Bishop William DeVeaux

Bishop William P. DeVeaux and his wife, Patricia Ann Morris Deveaux, are set to retire from the African Methodist Episcopal Church this year. A retirement celebration to honor their contributions is scheduled for Feb. 19.

The celebration will take place at Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale, Maryland. It will be a part of the Episcopal founder’s day activities that will take place from Feb. 18-20, also at Reid Temple.

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Bishop William DeVeaux and his wife, Episcopal Supervisor Dr. Patricia Morris DeVeaux will retire from the AME Church later this year.

The couple serves as the presiding officers of the Second Episcopal District that covers Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and the District of Columbia. As a son of a minister in the Army, Bishop DeVeaux said he knew he was going to serve the Lord as a career. Along with meeting his wife, the bishop said he was also called to be a minister while he attended Howard University in the 1960s. “The call from the Lord for me was persistent and I felt uncomfortable not responding to it,” the bishop told the AFRO. “The Lord told me to do it and I had the spirit to do it so I made the committment.”

Bishop DeVeaux got his bachelor’s degree from Howard University in 1962. After graduating from Howard, he became an Army chaplain and worked with the troops during the Vietnam War.

When the bishop’s Army service was over, he and his wife served as the ministerial leaders at AME churches in Lynn, Massachusetts; Nashville, Tennessee; and Dayton, Ohio. He also served as the executive director of the Fund for Theological Education, an organization that helps divinity students pay for seminary before settling in at Metropolitan AME.

“Metropolitan is considered a Class-A appointment and is well-known throughout the denomination,” he said. “While we were at Metropolitan there was a lot of activity going on in the church. We were dealing with such issues as the spread of HIV/AIDS and racial tension in the city, and church matters such as preservation of the physical building, making the church handicap accessible, and we even hosted political forums.”

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Bishop William DeVeaux

The HIV/AIDS epidemic had a strong presence in the District when the DeVeauxs came back to the area. The bishop established a program that trained people to deal with people with the disease. “We were one of the few churches in the city to deal with HIV/AIDS and so we focused on prevention and assisting people who had the disease,” the Bishop said. “There were many people losing their lives to AIDS because of ignorance and how it was contracted. There were many family members in our church that were touched by it somehow.”

In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was largely known as a homosexual disease but as time passed, it was revealed that dirty needles, bad blood samples and unprotected sex, whether homosexual or heterosexual, could cause transmission. Bishop DeVeaux noted that getting HIV/AIDS was a “death sentence” in the 1980s but as he points out, through advancements in medicine treating the disease, one can live a healthy life.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the city and its growing racial tensions gave Bishop DeVeaux the opportunity to offer political forums for District residents. “We hosted forums on people running for mayor and the city council,” he said. “These forums mainly took place in the evening.”

While at Metropolitan, the DeVeauxs hosted President Clinton’s inaugural prayer service in 1993 and various activities for other luminaries such as Winnie Mandela, Betty Shabazz, Coretta Scott King, and Dr. Dorothy Height.

In 1996, Bishop DeVeaux was selected to be a bishop in the church. As bishop he has served in Africa, Haiti, the Dominican Republican, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a few churches in London, England. The DeVeauxs also led the Episcopal district in Georgia before coming to the Second Episcopal District to serve out their careers.

The AME Men’s Empowerment Center in Raleigh, N.C., designed to help homeless men found permanent shelter and teach them life skills, has been one of their prominent projects. In the District, the Bishop led the effort to get the word out among churches about the Affordable Care Act and noted the headquarters located on 11th Street, N.W. served as sort of a command center for the effort.

Bishop DeVeaux was Howard University’s commencement speaker in 2003, when he also received a honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from the school.

The DeVeauxs are expected to officially retire at the end of the AME General Conference that takes place in Philadelphia on July 13.

The bishop said that he will teach and become a mentor of preachers while his wife said she will focus on her playwriting, continue to advocate for a more prominent role for women in the church, and stay engaged with the empowerment center in Raleigh.