An Open Dialogue : President's Report from Council of Bishops : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

(This report was authored and presented by Bishop William P. DeVeaux, Presiding Prelate of the 16th Episcopal District and President of the Council of Bishops. Since the main thrust of Bishop DeVeaux's statement was to open lines of communications between the Bishops and church members, I decided not only to feature it in the news section but to also reprint it here so it both could be read, discussed and responded to in the interest of fostering such a church/leadership dialogue. I thank Bishop DeVeaux for his open enthusiasm to communicate and I pray that his first steps will lead to many more steps between better understanding between the leadership of the A.M.E. Church and those that they lead)

To Members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
A Report from the President
of the Council of Bishops

I have had the high honor of being the president of the Council of Bishops since June 15, 2000. During the period of my tenure, the African Methodist Episcopal Church has made history, begun challenging new initiatives and sought to maintain its place among the early vessels into which God has entrusted the Church of Jesus Christ.  In our efforts, we have been, at times, faithful and dutiful, and on other occasions we have fallen somewhat short of the higher calling of God.  This is the nature and the reality of our human condition.  Indeed, we are made "a little lower than the angels"  yet we are also completely aware of our propensity for sin.

A part of my responsibility as Council president is to ensure that communication between the Council of Bishops and the membership of the AME Church is open and entirely reciprocal.  For this reason, I would appreciate your comments on my preliminary reflections about the state of our Zion.  Please feel free to contact me through e-mail:  ; fax 301-585-3192; or mail at 8860 Woodland Drive, Silver Spring, MD, 29010.  I promise to make an effort to respond but, more important, to refer matters I cannot handle to the appropriate place or office within the Church's structure.

  1. Service beyond the limits of the United States is moving along fairly well. We are still experiencing some of the problems which have lingered for a long time,. The issues that persist involve cultural differences, concerns for independence, national conflicts and momentum for indigenous leadership. We sent a delegation from the Council to the Seventeenth District to discuss matters that resulted in the postponing of two annual conferences, Bishops DeVeaux, Henning, Senatle and Williams spent two days in conversations with the leaders of the District.  During those discussions, we reemphasized the Church's commitment to indigenous leadership and the creation of the Africa Jurisdiction as mandated by the General Conference. The only annual conferences postponed because of internal church issues were teh ones in the Seventeenth District.  These conferences will be convened as soon as possible. Bishop Norris has been unable to enter some of the countries to which he is assigned because of civil unrest.
  2. Discussion continues in some places about the Connectional Church budget. I believe that this that this matter will be the sour4ce of continuing discussion in the General Board and Council of Bishops.
  3. There appears to be a serious need to revisit the issue of redistricting with the Church. This issue involves the call for an Africa Jurisdiction and questions dealing with modifying the current Districts in the United States and the Caribbean.
  4. There is some ferment for moving toward the centralizing the operation of the church. Pursuing this issue would require additional discussions about a "headquarters" facility and increased coordination among all departments and agencies in the Church.
  5. Theological reflection should always be the4 dominant theme within any church. From my perspective, the primary concern for A.M.E.s  is finding the appropriate tension between two means of approaching the manner in which we do our ministry. A deeply evangelical or "neo-Pentecostal" approach and a more traditionally African Methodist understanding of both worship and practical application seem to remain as the foci around which theological discourse revolves.

This report is not meant to be definitive or authoritative in nature. I seek to open a dialogue that will continue long after my tenure as president is past.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

-- Anonymous, December 29, 2000


Thank God for this frank effort for the church to be more transparent and accountable to the people. I personally thank you Bishop De Veaux for your input and the sincere effort to work on the promises you made when in Africa. Point no 1 and No 3 seem to now surface as an urgent need in our church. My spirit is lifted by the fact that you have not gone back on your word, but now willing to especially persue the case for Africa. God knows we need a Moses ......

-- Anonymous, January 01, 2001

Bishop DeVeaux should be properly commended for making the Five Points available. I would argue that Points 3 & 5 require immediate and swift resolution since they directly impact on the future of our Zion. Geographic Episcopal Redistricting should be conducted in order to balance Episcopal responsibilities with church growth needs. Just like the US Congress undergoes redistrciting after the decennial Census, the AME Church is long, long overdue to redistrict its activities. Issue 5 is the age-ole question about whether we sacrifice custom and tradition when we introduce "neo-Pentecostalism" in our Order of Worship. Those in favor of retaining custom/tradition need to provide a clear explanation why membership is declining in those churches who frown upon "neo-Pentecostal" worship styles. Can anyone point me to a traditional AME congregation which virtually prohibits "neo-Pentecostal" styles and enjoys a growth record like Ebeneezer AME in Ft. Washington, MD or Bethel AMEC of Baltimore, MD or Rev. Flake's Church??? If not, why are we attempting to "balance" when the traditional paradigm is clearly not producing the fruit we are looking to achieve? This is why my call for an independent and comprehensive analysis of our operations by a top-notch management consulting firm like Anderson Consulting, The Boston Group or McKinsey & Co. can be a big help in re-defining our focus. QED

-- Anonymous, January 02, 2001

Brother Dickens: I was with you right up to your last sentence. Are you really calling for an independent "white" business consulting firm to advise us on our form of worship?

-- Anonymous, January 02, 2001

The church is not a show. There are congregations that enjoy the traditional AME worship style. While there is no doubt that some of teh neo-pentocostal churches have expierenced phenomonal growth, the fact remains that worship is a personal exopierence. What has worked for those churches can not be used a formula for all churches. The fact is as Methodist there are particular things that we do in the worship expierence. They may not all be fun or flashy or lively but there are people who are methodist because of them. I would suggest some research in the roots of methodist liturgy to further explain the roots of our "traditional" worship styles. This is not to say that there is not room for individual expression but one should not throw out the baby with the bath water. There is room for both types of expression. Believe it or not there are large churches with people who go to them because they are not neopentocostal.

-- Anonymous, January 02, 2001

Brother Owens: Thanks for the Good question. Allow me to respond. My suggestion about using the technical serivces of a top-notch management consulting firm is a response to how we should look introspectively at our Church from top to bottom. Since these companies specialize in helping organizations reach their creative potential their suggestions can be invaluable to attain the goal of organizational efficiency. If we have a conflict with balancing worship styles with our Methodist liturgy we need to rethink exactly what is our collective purpose. Once we agree about the purpose we can address organizational issues. I don't believe that these companies would betray our trust simply because they happen to be white owned. But, then again I'm not oppossed to a black management consulting firm doing the work too. The bottom-line is the work needs to be done in order to promote organizational change. QED

-- Anonymous, January 02, 2001

Ooo, a mine field! :-)

On Reorganization: I believe consolidation is not only in order, but possibly underway. Watch for it to begin within annual conferences first. In those districts where there are a large number of conferences (6 - 7) and presiding elder districts (12 or more), look for the presiding prelates to consolidate, elminating elder coverage or combining it into larger regions. This would be most possible in areas where the population shift has left us with highly underutilized or abandoned properties, and very little hope of resuscitation because everyone's moved. Once the elder districts drop, the annual conferences also drop. When that happens, we are then positioned for redistricting. This is especially achievable at GenCon 2004 because there are currently 7 episcoapl slots that would need to be filled. If we reduce the need to 5, a much more manageable election occurs.

On Africa Jurisdiction: I welcome its arrival, and am prayerful that the needs of our family in Africa are lovingly and biblically addressed. It's overdue.

On management consultation: I respect where Bill wants to go with this, but I believe the ecclesiastical mandates of ministry may offer challenges that secular companies simply don't address. Let me think about this some more to provide a more meaningful counterpoint.

On "the church is not a show": No, and neither is neo-pentecostalism, at least in its purest form. Unfortunately, there will always be situations, both traditional and non-traiditional, where Christ may no longer be the center. But I am concerned that pigeonholing all neo- pentecostlism as entertainment is an incorrect conclusion. I do agree that there are congregations where the richness of traditional approaches yield a very fine, enjoyable worship experience. As an example, at St. Paul Cambridge one service was very much neo- pentecostal, while the other was very much "main-line." Both were methodist, with all the trappings and expectation of the discipline- prescribed liturgy. One might find some additional features in the neo- pentecostal service, but ... :-)

On Communication: I recall that either Bishop DeVeaux or his family have contributed to this forum previously, and consider it a refreshing honor that the President of the Council would welcome feedback from the corpus.I think it's a wonderful step into new technology, and is so reflective of our Lord - meeting the people where they are, and not merely "in the temple".

On Church Growth: Evangelism and Discipleship are both part of the Prime Directive. Perhaps if we were more effective in the latter, it would be easier to accomplish the former.

-- Anonymous, January 02, 2001

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