Ame politics : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

Hi I have just joined the AME church in South Africa. Could you please explain to me how the election of bishops works. I would like to get as many responses as possible so I can get different view points on how certain(different) people perceive these elections.

-- Anonymous, December 03, 2002


Election of bishops occurs at the General Conference, every four years in a year divisible by four, between June 15 and July 15. Candidates for election are required to be Elders of the church who have travelled for eight years. They shall be "blameless in character and qualifications, and must be elected by secret individual ballots of the members of the General Conference." [1]

The actual process appears to begin at the seat of the General Conference preceeding. New candidates announce their candidacy as the General Conference draws to a close, beginning what they hope is a four-year journey to the Episcopal Bench. These candidates present themselves through a series of methods - letters to the delegates, announcements in the AME Christian Recorder, articles about themselves and their work in the same, development of web sites (examples of these may be seen by clicking on the candidate names in the Epsicopal Candidates Table on the Reedy Chapel web site), and by other methods of getting the word out. During the quadrennium, candidates begin the arduous task of building name recognition throughout the connection by visiting meetings: Connectional meetings, Bishop's Council, Annual Conferences, Mid-Year Convocations, and Founder's Day assemblies.

The number of candidates frequently appears to exceed significantly the number of openings. For example, there were 46 candidates for 3 seats in 1988 [2], 34 candidates in 1996 for three seats [3], and 42 candidates in 2000 for 4 seats. There will be at least 6 seats in 2004, and already there appear to be 60 candidates. Many more are expected to announce in this pivotal year for the bench.

Districts sometimes factor into the decision of people to run. Some districts unify behind their candidates, while others appear to encourage many candidates. For 2004, the First has already seen at least 8 people announce their candidacy, and the Seventh at least 6, while both the Tenth and the Fifteenth seem to stand solidly behind their "Standard Bearers." This latter approach provides a more unified face for the district to the General Conference.

Candidates should be examples of successful ministry, or should have made a successful contribution to the connectional church. At least three of our current bishops were general officers (Cummings, Belin, Chappelle). At least one had been a college president (Adams). Many came from "major" pulpits across the connection.

The Election Process itself changed significantly in 2004. The adoption of Electronic Voting reduced a process that used to take several hours to one that occurred in a matter of minutes. That quadrennium's three ballots occurred in the space of the afternoon of the last day, allowing for ordination that same evening. Time is still allowed between ballots for "caucusing", i. e., for candidates to pool and muster their resources into effective coalitions that will get them elected. Sometimes candidates will pull together a ticket, and will use their influence to pursuade each other to help all on the ticket to get elected.

Bishops are influential in the election process. I'm sure other contributors will elaborate. End Notes

  1. The Doctrine and Discipline of the A.M.E. Church, 2000-2004, Page 141, Forty-sixth edition, AME Church, Nashville, TN
  2. The Combined Minutes of the 43rd Quadrennial Session, General Conference, AME Church, Page 845-848
  3. The Combined Minutes of the 45th Quadrennial Session, General Conference, AME Church, Page 423

-- Anonymous, December 04, 2002

Dear Brother Greetings and welcome to the A.M.E Church. Your question will produce different views but as to the facts Bro Jerryl has said it all.

God Bless You as you start your journey in Christ.

-- Anonymous, December 05, 2002

Hi James -

Welcome to the AME Church and the AME Today online family. In my opinion, the AMEC should focus less time on electing Bishops and more time on drafting and developing church legislation which can have meaninful impact. As Jerryl currently observes, more than 60+ individuals have declared the candidacy for the office of Bishop. We have information about candidates but little information about what the candidates will do if elected. What are the critical issues? Will we have a debate among the candidates about these issues so that voters can distinguish between the 'pretenders' vs the contenders? Politics is a contact sport. Politics is not for the faint-hearted or the puritanical person. Unfortunately, AMEs we have reduced the General Conference (GC) to simply a 'beauty pageant' with candidates for Bishop. We have seemingly treated all other matters of the GC as anti-climatic. This is most unfortunate. As Bob Matthews rightfully points out in a related post, what matters most is proposed legislation which will be brought to the floor. The Connectional Model provides for lay input. It is our duty to take advantage of this opportunity. QED

-- Anonymous, December 05, 2002

Bro. James welcome to the discussion board! I have a question for Bill and others who have posted on this board. Is this a new phenomanon having so many candidates running for office? Has there ever been a time when there was a limit to how many people can run? Since I have never been to general conference. Could you share with me when and where is legislation presented to the entire church body. Are delegates to make decisions and vote on the same day or do they have time to reflect before voting. And for James, I have been A.M.E for a year and a half so I am also learning.

-- Anonymous, December 05, 2002

Welcome to the Family Brother James! It has been said that it is easier to get elected President of the United States, than it is to be elected a Bishop in the AME Church. I have witnessed and participated in two campaigns. I was fortunate to attend several general conferences dating back to 1968 in Philadelphia. The election process is not for the faint-hearted. Lives and dreams can be dashed in a matter of moments. General Conference of 2000 changed the election process again with the power of the black box (electronic voting). To be elected involves more than name recognition, and unfortunately some of the most qualified have been left at the door. To be elected requires prayer, and the support of the help build a coalition which crosses several lines for support. There must be unity between lay and clergy, as well as the different regions of the connection (e.g. North vs. South). It would be interesting to have a "candidates forum" to hear the various platforms in addition to actually see who is running!

-- Anonymous, December 06, 2002

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