Bishops in Africa : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

At the General Conference in Cincinatti, Ohio the year 2000,4 Bishops were elected to serve AFRICA. How come only one Bishop is spending time in his district and the other three is always in the United States. Who oversees the districts when they are not there and why did we elect Americans who do not want to be in Africa.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2001


  1. The Discipline requires a bishop assigned to an Overseas District from America to be there eight months out of the year. All the American bishops assigned to overseas work travel extensively.
  2. The civil strife in Liberia and Sierra Leone has made travel to the fourteenth somewhat of a challenge. This was the reason for Bishop Norris's delay.
  3. The bishop's right to serve was challenged initially in the Seventeenth District, and he was essentially placed under house arrest when he arrived to supervise his conferences.
  4. The work in Africa often requires additional funds (see several notes contributed to this discussion board from the Fifteenth District on solidarity, contributions, partnering, unpaid pastors, etc.). To secure these funds the bishops, assigned to those districts from America, have traditionally toured the states seeking contributions.
  5. While the bishop is out of district, day-to-day supervision is placed in the hands of the Administrative Superintendent, sort of a first among presiding elders. This is a role Bishop Francis Herman Gow (74) served before his election in 1956. I seem to recall Rev. Josias performing this role in either the Fifteenth or the Nineteenth, but we should look to contributors from those districts for accuracy.

    The concern you note seems to embody (absentee leadership) is one of the underlying drivers behind the Africa Jurisdiction movement toward indigenous leadership. Several general conferences have spoken to the issue, with 1996 and 2000 getting even more serious about it. I understand January saw the convening in the Seventeenth District of the Africa Jurisdiction Council, and that Bishop A.J. Richardson (115) was there. From his report to the Tenth District Founder's Day meeting I would surmise that the matter of indigenous leadership will take some serious steps forward at the General Conference in 2004.

    To do this does require a purposeful paradigm shift. Of 42 candidates in 2000 for what turned out to be four positions (according to the discipline, it would have only been two), only nine were from Africa. If those same nine run again, and the church votes to federate the Africa Jurisdiction, it will still be competitive. Meanwhile back in the states we may see some pressure to resist this massive swing to indigenous leadership, some of it for less than altruistic purposes. As a church we must work together to understand the importance and value of this paradigm shift, and what ultimately benefits the church's organization and the work of Christ.

    2004 presents a rather unique opportunity to achieve this paradigm shift. With 7 current spots coming open in the US, all the bishops (American) currently assigned overseas (6) will come home, and an additional seat will be filled by an American (unless we vote not to fill the ecumencial chair). This will create a rare opportunity to seat Africa completely with indigenous bishops (1948 and 1972 were the others - there are still 4 bishops serving from 1972). More signficantly, there are very few vacancies in 2008 (3) and 2012 (2), so an incremental approach may meet with resistance. We may not see a chance like this again until 2020 or 2024, depending on the composition of the bench after the upcoming election. Many believe that we have waited long enough.

    In 1996 we saw the church purpose in its collective heart to elect a woman bishop. In 2000 it happened. In 2000 we saw the African Jurisdiction issue given more focus and support. Perhaps 2004 will mark a new era of connectional superintendency, a shift from general superintendency to federated leadership.

    Federated leadership is not as easy as it looks. While it may address one set of problems (recognition of African talent, absentee leadership, travel costs, neocolonialization, no more "training your bishops"), it leaves unaddressed some others (increased funding for impoverished districts, remuneration for African pastors, development of a loving bond between Africa and America), and creates others. The church at large will have to continue over the next three years to tackle these very real issues of governance before 2004.

    -- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

Your points are well taken however, just because the discipline says so it does not mean it is so. Your first point states that Bishops should reside or be active in their districts for 8months out the year. We have not seen our Bishop but for 6weeks last year. I do not understand why Americans wont vote for Africans who are just as qualified as the Americans and even more because they speak the languages. It is hard to see these Bishops come and go and not do anything for the church in Africa. They are just wasting the churches money and time. The only Bishops who served Africa faithfully were Bishop Chappelle who lived amongst the people, Bishop Young, Bishop Henning and Bishop DeVeaux. I am no longer in the African Methodist Episcopal church. After General Conference 2000, I came home and after meeting with our Episcopal Leader, I decided that it was time for me to move on because the AME Church thinks nothing about Africa. You also mentionmed the Bishops raising money in the United States we never know what they raise and bring to the districts. When we come to the Quadrennium or the General Conference the money that was allocated for each delegate is even taken away from us. African delegates suffer when we come to these conferences. We sometimes have one meal a day, we are assigned four to a room. Why must we be brought to another country to suffer there when we have enough suffering in our own. I truely believe we can do without the Americans.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

I, for one, believe there should be African bishops on African soil. They would have fuller understanding of working with our African brethern.

Is the A.M.E. Church performing any good works in Africa? Do you feel it is a lost cause?

Thank you and God's blessings.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

I just want to share some of the blessings that I and my church have received from my African brothers and sisters in Namibia. And these are blessings that every AME church in america can also receive. Rev. Hanse and Rev. Biwa in Katutura Namibia have prayed for my church and have taken the time to get to know our members. They offer advice and are a powerful witness for new churches like mine. Jesus is on the continent of Africa and he asks us to take care of one another. I am new to the denomination, so I do not know about the Bishop situation on the continent of Africa. What I do know is that we as ministers, and laity can do something NOW! To help our AME family in African countries. We can partner with an AME church in an African country and send money,friendship, encouragement and love and I guarantee we will be the ones blessed. This summer our youth group will be fundraising to help our "Partner church in Namibia" As we discuss the USA and countries in Africa, let's do it with love, faith and charity.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2001

Brother Payne, while you seemingly have a propensity to regurgitate what appears to be "hard, cold facts" as spoon-fed to you be the episcopal powers that be, they are quite wanting and lacking for the "hard, cold truth." It appears that you have not either been an observer or participant on the AME Church's political scene long enough to garner the knowledge and reality that most of us AMEs know all too well; the paternalistic attitude AME Bishops have for the African Continent, the evolution of the concept of General Superintendent which later became kown as the BBishop's Deputy or Bishop's Admdinistrative Assistant, and the lack of funding for the AME Church in Africa in spite of whatever funds the Bishops raise here in America.

It is quite shameful the AME Church work has suffered and been stagnant in Africa for most of the one-hundred and ten plus years we have been there. With the exception of Bishops Henry McNeal Turner, Coppin, Wright, Heard, Jordan, Hatcher, Ball, Collins, G. D. Robinson, Reid, James and Brookins, we have had almost no leadership and very little accountability for our AME Church work on the African continent. For example, in Sierra Leone, we yet have less than twenty congregations (the same number organized and received into the AME church by Bishop Turner more than one-hundred years ago). To put it succintly, very few of the Bishops have made any positive contribution to the growth of our church on the African continent notwithstanding the insulting amount the Overseas Development Fund allocates for the work. In addition to this, I have both heard and witnessed U.S. Bishops raising thousand of dollars without one cents ever reaching the African people. I have seen Bishops treat the Africans in a condescending manner; especially BIshops Ming and Chappelle.

The position of Bishop's Deputy Superintendent and Administrative Assistant evolved from what amounted to a demotion of leadership when the indigenous African congregations united with the AME Church. They were, themselves, General Superintendents or Conference Presidents of their congregations (and this is a "true" Methodist concept; Methodism never had Bishops nor intended to, they only had Superintendents or Conference Presidents; the Bishopric system is only adopted by the American Churches which seems strange to other Methodists all over the world including Europe, Asia, South America, the Caribbean and even Africa). So the Americans sought to appease the African congregations by naming their duly elected leaders, Bishop's Administrative Assistants or Deputy Assistants. There have been many persons in this position before the late Dr. Frances H. Gow (later Bishop), Easter M. Gordon, etc. and today Dr. Moses D.Phethlu is serving well as a Bishop's Administrative Assistant in the 19th Episcopal District.

While I congratulate you on your effort to respond to the querie in a poignant and efficient manner, your facts and positions do not reflect the true nature of the problem nor the understanding of African Methodist polity. "This has to be caught (by observing and being a part of for years) and not taught."

I am native borh American, but I do know that Africa will be much better off spiritually, financially, and numerically in the hands of indigenous leadership. They can't do or be any worse than what we have assigned there to date. Bishop Vashti McKenzie is a disappointement; she wanted to be a Bishop and is always here in the U. S. on speaking engagements promoting her own popularity rather than seving the people on the African soil of the 18th Episcopal District (which encompasses 4 countries). And too, Bishop Norris supervises 5 countries in the 14th Episcopal District; if he could not get into the countries of Ghana and Sierra Leone (which I doubt is true for I was in both countries earlier this year), then there is enough work in Nigeria (more than 100 million people with less than 25 AME congregations), Liberia, or Cote D'Ivoire or he could continue to organize the work in the West African countries of Togo, the Gambia, Senegal, etc. (First of all, he did not wish to be assigned to the 14th District and felt that since he was elected before Bishop Ingram, he should have been assigned to the 15th Episcopal District embracing a more affluent area of South Africa in the Cape region). He should be in Africa expanding the work in those countries rather than politicking for the 1st Episcopal District. It is a known fact; our work in Africa has been hamstrung by U. S. Bishops who have stifled all progress in those areas for the more than one-hundred years we have been there. By now, we should have covered the African continent.

But more importantly, let's continue in prayer for our Overseas areas by sending contributions (not rhetoric) directly to them (then we know they will receive them. Moreover, at the General Conference of 2004, there will be no compromising; regardless to the number of Bishops we elect, 7 or 8; 5 of them must be indigenous for the 14, 15, 17, 18, and 19 Episcopal District. THERE WILL BE NO COMPROMISE.

Having said this, let's pray to see this transfer of leadership happen in peace, harmony and goodwill for the entire AME connection.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2001

Several years ago when I joined this Bulletin Board I offered the suggestion that failure to recognize indigenous African leadership for our "overseas" episcopal districts will only lead to disenchantment, dismay and dissent. I have not read nor seen anything since my comment which has caused me to change my mind. Sylvia's stinging but courteous rebuke to Jerryl's thoughtful contribution succinctly captures my thinking on this matter and I for one hope that the Bishop's Council take her comments to heart and head. While I disagree with her implications that J. Payne's assessment of indigenous African leadership represents a novice understanding of the political dynamics or mere kowtowing to the "powers-at-be", the unimpeachable facts she proffers remain intact: Paternalistic & Absentee behavior by American AME Bishops is an affront to the human dignity of African people. I remember quite well the "disappointment" reflected in the countenance of Bishop Norris when he was informed about assuming duties in the 14th District. Personally, I thought Norris' reaction and the putrid mea culpa offered by one of his collegues for sending him to Sierra Leone was childish, selfish and conduct unbecoming of a servant of God. Should appointments to the Bishopric be tantamount to a cherry-picking activity whereby we arbitrarily decide what is a "good" or "bad" assignment? Should service in these African countries be narrowly defined only in terms of presiding over annual conferences? I think not. Did Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer complain about his ministry co-existing with the rise of the Third Reich? Or what about the missionaries who lost their lives during the genocidal civil wars in neighboring Burundi and Rwanda. Did they complain or seek to be reassigned in a comfortable European setting? Again, the answer is no. Let me advance a simple idea. Cherry-picking is sinful. Absentee overseers are ineffective human resource managers. The stagnant growth statistics revealed in Sylvia's comment is important. Are we as a Zion no longer committed to expanding AME churches in Africa? If after 100 years we have the same number of churces this is alarming. Compromise ought not be an option. Either serve the people full-time or gracefully step aside and let someone else perform these tasks. Have we forgotten about accountability? QED

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2001

I am interested in aggressively exploring the possibility of the church to which I am assigned (Quinn AME Church in Moreno Valley, California) partnering directly with a Church in Africa. Is there a pastor familar with the Churhes there and their needs who can give me some direction?? blessings, mike barta

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2001

Ms. Clarke-Poteet,

Thank you for your contribution to this discussion. You have given me additional data that is greatly appreciated.

I view the discussion board as a place where the pieces of a sometimes obscure puzzle can be laid out, and where readers can then draw a picture for themselves.

The AME church is not the church of my birth, but it has been a blessing to me for 29 years. As I spend more time in it, I hope to learn more about it - both good and bad. It is only by facing our problems and wrestling with them that we can hope to overcome them.

I join you in prayer for the Connection as a whole, the Bench as an entity, the people at large, and the maturation in both polity and spirit of the AME Church.

Respectfully yours in Christ,

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2001

Brother Jerryl I thank you for your grace and humility and your statements on this discussion board remind of "The Prayer of St. Francis" we will be using as responsive prayer in church this sunday. It makes me think of your work in your church and on the board. Here is the Prayer of St. Francis of Assis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon, where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light, where there is sadness, joy. O divine master, grant that I many not so much seek to be consoled, as to console, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2001

Is Rev Denise the networks psychologist or therapist.Denise u dont have to respond on this page just go directly to that person and reply to himu/her directly.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 2001

Deidre I like your suggestion that you put on the board to respond directly to the person. Unfortunately you did not take your own advice and write to me personally with your question. Now to answer your question, No I am not the "Network psychologist or therapists" But I am a professional therapist and have worked in that capacity for many years before becoming a minister. Though of course I use those skills in my ministry. So do feel free to email me personally if you have any other questions. One other thing, a discussion board is just that, a discussion where the thread is continued with a response. It is good to know that you are doing well, I recognize your email address from previous post, though I think you have used different names. To God be the glory and I look forward to hearing from you.

-- Anonymous, May 26, 2001

How can I resist participating in this discussion. the question I would like to pose.Everyone on this discussion board believes that Africa should have indegenious leadership.I beg to differ.As an African I feel that a census should be taken by the people who are most affected the Africans.Yes high speaches are made is far places I don't believe that enough consultation has been done by the members (Local) of the AME Church in Africa.The intellectuals have intellectualized but the impoverished people have not ,in my opinion been consulted and many will ask to late what is this AJC. I know my members are proud to have an American for a bishop. Are'nt we setting a presitent for the future where local congregations will ask for indeginous Pastors.Or different States will ask for indigenous Bishops. Bishops should be given an option to come to Africa and Yes African Bishops should be elected and given the opotunity to serve anywhere in the connection. Then we can truly say that we are a connectional church.

-- Anonymous, May 26, 2001

I have a probglem with the original question. We did not elect 4 new bishops for Africa. A definite NO. We elected 4 bishops for the AME Church. The fact of the matter is that Africa is a training ground for newly elected bishops. What will happen if you take the first 6 bishops on the senipority ranking and assign them all to districts in Africa? Just imagine, if we find it hard and argue hours without end for locating (on full benefits) a bishop we were supposed to retire. We are fooling ourselves. Many a African delegate were watching the scenario with the contempt it deserved. Selective morality to say the least.

We need to do more than talking on this medium. Do you know or have you ever given thought what a major blessing $100-00 per month would be to a destitude preacher in an African village?

For the 1st time have I seen a bishop reflecting money donated by American AME's in a financial report, when Bishop GGM Ingram reported R117 000-00 (South African Rand) in the Episcopal TReasurer's Report at the Joint Midyear held last weekend. And all that money is to be divided amongst the 5 conference of the district to award financial assistance to needy children and students on merit. Criteria have been worked out and applications forms have been printed and the process was properly explained. Seemingly a very transparents and accountable administration.

Personally, I do not care whether my prelate is American or African, male or female. What is want is a caring bishop, with accountable and transparent administration, a spiritual being who can infect others. One who stays with the flock he/she ministers and share in the sorrow of our funerals and in the joy of African weddings. Give me somebody very serious about his/her call, with compassion and with a heart. In the words of Bishop J H Adams, I need someone who can set and enact the moral climate in which the Church can function.

-- Anonymous, May 28, 2001

R117,000 equals about $15,000. (USA)

-- Anonymous, May 28, 2001

May 1,2001 the Currency was $1.00 Us = R8.01

-- Anonymous, May 28, 2001

I thought this scripture would be appropriate for the AME Church LEADERS. I PETER 5 v 1-3 says", I have special concern for you as church leaders. I know what it is like to be a leader, in Christ's sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here's my concern: that you care for God'd flock with all diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. NOT CALCULATING WHAT YOU CAN GET OUT OF IT, BUT ACTING SPONTANEOUSLY. NOT BOSILY TELLING OTHERS WHAT TO DO, BUT TENDERLY SHOWING THEM THE WAY.

-- Anonymous, May 29, 2001

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