By TCR Staff
The 35th Biennial Session of the Connectional Lay Organization (CLO) of the African Methodist Episcopal Church was held from August 7-10, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. Over 1,000 delegates, alternates, and observers gathered to participate in business and Christian fellowship under the leadership of CLO President Dr. Willie C. Glover, Jr.; CLO Director of Lay Activities Edith B. Cartledge; and General Board Lay Commission Chairperson Bishop E. Earl McCloud, Jr. The 3rd Episcopal District hosted the meeting under the guidance of Senior Bishop McKinley Young, Episcopal District Lay President Mark Mayo, and Episcopal District Director of Lay Activities Kimberly Gordon Brooks.
Organized activities for the Biennial began on August 6 with several cultural and historical excursions around Columbus available for delegates arriving early as well as worship services at several local churches. The Executive Board met to deal with last minute convention business. That evening, the 3rd Episcopal District grandly hosted a welcoming reception with presentations from local officials and a live band.
The Biennial began in earnest on August 7 with the First Business Session. After being called to order by President Glover, seating the delegation, and several committee reports, President Glover gave his final Presidential Address encapsulating his eight years of service. At the end of the speech, the assembly voted to grant him the designation of President Emeritus. The Biennial keynote address was then presented by the Rev. Michael Brown, Ph.D., president of Payne Theological Seminary. He discussed justice, discipleship, and how we need to be agents of change.
In the afternoon session, elections were the order of the day. While the assembly waited for the Credential Report to be finalized, several committees reported. As the hour grew long, it appeared that the elections would have to be postponed—much to the consternation of the assembly. Nonetheless, the Credentials Report was finally presented and the elections were duly conducted under the leadership of Judge Patricia Mayberry, Elections Committee Chair (see results at end of report).
In the evening, the Opening Service of Word and Sacrament was held. Bishop Young preached from the subject, “Go, On a Mission to Fulfill the Great Commission” from Matthew: 28:16-20.
August 8 was dedicated to training activities coordinated by Mrs. Edith Cartledge. The training was structured into general plenary sessions branching into specific workshops in the afternoon. The first plenary was “Our Incredible Future” led by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson. The second plenary was entitled “An Open Forum on the African Methodist Episcopal Church After 200” and was led by the Rev. Garland F. Pierce, Presiding Elder Earl Ifill, the Rev. Erika D. Crawford, D.Min., Mrs. Kimberly Gordon Brooks, and Mr. Jerry Turner. Institute workshops building on these themes were conducted in the afternoon.
The evening activity was the “Jesse L. Burns Black Tie Soiree.” Every two years, the CLO hosts an event to raise funds for an AME institution of higher education. The 2017 honoree was AME University in Monrovia, Libera. President Joseph Isaac, Jr. received the $50,000 donation on behalf of the college and recounted the progress made during his tenure. The remainder of the program was replete with tributes and presentations to outgoing President Glover.
August 9 started with an opening presentation from Bishop Jackson entitled, “The African Methodist Episcopal Church Lay Organization.” The plenary for the day was “An Open Forum on The Lay Organization” featuring the following panelists: Paulette Coleman, Ph.D., Mr. Simeon P. Rhoden Jr, Mrs. Starr Battle, the Rev. Lionel Merritt, and the Rev. Henry A. Belin, III. A response was given by Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie. After the plenary, the young adults sponsored the Hour of Power where the Rev. Sheleta Fomby of the 2nd Episcopal District preached, “Can These Bones Live?” from Ezekiel 37:1-3. Outgoing Young Adult Representative Felecia Commodore, Ph.D. gave the quadrennial Young Adult Address at the close of the service reflecting on her time of service and challenging the CLO to take seriously its engagement with young adults.
In the evening, the capstone event was the Awards Banquet with the address by Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D., author, culture critic, and professor at Georgetown University. The Master and Mistress of Ceremonies for the Banquet were Dr. Derek Anderson and Ms. Valencia Wicker. The Biennial scholarships were presented and the recipients of the Outstanding Layperson Award were announced as follows: Adult—Wimphrey W. Jenkins (1st) and The Ted Harris Young Adult—Ashley S. Williams (2nd).
The final day of the Biennial was packed with business as the assembly attempted to tie up all loose ends. At times the debate was tense; but overall, the assembly retained its Christian character. The 5th Episcopal District gave a welcoming video for the 2019 Biennial, which will be held in Seattle, Washington. The Biennial closed with the installation of officers and the Lay Benediction sung by incoming President Valerie Gary Bell.
ELECTED OFFICERS FOR 2017-2021
Mrs. Valerie Gary Bell (2) 535
Ms. Gloria T. Byrd (6) 302
Mr. Charlie Nichols (11) 169
First Vice President
Mr. Abednego Makitane Makiti (19)
Second Vice President
Mr. Simon Letsoko (19)
Third Vice President
Mrs. Starr L. Battle (2)
Mrs. Doris Bell (13)
Assistant Recording Secretary
Mrs. Brenda Holland Curry (7)
Mrs. Ada L. Groff (5)
Mr. Richard L. Bowden (9)
Mrs. Lyndia Mayo (3)
Mrs. Alice Belden (4)
Mr. Cleveland Frasier (7) 248
Dr. Dorothy Henderson (12) 756
Director of Lay Activities
Mrs. Helen Brown Oliver (4) 316
Ms. Ametta L. Reaves (3) 687
Director of Public Relations
Young Adult Representative
Ms. Jamesha Williams (7)
Mr. Walter Jeffers (1), unopposed incumbent candidate for Director of Public Relations, withdrew from the ballot due to health concerns. The position will be filled by the Executive Board at the Fall Executive Board Meeting. The Parliamentarian will be contracted by the Connectional Lay Organization as no qualified candidate contested the office.
We acknowledge with appreciation the assistance of Mr. Bill Ayers, Ms. Amanda Johnson, and the Convention Public Relations Staff in the compilation of this report.
Photo Credit: Renecia Frazier, 3rd Episcopal District