The African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Philadelphia in 1787 with a small group of dedicated servants of God Today the AME church has over 2,000,000 members and has over 7,000 congregations worldwide.
The long standing organization in now in session with the 48th Quadrennial Session General Conference which kicked off on Independence Day July 4th and will continue thru July 11th. This year, local Fifth Episcopal District Bishop, John Richard Bryant will be moved based on rules and by-laws (a Bishop is only allowed to preside over a district for no more than (8) years).
Current presiding Bishop Phillip Robert Cousin, Sr. is retiring. The Fifth Episcopal District covers California, Missouri, Kansas-Nebraska, Colorado, Northwest Missouri, and Pacific Northwest Conference. Members of the AME church are conversing about who will get the popular Fifth District position. Will it be the Los Angeles favorite Bishop Theodore Larry Kirkland (Ninth District & former pastor of Brookins A.M.E.), or the well-respected and first female Bishop of the AME church Vashti Murphy McKenzie (Thirteenth District).
There are also three Bishop’s retiring this session which leaves (3) open Bishop seats. Local pastor of Second AME Los Angeles, Kelvin Calloway is running for one of the seats. He is up against thirty other hopeful candidates.
Thousands gather to the much anticipated conference to be the first to spread the word on the new Bishop appointments and latest AME information, but this year the AME attendees received something extra special. Senator Barack Obama joined the conference on July 6.
The Senator reminded the church that he is not new to church and this was no gimmick. Obama stuck to his theology that change must start with self. He used his life as an example throughout the speech. His speech brought together two celebrations 4th of July and the AME’s celebration of the rich heritage it continues to create.
He started with the purpose of the 4th of July Holiday by stating, “ This celebration this weekend cannot be a passive celebration. Keeping the promise of this nation alive requires more of us as Americans than just watching the fireworks or the parades passing by. That’s all good, that’s all fun, that’s all fitting, but its not enough. If we are truly to celebrate the birth of this nation it requires service and sacrifice and each of us doing our parts to leave our children a world that’s kinder and more just. Just as this celebration cannot not be an idol celebration (referring to the AME Conference) our faith cannot be an idol faith. It requires more of us than Sundays at church. It requires more than just our daily prayer. It must be an active faith rooted in that most fundamental love of all truths that I am my brother’s keeper that I am my sister’s keeper. That we must live that truth in not only with good words but good deeds.”
Obama went on to discuss and declare his faith in Jesus by saying, “while working on the Southside of Chicago as an community organizer “I let Jesus Christ into my life, I learned that my sins could be redeemed, and if I placed my trust in Jesus that he could set me on a path to eternal life.” He credited that newfound faith to have fortified his work in the community. He went on to say, “it taught me that I could sit in church all I want but I will not be fulfilling the Lords will unless I am doing the Lords work.” A lesson that he says he carries with him.
He spoke about reinforcing government funding for faith based programs. Allowing all faith to participate whether mega church to the smallest synagogue, mosque or temple. He reminded the AME audience that he understood the importance of the church and the support the faith institutions could give to the community.
Afterwards, the crowd got back to normal and conversations started back up to what Bishop was coming to the Fifth District. No worries, you’ll find out in next week’s edition.