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

There are many examples of nepotism that exist concerning employees of the AME Church. It caught my attention at general conference and later when reviewing the connectional website. The general secretary's daughter is employed as his assistant. After reviewing the budget that was approved at gencon, this family is receiving a significant combined salary from the church. My question is not based on qualification, I know neither personally. But I do recognize that this would be a very questionable situation in corporate society.

I also understand that the a niece of the general secretary was also employed by him during gencon. There are several officers of the church whose children are paid administrative assistance.

Is nepotism ok in these circumstances?

-- Anonymous, August 03, 2004


Carolyn, welcome to the AME church. No, I do NOT think nepotism is okay in any circumstance, particularly on the level of General offices and assignments. However, after being a member of the AME church for several years, my husband and I have just come to the conclusion that nepotism will continue to exist, and that there is little that can be done about it. I can give you a good example of nepotism. This is going to anger some people, but at this point, I cannot worry about it. My "talk" isn't going to change much, but it will at least bring some things to light. But then, most people are already aware of this, so it is no shock to anyone. Nepotism or a form of it runs rampid during the process of church appointments as well. A Bishop was once appointed to a district. At the time of his arrival, a pastor was getting ready to be elevated to the position of presiding elder, and as a result, this left the opening of what was considered one of the "leading" churches on the district, which just means that it was one of the more affluent churches in the district. Years ago, Itinerant elders used to think "now if I am good, and attend all of the meetings, and pay the assessments on time, and stay out of trouble, I will eventually get a promotion" . That is not necessarily the case in this particular district. Practically every church--particularly the more affluent AME churches in said district, (the ones that are able to pay the pastors a professional salary and housing) have either been filled by the sons of said Bishop, son-in-laws, sons of other Bishops/Presiding elders, daughters of presiding elders, Bishops and other prominent pastors, and let us not forget the really, really, really good friends of these people. This particular church that I am referring to was filled by the son of a Bishop that seemingly was not doing that well in another district. Yet, there were several (and I do mean several) GOOD people, hard working people who were not even considered. They were not even a part of the equation when in came to considering them for an appointment--ANYWHERE, much less an appointment to one of the "leading churches on the district". As a friend told me in passing, "if you do not have royal blood, you really do not stand a chance". That is one of the reasons why so many good ministers are leaving the AME churches and opting for denominations where everyone with a Master of Divinity arrives on the block at the same level. Many of these same people are just opting to go independent. That way, regardless of who you are related to, you will either sink or swim on your own. You probably think I am an extremely bitter person. I once was quite bitter and angry. I was bitter and angry because I couldn't change the status quo. Now I just accept that things are going to be the way that they are, and when my season comes, I will make some decisions. I am sorry that I was unable to be more positive, but the subject of nepotism in the AME church just makes my skin crawl and shrivel up to no end. God bless you all.

-- Anonymous, August 03, 2004

This is an interesting topic which has only recently received scholarly attention. Here is the problem for our AME churches. The Bible actually has examples of nepotism. Did not Abraham journey from Ur with his nephew Laban firmly in tow? Was not Moses' brother Aaron the # 2 man in charge after the Exodus? Elisha was Elijah's hand-picked successor. And, didn't Jesus include one of his own biological siblings as a member of his distinguished coterie or disciples?

Perhaps the bigger problem is cronyism not nepotism. Cronyism is the practice of favoritism extended to close friends in business, government or church. Cronyism is the foundation of political patronage or the spoils system and is used as a reward system for supporting the "right" candidate. Nepotism is also a form of favoritism but it generally involves kinship ties not non-kinship. Nepotism is one of those tribal customs we partice in even though it is inconsistent with the basic principles of merit and equality of opportunity. Nonetheless nepotism is currently used as a "tie- breaker" when evaluating different applicants. We witness this practice in labor market transactions because enduring principles like trust and loyalty are difficult to extract from a pool of homogeneous workers.

Most small businesses are based on nepotistic frameworks and even many large corporations. Many heirs to become the next CEO are family members. AJ lives in Chicago and it is a well known fact that Johnson Publishing, Inc. is a nepotistic run but highly successful company. Chairman of the Board John Johnson appointed his wife Eunice to a top executive and his daughter is the CEO. When I pick up my August Ebony copy (Halle Berry is on the cover, but I digress :-) I'll double-check the org chart.

Since a prospective employer has no infallible guide to determine who is the most "trustworthy" applicant, nepotism will be used as a tool to minimize such transaction costs because we "know" what we are getting with "Cousin Harry" where as a non-kin may or may not be as trustworthy. Is nepotism fair? Definitely not from the losing applicants perspective. Is nepotism good business practice? This depends on the availability of information about trust and loyalty. If such information is scarce scales tip in the favor of using kis as a proxy for trust and loyalty in order to reduce transaction costs. If information is plentiful it is actually better to shun hiring kin because of problems inherent when a company has to downsize or fire an employee who happens to be a relative.

Sorry for this didactic and unusually long response. If anyone would like to read more on this topic consult the follwoing link: (now this article is very long!)

The bottom line for our churces is both cronysim and nepotism will be with us, like poverty, for the foreseeable future. I don't like it but, like AJ laments, what can you do to repeal the practice? QED

-- Anonymous, August 03, 2004

Repeal the practice! It has gone on for much too long.

-- Anonymous, August 03, 2004

I have heard it said that "The family that prays together stays together." So what will prevent the family from working together for common good especially in the church?As long as the main aim of the family was to serve our Lord in such capacity. I do not see anything wrong with the current situation, I personally do not know anything about that family but I believe that God planned it that way.I think sometimes we need to meditate upon what God is doing in our lives and our neighbours 's lives. God has a plan for each and everyone of US. So Let us Believe in what God is revealing to us for we are not all knowing like He is. Let us wait and watch.God Bless U.

-- Anonymous, August 03, 2004

Brother Bill,

Somekind of way, you can answer a question with such scholarly class and with such Christian ethics, that my "frowns" turn to "smiles". I will read the article that you suggested; however, in the meantime, I do accept your logic, particularly when it comes to major corporations. I can also appreciate your example of Johnson Publishing and John Johnson's choice of his wife and daughter on the executive board. However, a denomination is a different story. The founder of the AME Church, Richard Allen, is no longer with us. I don't know of any descendants of Richard Allen, so I do not agree that one should abuse their power and leadership. What right do people have to put their family members in positions just because they are in positions of power? That just is not fair, and to say the very least, it is extremely unprofessional. Why do we, as a people, have a tendency to use few criteria when it comes to making administrative decisions. As a person who has been on the underside of AME nepotism/cronyism, it is not fun. I had a LOOOOOONG talk with an Itinerant Elder friend at the General Conference, who has also been on the underside of the cronyism in our district. I was also on a mini-lament about the years of cronyism/nepotism as we were talking, and he also said, as the brother stated that regardless of what's happening, "...God has a plan for everyone. Just sit back, wait and watch God work.." My human side still does not like it.

-- Anonymous, August 03, 2004

Bill, I recall that Lot was Abram's nephew. Laban was the father of Rachel, the beloved of Abram's grandson Jacob. Rev. Payne suggests that Laban was a kinsman of Rebecca ( I don't recall the specific lineage off the top of this graying head).

I woulod be interrested in learning more of the relattionship between Elijah (of Gilead) and Elisha ( of Gilgal).


-- Anonymous, August 04, 2004

Jerryl -

Thanks for the Scriptural correction. Lot was indeed the stowaway relative even though God instructed Abram to leave all relatives behind in preparation for the journey. The etymology (word origin) of nepotism derives from the Ialian word "nepotiso" which translates into English as nephew. Like Jesus, I too, believe that Elijah was the greatest prophet, bar none, that walked the Earth. My favorite verse in the Old Testament is I Kings 18:21. His prophetic ministry was so profound that he received a waiver from death and appeared with Jesus along with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration. Now wouldn't it be ironic if my Old Testament hero actually engaged in cronyism and not nepotism in choosing his hand-picked successor Elisha? Thanks again to you and my "cousin" Rev. Payne for having "my back". Jerryl can explain the kinship ties between me and Mrs. Payne. I confess, I only acknowledge my relatives who are successful, intelligent and good looking. The family reunions I attend are one of a kind :-) QED

-- Anonymous, August 04, 2004

If one is otherwise fully qualified, perhaps even the best available candidate, is that still nepotism?

BE Blessed Pastor Paris

-- Anonymous, August 04, 2004

Brother Paris states, "...If one is otherwise fully qualified, perhaps even the best available candidate, is that still nepotism?.." How can you, as a leader, rationally decide that your son or daughter is the best candidate for a position? Isn't that a conflict of interest for you to decide whether or not your son or daughter is the most qualified for a position/appointment? Of course you would feel that your son and your daughter is the most qualified for a position that is going to benefit you. Of course, you would feel that your best buddies daughter is the best qualified, because appointing him/her is going to benefit you. Isn't that a conflict of interest? I was just chatting with another member of the board about the topic, and I feel that in the case of General Officers deciding on members of their staff, Bishops deciding on appointments to charges, etc., there should be some kind of committee formed that can help in the decision making process. The only problem with that is that those committees are usually made up of political crony's, so then we are right back to square one (SMILE). God bless.

-- Anonymous, August 04, 2004

As far as the pastoral appointments, I think the Local Church should be a consultant and perhaps veto power.

-- Anonymous, August 04, 2004

Rev. Paris:

Although I understand the reasoning behind your proposal that churches serve as consultants and have veto power. I think that it would disasterous in implementation. It would turn the pastorate into a greater political entity than it already is. I can hear the backroom discussions going on between clergy and some of the RP's. (Resident Pastors)promises, bribes oh the thought causes me to shudder with fear. The current situation may have its faults but it could be worse much worse.

-- Anonymous, August 05, 2004

Pardom me Harold, but I spoke with the assumption that the vast majority of the pastors and the Local Church Lay had the best interests of the Church founded by Jesus in mind. It is clear to me that the current system is not producing the desired results; that is happy pastors and happy people serving and growing in grace in Christ. It behooves us to not continue to do the same thing and expect different results for that is insanity.

BE Blessed

-- Anonymous, August 05, 2004

The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church says in defining the duties of a Bishop, (Duty #12):

The Bishop shall not have anything in this section applied which will prevent the Bishop from using GODLY JUDGEMENT in making changes in the appointments, that are necessary for THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH."

To me, there is an implication that Bishops are to make appointments with GODLY JUDGEMENT AND FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH. If this is so, nepotism in out of line with the Discipline. They can rationalize all they want but in most cases, it is for the good of family, friends, other Bishops and not for the good of the church. We allow this to happen because there is no appeal, therefore, no consequence, to these kinds of appointments. The appointments are the right of Bishops. (See Judicial Council, Duties, #4).

The Discipline is an interesting "read". When you get a chance, you should read Secion XV Offenses Chargeable to Laity.

Bro Bob

-- Anonymous, August 06, 2004

I want to take the time to explain the relationship that my daughter and I have at St. Paul Community A.M.E. Church.

So that others will not feel nepotism is involved.

Several years ago my daughter and i co-founded St. Paul Community Church, it was a non-denominational church. After much prayer God revealed that he wanted us to be A.M.E.

We came into the denominational 3 years ago. After much prayer Danielle began the road to ordination 2 years ago. Though she started this church she is not the assistant pastor.

Bishop Bryant has made it clear to all potential clergy in the district that they have to be seminary trained. He has made no exception with Danielle. She starts seminary in two weeks.

Our web ministries we do together. And because she is a licentiate she is still considered laity.

We began the work of St. Paul together. For Danielle returned home to build this church.

There was no nepotism involved, just the hand of God!

-- Anonymous, August 06, 2004

"...To me, there is an implication that Bishops are to make appointments with GODLY JUDGEMENT AND FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH. If this is so, nepotism in out of line with the Discipline. They can rationalize all they want but in most cases, it is for the good of family, friends, other Bishops and not for the good of the church..."

Amen Brother Bob!!

-- Anonymous, August 06, 2004

Of Course, each of you are right. Nepotism is something that for much too long has happened and been tolerated in the A.M.E. Church. It is well past the time that we call it out for what it is, and speak out against the obvious practice of it.

Looking back on Morris Brown College there was once a time when the President of the College was the son of the Presiding Bishop who by virtue of the fact that he was the Bishop was also Chairman of the Board. Each of their names appear, one above the other, on my father’s diploma from Morris Brown. The Bishop's signature also appears on several of my father's pastoral appointments.

Additionally, at least one and perhaps two of the Bishop’s daughters and one of the Bishop’s Sons-In-Law was a member of the faculty and staff at Morris Brown. The main academic hall did then and still bears their family name. We were also told that another well loved pastor and Bishop was give a major appointment as well because he relinquished his job in the Public Schools so that the bishop’s daughter might assume the prestigious teaching position he held.

I would hasten to add that the persons mentioned were alumnae of the college and each of them well qualified. I enrolled in and enjoyed classes taught by two of them. They were also among my family’s lifelong friends, my grandfather and the Bishop having been frequently successively assigned to the same pastoral charge. Not only did we know them but loved and respected each of them as well. My mother and Bishop’s family also had a close relationship and I would often transport the Bishop’s widow to my church when my mother had her Missionary Ladies in White each year. The pastor, who later became bishop was also a close family friend and was loved by all in both his pastorate and bishopric.

However, this does not negate the fact of the obvious nepotism, which occurred, and the fact that others who were equally qualified were not even considered or given the chance—not knowing the right persons in power at the time in which they served. Perhaps we now need legislation to properly address its obvious effect on the entire church. Thus, putting other who are equally quilified in the same playing field.

-- Anonymous, August 06, 2004

Reverend Rogers, have no fear. At least one area of nepotism is not possible in the A.M.E. Church, and that is in the area of the pastor of the Local Church.

Although we sometime see the term misapplied there is NO SUCH THING as an Assistant Pastor in the A.M.E. Church. To my knowledge the Bishops in our church make only one assignment for each pastoral charge--either station or circuit charge. The one exception is when the assigned pastor is ill and unable to carry out the duties he/she has been assigned but this seldom lasts beyond the time the Annual Conference is held. Even then these persons are designated, not assigned.

Others who serve under the Pastor whom the Bishop assigned are Associate Ministers,not Assistant Pastors, be they relatives, spouses, Licentiates, Deacons, Elders or otherwise.

Though any given charge--station or circuit-- might have a number of ministers by license, ordination or association on its staff who serve at the discretion of the Pastor whom the Bishop assigned, one and ONE ONE of them bears the Bishop’s signature, seal and appointment as Pastor of the charge.

-- Anonymous, August 06, 2004

Thank you for the correction, I meant associate pastor.

-- Anonymous, August 06, 2004

Concerning hired staff such as musicians, would it be nepotism for me to hire my daughter as a musician? Frankly, I think it is just good business to hire relatives that are fully qualified to do the job. In the same line, I believe that one should patronize black businesses when such businesses provide the goods and/or services that we need. That to me is just good common sense. Am I wrong? Be Blessed pastor paris

-- Anonymous, August 06, 2004

Rev. Paris, defines nepotism as "...favoritism shown to relatives or close friends by those in power (as by giving them jobs). I would say that it is nepotism if, in the case of looking for a church musician, only your daughter was considered for the position and no one else was considered and/or interviewed for the position of musician for your church. It gets a little bit sketchy if others were interviewed; however, as the person in power and/or the pastor, you felt that none were qualified except your daughter. I guess I participated in a nepotistic (is that a word?) act in the AME church. Once when my husband pastored, the church was such a small church that it was unable to pay a musician. I volunteered my services for free, so that the church would have a musician. No one else was considered for the position because all of the other inquiries were from musicians who wanted to be paid in excess of $100 per week. As far as Rev. Rogers and her daughter is concerned: Rev. Rogers, you and your daughter are the founders of a church within the AME church, which means that you and your daughter made and are probably still making many sacrifices on behalf of that church. I would not consider what you are doing nepotism. Now as your church begins to grow and others desire to enter the ministry, and as the senior pastor of the church, you and your daughter decide that no one else can join your staff, except another daughter, cousin, uncle and nephew, then I would call that nepotism. But as far as you and your daughter founding a church, and being 1st and 2nd in command (or 2nd and 3rd if you consider God 1st in command), that's not what we are talking about. God bless.

-- Anonymous, August 07, 2004

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