Bishop John Bryant has been a major figurehead for clergy, congregations in this country and well beyond for 50 years. This noteworthy accomplishment will be recognized with appropriate festivities at 9:30 a.m. and noon, March 18, at Bethel AME Church, followed by a 6 p.m. service specifically to honor the bishop.
“I am very appreciative to Dr. Reid for honoring my father in such a way,” said the Rev. Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant, son of Bishop Bryant and pastor of the Empowerment Temple. “He actually walked the life that he talked about. All that I am that is positive I give him credit for,” said Dr. Bryant, in regards to how his father has impacted him over the years.
“What sets Bishop Bryant apart is that he is Christ centered with a commitment to Black empowerment,” said the Rev. Dr. Frank Reid III, pastor of Bethel AME Church. “Because he is unashamedly Black, and unapologetically Christian, he has been able to have a universal influence.” Dr. Reid first came into contact with Bishop Bryant in 1974 when Dr. Reid was set to enter the Yale School of Divinity. But after spending much time with Bishop Bryant in Cambridge, Mass., Dr. Reid took up studies at the Harvard School of Divinity instead, where he was closer to his mentor, then Rev. Bryant, and the St. Paul AME Church where Bryant was pastor.
“He brought a new meaning to ministry- meeting the needs of people and addressing the specific needs whether it was financial, spiritual, mental or physical,” said First Lady Marlaa’ Reid, on the holistic approach Bishop Bryant introduced to many AME leaders.
The Baltimore native is a 1965 graduate of Morgan State University and began to make change on an international level as a member of the Peace Corps working in Liberia, West Africa. Upon returning to America, Bishop Bryant went on to earn a master’s at Boston University School of Divinity in 1970 and a doctorate degree from the Colgate Rochester Divinity School.
“His sermons are liberating and force us to look beyond ourselves and our needs and do more for other people,” said Betty Clark, who was under Bishop Bryant’s leadership from 1976 to 1988. “Bishop Bryant has been a very spiritual force in the lives of so many people, not only with the work he did in Baltimore City at Bethel AME Church, but worldwide. He is a global minister,” said Clark, who also worked as a lay member under her then pastor.
Bishop Bryant earned his prestigious title in 1988, after he was given charge of 101 West African AME pastors and their churches in the 14th Episcopal District in 1988. This position would later lead him to the 10th Episcopal District in Texas, where Bishop Bryant would be responsible for more than 250 congregations.
Ebony magazine has listed Bishop Bryant among the “100 Most Influential Black Americans,” and he has also garnered much praise for the book, Healing for Wounded Vows, coauthored with his wife, the Rev. Dr. Cecilia Williams Bryant.