similar injustice to women has begun to address gender justice issues stating that: “reliability as an agency of God’s love assumes that we are paying attention to one another and we are seeking to empower, to unshackle, to raise up those who are still oppressed, repressed, derided and treated as “less than”; and

WHEREAS, the African Methodist Episcopal Church is, still on the journey towards fully respecting and valuing the gifts and call of all persons; and

WHEREAS, we trust that the AME Church will: · Affirm the right of women to live free from violence and abuse, · Affirm the importance of women by placing them in key leadership decision-making positions at all levels of the Church, our institutions and society, · Urge our elected officials and government agencies to retain and enact legislation and policies that protect women against all forms of violence, economic injustice and discrimination, · Eliminate gender-role stereotypes in all aspects of voluntary and compensatory participation in the Church and society, · Affirm the right of women to equal treatment through employment, promotions, economic parity and justice.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that AME/WIM comes before you, “Standing United, Moving Forward, Stronger Together;” in support of human rights and asks The Commission on Women In Ministry to request of the General Board the following:

  1. The adoption of this policy/statement regarding the equality and the value of women: We, The African Methodist Episcopal Church, affirm that all men and women are created equal by God and therefore, entitled to value of personhood, parity in employment, equal distribution of responsibility and promotion in ministry. We the African Methodist Episcopal Church will work to eliminate gender-role stereotypes and discrimination in all aspects of voluntary and compensatory participation in the Church and society. We will champion economic parity and justice by affirming the right of women to equal treatment and placement in key leadership decision-making positions at all levels of our Church, our Institutions and our communities.
  2. That the General Board urge our elected officials and government agencies to retain and enact legislation and policies that protect women against all forms of misogyny, violence and discrimination.
  3. That the General Board recognize March as International Women’s History Month and strongly encourage local churches to recognize and celebrate the work of women in our Zion.

Respectfully Submitted, Rev. Dr. Erika D. Crawford, Connectional WIM President

Resolution: A Call for Prayer Across the Connectional A.M.E. Church

Whereas; We acknowledge concern for three major issues that have global impact concerning African Americans and people of color worldwide, those being the results of the 2016 Presidential Election , the increasing occurrence of Black on Black killings in our African communities, and the killings of African Americans by law enforcement officers; and

Whereas; People of color globally have reason to feel threatened by a Trump-inspired environment of hostility toward others, this being affirmed by the recent transition team nominations of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn as National Security Adviser. We observe that Senator Sessions has referred to the NAACP as “un-American”. He has chosen the Alt-Right racist, Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist. Collectively, these individuals are without cultural sensitivities, having histories of unrelenting, hard-line conservatism, racial controversy and incendiary rhetoric. This trajectory (course) of government can lead to the loss of decades of progress toward equality that was fought for and achieved by our forefathers; and

Whereas; Our souls are demoralized by the number of killings that result from black on black murder. As identified in the 2013 FBI Uniform Crime Report, ninety percent of black victims are killed by black offenders. We also note the alarming rate of killings of African Americans by law enforcement officers and the rise of “self-defense” killings of black men by white men. We are convinced that ethnic disenfranchisement will accelerate under the Trump administration and lead to increased crime and potential military zones in black communities; and Whereas; We are mindful that the Electoral College meets December 19, 2016 to confirm and ratify the results of the election; now therefore be it

Resolved; That the African Methodist Episcopal Church on behalf of all of its members, band together with other faith alliances to implement a day of prayer; be it further

Resolved; That the Day of Prayer is identified as Sunday, December 18, 2016, one day before the meeting of the Electoral College; be it further

Resolved; That the African Methodist Episcopal Church will follow the example of intercessory prayer given by the Word of God in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15; God’s promise to heal the land when we come to him in humility and repentance. If we humble ourselves in prayer, we can expect God to do what only He can do; lastly be it further

Resolved; That the Commission of Social Action accepts the charge to develop the plan and details needed to implement this resolution.

Mover: Rev. Larry J. Bell, Member of the General Board, AMEC, 4th Episcopal District

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