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

Will we in 2004, elect any bishops from the smaller districts? If you look over the years, I believe that the last bishop that was elected from a so called small district, was in 1984 with Bishop Senatle, if you count that, since they had to elect one from Africa, but really since 1976, when Bishop Stokes from Wilberforce and the 3rd district, and Bishop C.E. Thomas from the ninth. When will we start giving the smaller district candidates a chances at the leadership?

-- Anonymous, September 10, 2003


Interesting question. If we followed Biblical principle ("S/He who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much"), your dream may come true, but who knows? The size of the district should not determine the Bishopric, but the size of the growth (new churches, membership, comunity programs, etc).


-- Anonymous, September 10, 2003

What in fact is the definition of a small district? It would appear that most, if not all, districts were in some respect proportionately equal in their size and work. Some multi-state districts have fewer congregations than those, which are comprised of a single state.

For example, both Georgia and South Carolina have more congregations than the entire Fifth District, which is comprised, of 15 or 16 States. However, this does not in any way make the Fifth District smaller than the Sixth or Seventh Districts. The geographic expanse and the size of some of the congregations in the Fifth District more than compensate for the number of churches the bishop has been assigned. Making the work of that district equal in scope.

While the number of delegates in some district may be slightly smaller than the rest, the coalitions they make, the strength and Connectional-wide recognition of the candidates that they endorse is what really determines their balloting power.

-- Anonymous, September 10, 2003

One additional thing I failed to mention is that our bishops serve the entire Church. They may be assigned to serve anyplace throughout the Connection Worldwide. Depending on their age they might serve for several decades and Quadrennials to come. They also represent us equally when the Council meets.

Perhaps we need to reconsider our concern about from which districts persons are elected to serve, but rather consider who best should be elected for the good of all.

-- Anonymous, September 10, 2003

I think the premise of Rev. Man's concerns are legitimate. Robert asks somewhat rhetorically, "What in fact is the definition of a small district?" I would respond that the 3rd, 8th, 12th and perhaps even the 13th Districts are small as defined by the number of churches and number of congregants. The selection of Bishop should be independent on which District he/she considers home. Speaking of the 3rd District can anybody explain its gerrymandered boundaries which consists of western PA, WV and Ohio? PA is the only state in the AME Connection with 2 Episcopal Districts. If I was in charge of redistricting I would eliminate the current geographic configuration of the 3rd by inclding all of PA in the 1st, transfering OH to the 4th District (the Buckeye state afterall is midwestern) and sending WV to the 13th District. I would also merge single state districts 9th & the 6th to create a super District. In addition I would merge the 8th and the 12th Districts. Finally, I would carve out four Districts from the current 5th District according to the following formula: California Conference, Colorado Conference, Pac-NW Conference and the Missouri-Kansas-Nebraska Conference. Each of these conferences would become a new district under my plan. According to my calculation that would leave the total number of continental Districts unchanged and restoring sensible balance without the prior geographic anarchy. I look forward to reactions from my proposal from the 3rd like Larry Clark and Rev. Colvin, the 6th (Bob Matthews) and the motley crew from the 5th (Revs. Harper, Barta & Elder Rogers) :-) QED

-- Anonymous, September 10, 2003

One of the crew answers!

Redistricting? You sure your name isn't Gerry Mander?

Here is the only problem I see with it: M O N E Y.

Some states don't generate enough revenue to support a Bishop's salary. Texas can do it alone; California can as well. But what about Idaho? Alaska? Hawaii?

That being said, having MORE Bishops would allow them more time for visting and planning. For example, Bishop Bryant has some 300-odd (no pun) churches that he oversees. At the rate of 1 visit per day, he would have no time for Rev. Cee. If he had 100 or so, that would make his job easier, IMHO.

Perhaps we could combine your gerrymandering (smile) with Major League Baseball's revenue sharing and my larger government.

Fiscally Republican, Socially Democrat (in case you wondered),

-- Anonymous, September 11, 2003

Brother Bill as one of the "motley crew" of the fifth district, I really cannot say that much about redistricting yet. For I have only been AME for 2 years and I am still learning how many churches are in each conference and what their needs are. Coming from a United Methodist background, I can say the AME Bishops work harder than the United Methodist bishops. My prelate Bishop Bryant is absolutely incredible and our episcopal supervisor is awesome! The two of them really keep track of what is going on in their churches, big and small. The fifth district has 14 states, our churches are both rural and urban.

Right now I am much more concerned about the vast distances our Bishops and Presiding Elders have to cover in Africa. For in Africa a district includes whole countries as opposed to states.

Our brothers and sisters in Africa often have to fly to another country for conferences. So for me if the church were to put attention on redistricting, I would hope we could look at ways to make it easier for our clergy in Africa.

There is tremendous growth happening in africa and very exciting ministries. I know for me as clergy there is so much I want to learn from my colleagues in Africa regarding evangelism.

Bill, I can't wait for Pastor Mike to get you!;-)

-- Anonymous, September 11, 2003


Since I have been elected to an office in my Episcopal District Lay, I find myself spending an unusual amount of time on the road attending various meetings and conference across the state.

In the days before integration, included in sustentation was the agreement that someone would give you meals and lodging in their home, in their most comfortable bed with a home cooked/homegrown meal. Since integration, we exchanged this for a $105.00 hotel, which with good planning includes and Continental Breakfast at the crack of dawn. If you are not fortunate enough to be given an expense account by the organization you joyfully and willingly serve, the amount you spend is all your own.

So I have often found myself driving alone in the wee hours of the morning making eight and nine hour roundtrip treks. This is 250/270 miles in one direction or 500 plus miles round trip. The only lights I see on the highway are God's lovely moon and stars, an occasional village or farmhouse and a few weary travelers like I. This does not take into account that I worked all day before my trip, attended a meeting or conference and must be home for work by 6:00 a.m. -- my car, the gas I purchase and my time.

My own Annual Conference includes 108 churches, pastors, licentiates, observers and delegates. It extends for four days and often lasts from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. This does not include the meetings, committees and caucuses, which also must be held. Yet we are still hard pressed to finish the work before the conference ends. Some Bishops have said that the New York Annual Conference is not any more taxing than this.

Multiply this brief sketch of what I just said by the work I do in my District to the Annual Conference and church. Add also the various meeting across the Connection, which I feel obligated to attend. My Episcopal District has six(6) Annual Conferences as well. So this gives me an appreciation for the work our Bishop and Elders must do.

So Bill, there is no way, if I can prevent it that I will sit by and allow my Episcopal District to add one geographic inch. Covering the State of Georgia is about all any of us should and can be expected to do.

Now I anticipate one other question so let me answer it in advance. That question being why don't we eliminate some of the meetings and conferences we hold. This is kind of off the subject but allow me to digress.

On last Saturday I held a workshop for my local church lay. It was centered around the "Priesthood of All Believers" and John Wesley's response to it. What we learned is a fact which many Methodists tend to forget. There is no real distinction between the ordained and the unordained--the lay. They are simply different offices of the one Ministry of the Church. The Holy Spirit has given these as He chooses designs and wills. John Wesley responded by giving us Class Leaders whose main purpose is Lay Minister/Priests. The Chief Authority and Head of the Church is Jesus Christ. After this the Priesthood is equally shared by all.

In 1887 in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton the British historian, Lord Acton, wrote "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Great men are almost always bad." Wesley had a solution for this as well. The power and authority in a Methodist Church rests not on he shoulders of either the Bishops, the Presiding Elders, the Pastor or the Lay. After Christ the Conference is the Supreme authority in the Methodist Church. For every action taken by both the clergy and lay, one of our five (5) conferences can either confirm or overrule. So as long as we are Methodist conference we must. We may only make adjustments in the place and time they meet.

-- Anonymous, September 11, 2003

Bob opines -

"So Bill, there is no way, if I can prevent it that I will sit by and allow my Episcopal District to add one geographic inch. Covering the State of Georgia is about all any of us should and can be expected to do." I fully understand and anticipated your reaction. Just a reminder, my state (larger than Georgia) is even more demanding on travel plus we (11th) have the Bahamas in our District. You are always welcomed in my home since you already met my kids at a Lay Meeting I attended in SW GA a few years ago. But, be forewarned my daughter is very, very inquisitive. I wonder where she got that from?

Parson Harper opines -

"Here is the only problem I see with it: M O N E Y.

Some states don't generate enough revenue to support a Bishop's salary. Texas can do it alone; California can as well. But what about Idaho? Alaska? Hawaii?" The issue about money is not to be overlooked when considering my radical realignment proposal. Nonetheless, the question about appropriate compensation could be met provided the General Budget simply pay each Bishop a flat salary of $150,000.00 per annum. If I could just get all of the Bishops to come to my office for a much needed tutorial in fiscal management our Zion can move beyond the phobia about money or the lack thereof. Oh, by the way, I don't think the other Mrs. Dickens (my Momma) would think to kindly about her son having a name change to "Gerry Mander" :-) But then again since she birthed and raised three boys in the core of Wash DC's inner city and remains married to her current husband after almost 50 years, she is sufficiently battle tested for a shock announcement about a name change (LOL) QED

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

Bill, at present we do not have any ame churches in Idaho. We did at one time but not now. And Idaho is in the fifth district and Bishop Bryant is the prelate. My church has long range plans for a church in boise. Since my church is closest to Idaho. We only have 1 ame church in Alaska and that is first ame in fairbanks. It is an exciting church that is growing. And alaska is also in the fifth district.

Do we have an ame church in Hawaii, I have not heard of one. And what district would Hawaii be in?

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

This is a most interesting conversation. I am truly enjoying reading all of these ideas and commentaries.

Rev. Rogers:

I don't think that there is an AME church in Hawaii. I was vacationing in Honolulu last year and couldn't find one anywhere. There are lots of Mormon churches, but no AME churches. I figured since Honolulu is a major tourist area, that we had a church somewhere. But alas, no luck in finding one. My mother and I ended up at Wakiki Baptist Church. Amazingly enough, I knew many of the songs and saw a beautiful liturgical hula. (I had to keep my mother from taking pictures...). I even got a wonderful gift for visiting. It was a nice experience, but I do wish that I could have found an AME church.

Maybe there are AME churches on the other islands; I don't know. Considering the number of tourists that frequent the Hawaiian Islands, it would be nice if we AMEs who visit could find an AME church. Every other denomonation is represented (at least on Oahu). Why not us?

And, I am thinking that Hawaii would have to be in the 5th. Unless we adopt Bro. Dickens' radical plan... Then, we'd have to ask him. :)

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

If we admit it or not, there is a such thing in the AME Church as a small district and a large district. Yes we do have some single state districts with more churches than some multiple state districts, but have you looked at their budget? Have you looked at their membership? Foe example, even though the 6th District has more churches than the 1st District, the 1st District has more votes at the general conference, and a bigger budget. So i will take it back to my orginal question, should candidates for bishop be penalized because of geographical location? And the AME Church does show favortism! I look forward to your comments.

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

There is NO A.M.E. church in Hawaii; Mormon (oops LDS), yes. Baptist, yes. Church of Christ, yes.

It would be (since it is right now) part of the 5th.

I have heard rumors that some elders wish to start a work over there, but that is just a rumor.

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

Bill, I don't know where you got your information but Texas does not have enough revenue to support a Bishop in the manner you describe. 90% of our churches are less than 100 members and most of the buildings are slowly falling to peices. Several new churches have failed because they can't get assistance to construct a suitable sancturary. For example, an AME Church was founded in The Co;ony TX in 1990. At the time it was the only black church in a town with a population of 25,000, 10% of whom are black. This congregation purchased 2.5 acres of land but could not get financing for construction. A black Baptist congregation moved to The Colony approximately 5 years ago. With the assistance of the Southern Baptist Convention, they built a large sancturary and now have approximately 1000 members. With a little help from our denomination, this could have been the same situation with tthe AME Church.

BE Blessed

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

Bro. Bill, this won't sound nice, but I have two opinions re your plan which includes eliminating the Terrific Third.

The first is akin to a "Rhett Butler" mentality - at the conclusion of "Gone With the Wind."

The second is, it makes sense to me. I'm not really that concerned about which district I'm in, but then again, I don't hold any district or conference office. Of course, merging districts do not necessarily mean eliminating conferences.

Some type of redistricting is needed or at least, a redistribution of district assignments. I've heard that one plan allows for some bishops to be assigned to multiple districts. This way folks could keep their precious district and conference offices and districts would remain the same size.

The AJC (see this weeks AME HERALD) is recommending even MORE districts with a pay scale that would be deemed discriminatory.

Added note: I've often wondered about the Pennsylvania thingy, but I do know of one other organization that sort of divides east and west Pennsylvania and the United Method Church has separate bishops for East and West Ohio.

-- Anonymous, September 15, 2003

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