The presumptive Democratic candidate for president and the election of six clergy to be bishops were the highlights of the 50th Quadrennial session of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The AME Church is holding this year’s conference from July 6-July 13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, with an estimated 30,000 people, from around the world, in attendance. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to thousands of participants on June 8, highlighting the needs for racial healing and understanding.
“Everything Clinton said was true,” Arthur Stone of Augusta, Georgia, told the AFRO. “Black Lives do matter and there is a lot of craziness going on in this country. I hope the American people give her a chance to be president of the United States. She is our only hope.”
The discussion surrounding Clinton’s appearance fell right into the character of the conference.
“They say she is divisive but I don’t see how,” Raymond Mandrell of Jacksonville, Florida, told the AFRO. “It is Donald Trump that is talking about building walls and things like that. I agree with what Mrs. Clinton said in her speech that we need more togetherness as a country.”
One of the main orders of business at the conference is the election of six new bishops to lead the denomination, which was founded by Richard Allen and incorporated in Philadelphia in 1816 and is recognized as the first Black religious body created in the U.S.
The atmosphere of the AME conference looked like a political convention, with colorful signs and posters of the 31 candidates, including local Maryland clergy – the Rev. Dr. Frank M. Reid III and the Rev. Dr. Harry L. Seawright. See article on Seawright at: afro.com/rev-dr-harry-l-seawright In the cavernous exhibition hall, vendors selling their products such as clothing and jewelry and church educational institutions and government agencies shared space with the candidates’ campaign booths.
The vote for Bishop is scheduled to occur on July 11.
Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon stood outside of the auditorium where the gospel concert took place on July 10. Dixon was holding a sign showing her support for Reid, from Bethel A.M.E. church in Baltimore, for bishop. See AFRO article on Reid at: afro.com/rev-dr-frank-reid/
“I traveled here from Baltimore to support my pastor,” Dixon told the AFRO. “It is his time to lead. Rev. Dr. Reid will lead the AME church in the right direction.”
Dixon wasn’t alone in her support for Reid. Shirley Poties attended the gospel concert with her grandson, Daniel Poties II.
Poties said she is supporting Reid because she remembers his father, Bishop Frank Reid Jr.
“I came to my first general conference in 1972 in Dallas and his father was a bishop then,” she told the AFRO. “I think he will do as wonderful of a job as bishop as his father.”
Daniel, who is 11-years-old, sat quietly next to his grandmother. He said that coming to the conference “was a lifetime experience.”
“It is very exciting to see these things and I have given my life to God,” Daniel said.
Poties said that it was important for her grandson to see the conference and get him committed to the church early in his life.
“It starts in the home and my children were raised AME and my family is AME,” she said. “People who criticize the church are wrong. Don’t jump on the church, save the church.”
As a student at Grace College & Seminary, Delores White of Indianapolis, an AME devotee, said she agrees with Poties that young people, particularly millennials such as herself, should give the church a chance.
“Church is not bad and it is not boring,” White told the AFRO. “Church is awesome. You get to meet a lot of good people and help to spread the Word.”
In addition to Clinton’s speech, a gospel concert that featured artists such as Lisa Page Brooks, Brian Courtney Williams, Myron Butler and Isaiah Templeton drew in thousands of attendees. The powerful singing was complemented by the AME General Conference Choir that was organized from members by districts.
“We are all here to praise God and to do His will,” Bishop Vashti McKenzie said to strong cheers.