Bishop Cousin's State of the Church Address : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

Many thanks to Clement Fugh for publishing Bishop Cousin's address on Bishop Cousin's speech at the December 2004 General Board Meeting raises important issues which we as AME's MUST confront and resolve. I commend him for not ducking these issues and openly recognize their importance in relation to our Zion's future. Everyone on this MB would be wise to take some time and carefully read, reflect and comment on our Senior Bishop's comments. Go to:

I'm sorry the above URL is not in hyperlink text. QED

-- Anonymous, January 09, 2005


Bill thank you for directing our attention to the words of Bishop Cousin! WOW! As a pastor I am excited for these are the things I have been thinking about. This sunday we will have our martin luther king celebration. I am going to read Bishop Cousin's speech to my congregation. It is a call to arms. What a blessing Bishop Cousin is to our great zion.

-- Anonymous, January 09, 2005

I'm sure to betray my lack of wisdom and youthful exerberance by not keeping still with mouth shut. I thank God for your longsuffering in bearing with me. Let me first say that I have no personal knowledge of Bishop Cousin, but know him only through second-hand reports of which all have been favorable, so, my comments are in no way criticism of him. Indeed I am an admirer of anyone who attains so high an office in our zion, and hold them in the highest esteem. This no doubt contributed to my disappointment as I read the State of the Church Address that left me woefully wanting. In my naiveté I expected action, answers, direction, and inspiration, as opposed to a litany of 'what will we do' questions. What's worst, (to my mind) is that the Bishop's advisors and confidants, friends and peers allowed the release of such a statement to a body, longing for and in need of evidence of Spirit filled (dare I say) charismatic leadership. I vote for a do-over. Let's call this one a draft, a trial balloon, a mulligan if you will. Let us continue in prayer for our zion, for our leadership, and for one another.

In Christ,

-- Anonymous, January 10, 2005

Can someone insert a link to Bishop's address on the AME Church or copy it? I cannot access it. Thanks.

-- Anonymous, January 10, 2005

Hi Sis. Mary,

You can reach the site via the following link - ( Link to Bishop Cousin's Speech )

God Bless,

In Christ,

-- Anonymous, January 10, 2005

Ron, thank you so much for the link.

Interesting questions, but I fear I did not pick up on all that the Bishop was saying. Someone, please fill in the reference to the 1948 and 1972 dates. Thanks.

-- Anonymous, January 10, 2005

Ron -

You are quite right in recognizing that Bishop Cousin's observations about the plight of our Zion offer more questions than answers. But realistically we can only know answers if we are asking the right type of questions. I believe the three problematic areas identified by Cousin (pentacostalism v. traditionalism, fiscal stability & mandatory retirement) are vitally important. I would also add that we as AMEs should re-focus on AME-AME-Z-CME unification, raising our Biblical IQs and re-dedicating our committment to AME supported colleges (not by lip service). I agree, Bishop Cousin's speech represents a start of hopefully productive dialouge. QED

-- Anonymous, January 12, 2005

Genreral Conferences of 1948 and 1976 represent moments when the church called upon and expected change (i.e. "reform) within our "church culture." 1948 was the last moment when the General Conference was hled in a church...that's right a church. 1972 saw the election of great thinkers such as Adams, Anderson, James, name a few in Dallas, Texas. This was also the moment in history when youth members of the church, led by a young and upcoming church leader McKinley Young,who presented a valid position which enabled the General Conference to create and embrace youth participation within the legislative body. As Bishop Cousin states that "every 24 to 30 years there is a turn in the wheel of African Methodism..." True, change has not come, but is here! 2004 saw the election of eight new Bishops, with two being women, and two from the same city....what a change! 3 persons elected from the "Motherland"...what a change! The church adopted to downsize this legislative body by 35%....what a change! Indeed, questions should be asked in order to formulate right answers. After serving on the Stategic Planning Commission, it was learned that in order to chart the course for the church with a 50 year vision, we should overcome the fear change. 2004 will be remembered as the starting point for change!

-- Anonymous, January 13, 2005

Thank you for the explanation of the dates brother Ray. Now I will read the state of the church address again.

-- Anonymous, January 13, 2005

Some other observations about the change.

1948 was the largest class of bishops to date elected. It included a nice diversity, and it also marked a change from the "imperial" era of episcopal assignment to smaller terms (term limits?).

1972 was the largest class of that time. It included the bgeinnings of the Ministers' Bill of Rights. It was followed by the slightly large class of 1976. Thus, in 2 quadrennia, we added 13 bishops. We have done similarly across the 2000-2004 quadrennia, adding 12 new bishops (57% of the bench). The change in the retirement accrual instituted in 2000 should have some impacts as well.

Now I turn to Robert Matthews. Ws the retirement age of 75 for bishgops instituted in 1972?

-- Anonymous, January 13, 2005


I believe it was in Atlanta in 1976 that the term limits were set for the bishopric. If my memory serves me correctly, Bishop Nichols, who was retired that year by this rule, challenged it on the grounds that when he was elected and consecrated to the bishopric, he was elected and consecrated as an Active Bishop for life. Thus, the rule should not be applied to him.

The General Conference of 1976 elected five dynamic, youthful and energetic Bishops to serve the Church. Namely these were Bishops Frank Curtis Cummings, Phillip Robert Cousin, Donald George Kenneth Ming, Rembert Edwards Stokes, and Cornelius Egbert Thomas. My mother and I sat through the more than 30 hours it took to elect and consecrate them. For this was indeed a history making moment for the Church. At least two of these persons also were elected from the same Episcopal District—the Ninth. Although I am not sure of it perhaps there were also two elected from the First and one from the Third.

Presently only two of this outstanding, dynamic class remain and only one of them as an Active Bishop of the Church. These are Bishops Frank Curtis Cumming, retied in 2004, and Bishop Phillip Robert Cousin, the Senior Bishop of the Church.

I also recall that the General Conference of 1980, to which I served as an Alternate Delegate, was held was not held in a major arena, but rather on a hotel ballroom floor--that of the New Orleans Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Finally, let me add my commendations to Bishop Cousin for this State of the Church Address. In my humble opinion he is right on task. For it is one with which I can totally and wholeheartedly identify with and concur.

-- Anonymous, January 14, 2005

Brother Bill,

Thank you for the alert and stirring this discussion. I accessed the speech and read it.

The Senior Bishop states; "As a final thought, when it turned in '72 and it turned slightly in '76, those of us who were privileged to be a part of that turning thought that there was going to be a new day in African Methodism, but low(?) and behold......... We are sometimes still where we were and have not adjusted to the times...."

In view of what Dr Frank Reid III wrote in his booklet of reflection release just before the General Conference, what is the difference? Is not the same thing he (Reid) said which is now sad by the Senior Bishop?

Further, could there be somebody willing to help me understand what the Senior Bishop means when he says; "It turned with relinguishing authority and responsibility in (District 14-20)."

I do not know as to where the Senior Bishop stands in terms of the recent development regarding the continent of Africa. I am aware that there are differences within the African-American family in the Church. Much as I grew up in my theological discourse as a Contextual Theologian, whose method of practice is to ask questions, I have learned that questions may also provide a clue to an attitude required to answer it.

He (Senior Bishop) asks; "And so now we are confronting and we are asking ourselves, are we expecting indigenization to answer the problem in growth and development in (District 14-20), where need to root and to grow and to become what God would have us be.(?)"

I need to understand what is entailed in the questions and assertions made by the Bishop and I have seen that there are amoung us in this board who are very helpful in unpacking issues. Come by and help unpack these for us.

-- Anonymous, January 14, 2005

Bro Bill,kindly help me have access to Bishop Cousin's State of the Church Address. For some reason my computer is unable to open the file.

Rev Royd Mwandu St Thomas AME Church 17th Episcopal District ZAMBIA,AFRICA

-- Anonymous, January 14, 2005

Rev. Klaas

"I need to understand what is entailed in the questions and assertions made by the Bishop and I have seen that there are amoung us in this board who are very helpful in unpacking issues. Come by and help unpack these for us."

I think the biggest issue that Bishop Cousin referenced - and that has not been addressed - goes to our very Articles of Religion and denominational theology. The issue of "mega-church" vs. family church is really about organizational theology. Many of our Bishops and "traditional" AMEs are concerned with the rising influence of charismatic and neo-pentecostal worship forms and expressions.

In the "mega" AME churches, one often hears the lament from "old- timers" that if the church didn't have AME on the sign, they'd never know that they were in an AME church. Moreover, I have been told that in one of the overseas districts, the people have published their own doctrinal materials, asserting (among other things) that they don't believe in the baptism of infants and other beliefs that are not part of the official AME doctrine.

While most people don't like to deal with issues of doctrine and theology, our Zion must look at this SERIOUSLY. At the 1988 General Conference, the AME Church claimed 3.5 million members worldwide. Sixteen years later, we claim 2.5 million members worldwide. If that trend continues, we'll be defunct in less than 50 years!

For pastors, it's challenging because the numbers show that the charismatic movement is the "growth" stock in religion. The Church of God In Christ (which started as an outgrowth of a revival held in the barn of 2nd AME Church in Los Angeles) claimed some 10 million members at their Convocation last November. In order for AME (and other "mainstream") pastors to build congregations or hold existing ones together, we must be able to bring in new folks and folks who are turned off by traditional worship forms (In My Humble Opinion).

That means changing some things and, as the pastors who post here will attest, some dyed-in-the-wool AMEs do not like change.

If we had space, I'd talk about the revolt that happened when I got rid of the benevolent offering ... or when I cut the full decalogue to the summary ... thank God that God is good ...

-- Anonymous, January 14, 2005

Parson Cager opines -

"If we had space, I'd talk about the revolt that happened when I got rid of the benevolent offering ... or when I cut the full decalogue to the summary "

Hmmmm.......I for one would be interested in knowing the response to the adjustments in your liturgical order. I've always been confused why the Decalouge has been "adjusted" during the worship service but during Church School emphasis is always placed on reading the "long" version. Since less than 20% of the regular church population doesn't attend Church School doesn't that mean that over 80% of the congregation will grow up not knowing the Decalouge? QED

-- Anonymous, January 14, 2005

Bro. Dickens,

"Hmmmm.......I for one would be interested in knowing the response to the adjustments in your liturgical order. I've always been confused why the Decalouge has been "adjusted" during the worship service but during Church School emphasis is always placed on reading the "long" version. Since less than 20% of the regular church population doesn't attend Church School doesn't that mean that over 80% of the congregation will grow up not knowing the Decalouge?"

I'll have to start a new thread to discuss them in detail, but "in the long run" the congregation has accepted them. As for the Decalogue, every January my Bible Study starts with the basics - the 25 Articles of Religion, the biblical basis behind our liturgy - including the Decalogue. There, we have an in-depth discussion.

-- Anonymous, January 14, 2005

Within the Book of Worship, there are alternatives to the traditional order of worship. During some of our connectional meetings, the call to worship will sometimes be one selected from the Book of Worship, or one which was written by one well versed in liturgy. Within our local church, the early morning service presents an opportunity for persons to worship in a service which offers a "come as you are" experience. The call to worship is not the traditional format, but one which is comtemporary in language. There is no choir in robes, but a praise ensemble of persons dressed as they are. On the flip side, the 10:45 am service offers the traditional worship experience, nothing is changed. Surprisingly, the early service is beginning to grow with new faces.

-- Anonymous, January 15, 2005

Bro. Allen

"Surprisingly, the early service is beginning to grow with new faces."

I'm not surprised in the least. It is wonderful that your church is open to expanding the worship format. Churches are organic and, like all organic things, are either growing or dying. Praise God that you all are seeing new growth!

-- Anonymous, January 15, 2005

"...The process of teaching and instructing as to what we are, and the present state of our church is one that says we are moving down the path of rising congregationalism which gives grave danger to denominationalism..."

Bill Dickens, can you please interpret this for me/us?

Thanks, AJ

-- Anonymous, January 15, 2005

AJ -

Simply put the rising specter of congregationalism fosters local church autonomy which in turn weakens the organizational concept of "connection". Ultimately, at least for economists like me, it is a question of who "controls" the delivery of worship/spiritual services. AME churches can't be congregational because that idea is diametrically opposed to Methodist polity. Bishop Cousin is correct in recognizing this trend will further erode the historical foundations of Methodism. The hynoptic appeal for many of the mega church is the perception that such congregations are "non- denominational". Some folks feel that they are able to learn more about the Bible and experience the true meaning of worship without submitting to the "overbearing burdens" of denominationalism. We should be wise to resist such seductive conclusions. Denominations have their share of drawbacks but it should be recognized that Methodism provides superior organization, committment to theological training of clergy and a deep appreciation of history. I tend to share Cousin's view that Methodism as a denomination is worthy of preserving for posterity. QED

-- Anonymous, January 16, 2005

Mr. Dickens,

I couldn't agree with you more. The "Hypnotic" appeal is what AME's should consider when looking at the mega chruch. It is "Hypnotic" to see the many people going to the "Mega" church. It is "Hypnotic" to see the amount of money being given to the "Mega" church. It is "Hypnotic" to see the ministers of the "Mega" churches dressed in the designer clothes and jewelry. It is "Hypnotic"!!!!!! As the AME chruch we must not get caught up in the "Hypnotic" appeal. It will "Hypnotize" the AME church out of existence. It is a time for AME's to stand up and not be "Hypnotized". As long as I have been saved God's word hasn't changed. No matter where I have worshiped the word of God hasn't changed. The way ministers preach the word has changed. The way people worship has changed. The "New" worhip has taken over, but God has not changed. If we go down the road of neo-pentacostalism, then the church does not need for the Doctrine and Dicipline of the AME Chruch as a governing tool. Thus, there is no governing tool. As AME's we must stay the course that Richard Allen set forth.

On the point of traditionalism, iff being an AME is TRADITIONAL, then let me be TRADITIONAL. I want the Decalouge. I want the Call to Worship. I want to be reminded of the Ten Commandements in the Decalouge. I want to be reminded that "Thou shall not steal; Thou shall not commit adultery; Thou shall not covet; Thou shall not kill". I want to say that "I was Glad when I came into the House of the Lord", because I could have been dead. If this is "TRADITIONAL", then give it to me.

-- Anonymous, January 16, 2005

Alvis -

Thanks for correcting my clumsy spelling of the word "hypnotic". Given your passionate reaction it is quite clear you knew precisely the correct spelling and the proper context I was attempting to use it in my response to AJ. Our Zion face many challenges in the 21st century. Becoming "spiritual chameleons" and acquiesing to the demands of New Age Theology is not one of them. QED

-- Anonymous, January 18, 2005


What do you mean by the "rising spector of congregationalism?" Is that a response to the handful of mega-churches that exist in the AME denomination? I am still confused. Is there something wrong with how these mega-type churches are doing things? So, when your church gains 10,000 or more members, are you then adopting a congregational-like mentality?

Please elaborate. God bless.


-- Anonymous, January 18, 2005

AJ -

The "rising specter of congregationalism" is a rhetorical statement describing the alarming increase of something problematic or undesirable, i.e. congregationalism. In economics we talk about the "rising specter of unemployment" or the rising specter of currency devaluation. I believe an empirical study would demonstrate that mega churces are more accomodative of congregationalist polity compared to mainstream AME churches. It is pretty clear to me that Methodism and congregationalism are mutually exclusive and can't co- exist. My "church instincts" tell me that when an AME church surpasses the 10,000 member threshold the temptation to become more "congregational" intensifies largely due to the misperception that the church has achieved this growth without the help or assistance of the Connectional Church. This was precisely the problem Full Gospel AME-Z of Wash DC faced 5-6 years ago under the leadership of Rev. John Cherry. That particular church grew to 20,000 members and decided it wanted to exit the AME-Z Connection and take its resources as well. A District court ruled however that all assets belonged to AME-Z and not Full Gospel. QED

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2005

The issue that is often skirted when discussing "mega-churches" is that churches become "mega" largely because of the Pastor, not because of the doctrine, worship style or polity.

When issues such as those affecting Full Gospel AMEZ arise, it's because the congregation has an attachment to the Pastor rather than to the denomination. We had a similar situation in L.A. about 4 years ago when a Foursquare church attempted to leave their denomination. The courts let the congregation leave, but the building, land, furnishings, etc., remained as property of Foursquare.

The strength of the itineracy is that our members are used to getting new Pastors every few years for the most part. Ironically enough, however, our strongest churches (financially and programatically) are generally those that have long-tenured pastors (8 or more years of service).

For all of the bashing that mega-churches receive, I think it is CRITICAL that we have at least one in every District as flag bearers for African Methodism.

QUESTION: How many Conferences have a building large enough to host their closeout ceremony? To me, the biggest shame in the Southern California Conference is that we've had to go to the big COGIC or other cathedrals because we didn't have a capable facility of our own. I pray for the day when we can sustain congregations large enough to merit buildings large enough to house our meetings.

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2005

Parson Cager opines -

"Ironically enough, however, our strongest churches (financially and programatically) are generally those that have long-tenured pastors (8 or more years of service)."

I think you have put your finger on a contributing problem. If itineracy is a central element in Methodist polity why is the likelihood of AME pastors being "moved" or relocated so low for "1st church" congregations? You're quite right. Congregations get attached to pastors (especially those who are charasmatic) and the Prelate does not apply appointments with equal probabilities of being moved. For example, when was the last time Grainger Browning, Lee P. Washington, Jamal Bryant or Parson Whatley in Newark, NJ received orders from their respective Bishop they were going to be pastoring a new congregation at the close of their Annual Conference? QED

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2005

Bro. Dickens:

"For example, when was the last time Grainger Browning, Lee P. Washington, Jamal Bryant or Parson Whatley in Newark, NJ received orders from their respective Bishop they were going to be pastoring a new congregation at the close of their Annual Conference?"

We do well to remember that, in the Methodist tradition, the Episcopacy is an administrative office, not a calling, and the Bishops must make decisions not merely based on spiritual insight, but also based on fiduciary and fiscal realities.

Hamel Hartford Brookins was afforded 13 years at FAME-LA and left only after election to the Episcopacy, but during his pastorate he elected the 1st Black Mayor of Los Angeles (one of his trustees, Tom Bradley), several Congress persons and a Governor (Pat Brown). The influence that he wielded aided the denomination in immeasurable ways.

A Chip Murray can pastor FAME-LA for 27 years because he can anchor the Conference - and the District - politically and financially, using his contacts and good offices not merely for the benefit of the local congregation, but for the other churches as well.

A William Watley can pastor St. James, Newark for 16 years because (in spite of his recent difficulties) his stature, influence and acumen give entree and legitimacy to the other AME ministries that are in the area.

Ditto Browning, Flake, et. al.

As Bishop Cousin noted, our churches must be able to move beyond the offering plate to sustain themselves. The "mega-Pastors" bring a notoriety and visibility that, IMO, make it easier for the rest of us to compete in the community.

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2005

Parson Cager -

I understand your point and recognize the reality of our Zion. Your assessment affirms what the Orwellian character (Napoleon, I think) in the classic book Animal Farm expressed - "Some of us are more equal than others." QED

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2005

This has been a wonderful thread. THanks to everyone for your insights and range of views.

A couple of catch-up points: 1976 Bishops:

Buildings large enough to close out conference:

  • 1st - Allen, Jamaica, NY; St. James, Newark, NJ?
  • 2nd - Ebenezer, Ft. Washington, MD
  • 4th - (Augusta, please help here :-))
  • 10th - Wesley chapel, Houston;Grant Worship Center, Austin

    Bill, could you elbaorate on the New Age Theology issues?

    -- Anonymous, January 21, 2005

  • Moderation questions? read the FAQ