The 149th Georgia Conference welcomed Zion’s first Episcopal Matriarch, Bishop Mildred B. Hines, the 98th Bishop in succession in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Missionary Supervisor Dr. Gwendolyn Brumfield, to our helm of leadership.
The conference convened October 5-9, 2016 at the Solid Rock AME Zion Church, Lithonia, Ga., hosted by Rev. and Mrs. Karim Currey. Opening day began with a distinguished processional of the vested clergy of every rank followed by Presiding Elders Rev. Dr. John Paul Ruth, Rev. Dr. Jeffery Tribble, Rev. Albert Young and Bishop Hines all fervently singing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” The Holy Communion meditation by Rev. Arit Umoh James, Hope AME Zion Church uplifted “The Ultimate Saving Grace of Christ” (Hebrews 9:11-14), followed by the Sacrament of Holy Communion with Bishop Hines as Chief-Celebrant and Presiding Elders as Co-Celebrants.
The gavel fell in early afternoon for the convening of business session and organization. The sanctuary was filled in expectancy of the Episcopal Address, “Focusing on our Purpose-Our Way is Up!” based on Acts 8:26-27. Her scriptural enlightenment and preaching challenged clergy and laity to introspectively glance into “childhood memories” to heighten awareness of residual hurts or issues which may fester into adulthood to impact the way we render pastoral care and congregational leadership. Our purpose is directional: God gets us “up” before He sends us down to where the people are in their lowest places. Clergy must be healed from their brokenness before they know: where they are (position), whose they are (prestige), and how they are to lift others from downtrodden conditions (power). Servanthood should be sensitive and relevant to empower others to rise “up” to altitudes beyond their bounds.
The evening Welcome Program rolled out the “red carpet” for Bishop Hines and Dr. Brumfield with gifts and proclamations from civic organizations, local businesses, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority among others.
Rev. Connie Gross from Carter’s Temple AME Zion Church, preached the Annual Sermon entitled “The Characteristics of a Drunk,” taken from Acts 2:12-21. Like drunks, we must be bold, honest without compromise, work together, and help each other.
Thursday morning began with Bishop’s meditative hour with clergy sharing foundational scriptures which offer them resiliency to forge upward and outward to serve. The Lay Council
followed with Mrs. Glenda Davis-Canteen presiding and reporting her annual labors. The 2016-2017 Quadrennial Theme “Stewardship” was presented by District Council Presidents: Mrs. Betty Stephens (Atlanta),Ms. Linda Cratic (Augusta), and Mrs. Janice Williams (Conyers-Winder). Rev. Marion Pierre presented the slate of officers for the 2016-17 Conference year, who were installed by Bishop.
The Presiding Elders Ruth, Tribble, and Young presented comprehensive PowerPoint presentations capturing the pastors, churches, financial status, and active ministries of their districts with recommendations to assure sustainable congregations and ministerial growth. The Committees on Admissions and Conference Studies reported.
The mid-day worship preacher, Rev. Dr. Ernest Alema-Mensah, preached “Using What God Has Given You” from Proverbs 30:24-31. He reminded us that the spider has everything it needs to exert power and self-sufficiency. We are anointed with spiritual gifts for God’s labor.
Prior to the Christian Education Worship, Ms. Vivian Wright, Conference President, presented a video capturing her labors and the three district directors: Mrs. Pamela Perkins (Atlanta), Mrs. Gloria Ricks (Augusta) and Rev. Gwendolyn Moore (Conyers-Winder).Twelve educators were stoled. Rev. Dr. Jeffery Tribble elevated Education Night with sermon, “Scars That God Can Use” (Isaiah 53:4). He emphasized that scars represent human vulnerability to healing. Yet hope for regeneration, from physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds, leaves an indelible mark representing a “new normal” in our lives.
Friday morning’s Missionary Prayer Breakfast was coordinated by Mrs. Gwendolyn Adams, Home Missions President, which highlighted Global Prayers for: Our Black Males in USA and World, Healing of AIDS Victims, Hunger and Homelessness, Natural Disasters and Relief, and Illiteracy and Education. Dr. Brumfield was the keynote speaker who used stages and characteristics of “The Butterfly” analogous to the great commission mandate grounding our personal calling to transformative growth, evolving through metamorphosis into many unique species of butterflies which disseminate the gospel message globally.
The Missionary Convocation followed, and Mrs. Rose Williamson presided. Dr. Brumfield greeted the conference, gave WHOMS updates, and introduced Retired Resident Missionary Supervisors, Mrs. Barbara Carr and Mrs. Ingrid Hunter; and shared appreciation to the Districts’ Missionary Presidents reporting: Mrs. Mary Young (Augusta), Dr. Carolyn Hart (Atlanta), and Mrs. Rose Williamson (Conyers-Winder).
On Missionary Night, a candle lighting litany represented the six departments of the WHOMS, and 55 missionaries received stoles, with distinguished contributors receiving the Heart for Missions pins. The Missionary Sermon by Rev. Eldren Morrison, Shaw Temple AME Zion Church, entitled “ Struggling But Not Lost”(II Corinthians 4: 4,8-9) pointed out that some of us are “in between ‘Lord have mercy’ and ‘thank you Jesus.’” Bishop and Mrs. Louis Hunter and Mrs. Barbara Carr were guests and shared greetings.
The Necrology Committee scrolled the deaths within the conference, followed by a Memorial Sermon given by Rev. Rickey Williams, of Pleasant Hill AME Zion Church, who spoke on “The Episodes of Life” (II Kings 2:8-14) which grow our faith and perseverance to develop character through overcoming trials, struggles and losses.
Other conference reports were given to the Bishop including: Board of Apportionment, Budget Committee, Conference Treasurer, State of the Church and Country, Committee on Holy Orders and Evangelism.
Saturday’s children and youth day activities included devotion, workshops and worship, with installation of Youth Council officers by Bishop Hines. Rev. Dr. Merchuria Williams led the adult workshop on “Pillars of Purpose” naming three pillars: Christian Transformation, Education Excellence, and Human Liberation.
The exhortation for children and youth was given by Rev. Orlando Tucker of St. James A.M.E. Zion Church, where he uplifted the sermon entitled “Expected to Fight with Armor That Does Not Fit” (I Samuel 17:26-50) telling the digital generation that God prepares and provides spiritual weapons for their destined purpose. They should never be bullied out of their comfort zone to fit peer nor world standards.
Additional reports were received from the following: Audit Committee, Holy Orders, Budget Committee, Treasurer’s report, Conference Trustees and Home Missions. Rev. Roe Nall, Jr. was elected to serve as Conference Treasurer. The disciplinary questions were asked, clergy character was passed and non-pastoral appointments received. Special retirement recognition was given to Rev. and Mrs. David Character for their 20 years of service in ministry.
In the Sunday Morning Worship and Commissioning Service, Bishop Hines charged the pastors in her message, “Put Jesus On It” (Mark 11:1-11). She referred to a tied up, untamed colt which did not know what to do. When dealing with people, conditions, or issues out of control, “Put Jesus on it!” He will bring peace and direction during confusion and turmoil.
Following the charge, pastoral appointments and changes were announced: Atlanta District-Rev. Dr. Jeannette Holt, newly appointed to Woodstation/Napier Chapel; Conyers-Winder District-Rev. Rose Williams, newly appointed to Carter’s Temple and Rev. Michael Bush to Bethlehem; with pastoral shifts, Rev. Connie Gross to Prospect; Rev. D. Louis Patterson to Bush Chapel; Rev. Rosanna Brannon to Spring Hill. The presence of the Lord reigned throughout the five-day session. Bishop Hines’ image truly emulated as an Episcopal Mother who nurtured diverse congregants and convened the Georgia Conference on task, “Refocused on Our Purpose.”