Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bishop Williamson says we must "go a little farther" to go from Good to Great
If there was any doubt that Houston, TX CMEs were ready to provide a dynamic atmosphere for worship, it was dispelled last night at the Service of Holy Communion for the 20th CME Convocation. The Galleria Ballroom was jam packed as well over 2,000 in attendance participated in this anniversary service of the celebration of the sacrament during this annual event. Senior Bishop William H. Graves, who processed into the service carrying his recently obtained African staff of shepherd leadership, served as liturgist for the evening. Other members of the College of Bishops who assisted were Bishop Thomas L. Brown, Sr., Bishop E. Lynn Brown, Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., Bishop Kenneth W. Carter, Bishop L.L. Reddick III, Bishop Dotcy I. Isom (retired), and Bishop Paul A.G. Stewart, Sr. Bringing greetings and welcoming remarks was host Bishop Ronald M. Cunningham. Music was provided by the 8th Episcopal District Choir.
In his role as Secretary of the College of Bishops, Bishop L.L. Reddick III introduced the leaders of the Church. In doing so, he made note of the fact that the College of Bishops had been in meetings since Saturday planning the programs that will define the Church in this new quadrennium. One new approach in which the College will engage are new administrative roles being played by the retired bishops. In announcing the committees and commissions over which members of the College serve, several positions were held by our retired leaders. Bishop Reddick said it is important that the Church continue to take advantage of their wisdom and wealth of knowledge.
The speaker for the Holy Communion Service was Bishop Henry M. Williamson, prelate of the 9th Episcopal District. Following an introduction of the speaker by Senior Bishop Graves, Bishop Williamson rose for his sermon. He began by thanking members of the College, especially those who had significant impact on his life and ministry. He included thanks to Chairman of the College of Bishops, Bishop Paul A.G. Stewart, Sr., who would have been the speaker for the evening, but who deferred to Bishop Williamson. Bishop Williamson used as his scriptural text Matthew 26:36-39. Here we see Jesus, who went to a place called Gethsemane along with Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, beginning to be troubled about what was to come. After Jesus informed his followers, he commanded them to remain there and keep watch over him. In verse 39, the writer says "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed for God’s will to be done." The title of Bishop Williamson’s sermon was "He Went a Little Farther," and it was in keeping with our focus on the Convocation theme, "From Good to Great: Developing Effective Servant Leaders." Bishop Williamson began by noting that the 26th chapter of Matthew is full of very important events, including the plot to kill Jesus, the betrayal of Judas, the Lord’s Supper, and Jesus’ agonizing over the things he must face. But the scripture helps us understand that if we are going to go from good to great, we must go a little farther. If we are to develop effective servant leaders, we must go a little farther like Jesus. We must go from membership to relationship with Christ. We must train persons who look to us for leadership to become disciples of Christ, to grow into maturity in the faith. We must give them the knowledge to share their faith with others; to train them to become compassionate servant leaders who care and who are not afraid to name Jesus at work, in the stores, or everywhere. We must equip these servant leaders to bring new souls into the CME Church.
Bishop Williamson said we must get others to "C-ME" for justice; "C-ME" for civil rights, etc. He said that, in the words of a young man he spoke to at Carter Metropolitan in Ft. Worth, TX, "CME" stands for "Christ Means Everything." And Christ should mean everything to us. He is our light, our way out of no way. He is everything.
Bishop Williamson then told the story about growing up in Mercer, TN. When District or Annual Conference time came around, the people would scrape up money for someone to go because everyone could not go. The idea was that if one person went they would bring back information for the church. He said the people would eagerly await the return of their members from conference to share information. As such, those who are in attendance this week should see themselves as ambassadors. "Take back information to your local church. Get with your pastor and ask for a time you will be able to report the news." Take this good news back to your local church—the DVDs, the CDs, and other materials.
"Be able to show that there really were 2,000 people in the Westin Galleria giving praises. As we used to say a long time ago, ‘Who would’ve thunk it?’ A good God has brought us a mighty long way. We’ve come a little farther. So tonight, we need to go a little farther—from good to great!"
Bishop Williamson said that in considering the life of Jesus in the text, we recognize the good job done by Bishop Hoyt on Monday evening in his message. Bishop Williamson said Bishop Hoyt’s message on compassion gave him confirmation that he was on the right track. Bishop Williamson had three points.
First, he said Jesus went a little farther in compassion. Jesus demonstrated this by healing the leper, bringing healing to cripple folk. Bishop Williamson said that, as a church, we go a little farther with education. But we must send more of our young people to our CME campuses. We must have a leadership development process that sends young people to Lane, Miles, Paine, and Texas College. And we must send more to the Phillips School of Theology, our seminary. He said that we take the position that everything is "just grown folks’ business. No! Jesus said suffer little children…also, except you develop a spirit like these children…" So, we must have a similar spirit as the little children, said Bishop Williamson. He said grown folk hold grudges, but children get mad at each other and in the next moment they’re playing again. He said all of us have hurt someone, but we must move on.
We must disciple our children, not discourage them. To often we discourage children when they want to be saved, which is a different response for when there are other things they want to do. If they want to become a doctor or lawyer, we rightly encourage them. But when they want to be saved, or be baptized, or go to Sunday school, we find ways to discourage them. Children may know more about what they want to do than we realize.
With One Church One School, we want every church to partner with a school. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the rural or urban community. Every church is close to one school. As One Church One School Director Mrs. Phedonia Johnson says, "Just go down to the street to the school and introduce yourselves." Who is in greater danger than African American children? One Church, One School says we can go a little farther.
Second, Jesus went a little farther not only in compassion, but in commitment. He says, "Deny yourselves. Take up the cross and follow me." We need people to be like a candle, have a steady light. He asks us as he asked the rich man, "Are you willing to give up all of your riches?" The rich man could only drop his head and walk away sorrowful. We must sell out to smallness, sell out to negative things. Sell out to the "grass hopper" complex—small mindedness—green with envy, jumping to conclusions, and spitting out (negatives).
Don’t castigate your own church. He said this is the same church that calls you by the many titles a person can hold in the church. God wants us to make a great commitment. He said we should be committed to tithes as well as offering. We must go a little farther. We can’t let our church down. Jesus said, "Not my will, but thy will be done." It’s going to take prayer and fasting.
Third, Jesus went a little farther in courage. Jesus had the courage that, given his impending circumstances, he went on to face the Cross alone. Like Jesus, we must have the courage sometimes to fight all by ourselves. He went on and prayed, "Let this bitter cup pass from me, but nevertheless, I have the courage to face what I’m going to face. He had told the disciples, "This is my blood. This is my body." He had told them a new Passover is coming into being. He told them that in a few days, no longer will they need the sacrifice of animals. "I am the sacrificial lamb." Jesus was courageous and willing to go all the way to face his detractors. But he didn’t blame Pontius Pilate. He didn’t blame Judas. Be willing to go a little farther, to go all the way.
Courage kept Jesus on the cross. But he went a little farther and died. He descended into hell. But he went a little farther. He rose from the dead. For 40 days, he walked on earth. Then he ascended into heaven. But he went a little farther. He said, "Go ye, to all of the earth…" If you have compassion, commitment, and have the courage, you can always go a little farther for Christ. Because he is coming back again.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bishop Hoyt speaks frankly on Convocation theme: 'Good to Great' leadership must be Compassionate
By Dr. Kenneth E. Jones for The Daily Index, Sept. 27, 2006
Close to 2,000 worshippers crowded the Galleria Ballroom at the Westin Galleria Hotel Tuesday evening for the Keynote Assembly officially opening the 20th Anniversary Annual CME Convocation, Houston TX. Led by Executive Secretary Attorney Juanita Bryant as worship leader, the program seemed to be bursting open with excitement as the first connectional meeting of the 2006-10 quadrennium. The theme for this year’s Convocation is "From Good to Great: Developing Effective Servant Leaders." And the Convocation, whose training and workshops start today, is set to begin laying the foundation of how our churches can effectuate this new thrust.
Music and praise for the evening included the Convocation Praise team, youth dancers from Houston-area churches and the 8th Episcopal District; the 8th Episcopal District Mass Choir, consisting of men from throughout the District; and the Texas College Choir, which traveled from Tyler, TX at the request of host Bishop Ronald M. Cunningham. Participating on the program were General Officers Dr. Willie C. Champion, Dr. Elnora P. Hamb, Dr. Kenneth E. Jones, Dr. Joseph C. Neal, Jr., and Dr. Carmicheal Crutchfield. Bishops participating in the program were host Bishop Cunningham and Bishop E. Lynn Brown. Senior Bishop William H. Graves was presented a specially made African staff by Bishop Kenneth W. Carter as a gift recognizing being recently confirmed a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority. In addition to Bishop Brown, greetings were brought by Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Dist. 13). A reception, hosted by Bishop and Mrs. Cunningham, followed the evening service.
When Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr. stepped to the podium after his introduction by Senior Bishop Graves, it is doubtful that many had any inkling of the type of message they would receive. "I’m going to give a frank talk," said Bishop Hoyt. "I want to speak on our theme ‘From Good to Great’ in terms of a compassionate ministry. But in essence, the focus of the message was that of a model of leadership in the CME Church—going from good to great. The Bishop used as scriptural context John 21:18, in which Jesus admonished Peter that there will come a time when he would stretch out his hands and someone else would take hold of him and carry him where he did not want to go. He said that this background of scripture offered a compassionate viewpoint for ministry. A compassionate form of leadership is one indeed where we must go into places we otherwise might not go—often places of danger. He gave the example of his trips to places such as Columbia, South America, which was a dangerous place. It was a place known as the drug capitol of the world. Under normal circumstances, he would not go there. But he had to go—even knowing of the danger. Yet, there is danger everywhere else.
He talked about human nature and how there are some things that cause us to slip. "We’re all in the need of God’s grace." This set the tone for the Bishop’s exhortation that we must know the nature of the church before we go from good to great.
Bishop Hoyt said first, we are a legal entity. We must observe both ecclesiastical law and secular laws. He said we have liabilities. We accept the requirements of legal corporations. There are things that the government says we must do and we have to do them. But the bishop said that we also reap the benefits of observing secular laws. For example, we don’t have to pay taxes (as a tax exempt entity). Bishop Hoyt said that because we have secular responsibilities, we must negotiate the trappings of a secular world. We must do more than just "pray and sing." We must take care of business. He said trustees, for example, must look after the property of the churches, not transfer church property to themselves. Those on the local church level must understand that sometimes they most receive permission from the larger church first before conducting business on their own. "You are holding in trust the property we have," said Bishop Hoyt. "As a leader, you must operate in the world of civil and ecclesiastical law." If you don’t know the answers to important questions or how to perform certain tasks, go to those who do know, the bishop said. He said there are people in your churches who can do if you ask them. Further, officials in the local church must be trained in their areas of responsibility.
Bishop Hoyt said bishops should act as colleagues—working together for the common good of the Church. Every bishop is equal, including those who are retired, and ministry on the Episcopal level of the Church is a shared ministry. In going from good to great, bishops have to operate with honesty and integrity. He said every person has a right to his or her opinion. He said that in a world of good to great, we need everyone talking to each other. We must be honest with each other about what we see that needs to be done in the church. It’s not about the (individual Episcopal Districts), but everyone.
Second, we are a voluntary organization. Leadership on the Bishops’ level is a microcosm of local leadership. "What gnaws at our integrity is we can’t differentiate between friendship and leadership responsibility," Bishop Hoyt said. He said sometimes (in meetings) we want to vote another way, but then we look over to see friends or relatives and vote in ways that preserve those relationships. We must distinguish from friendship and what is right. Ultimately what goes on in the organizational structure of the church is based on volunteerism. By this we mean that nothing done by members of the group is mandatory or required. He said church is based on "whomever will let them come." But Bishop Hoyt said that too often we turn these words around to say, "Whosoever we want, let them come. No general funds? Don’t come. Wrong clothes? Don’t come. We love (people), but from afar. We must remember that people are volunteering. They can’t be driven to conform. People don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to come to church on Sunday. They don’t have to sing in the choir. Threats don’t help members. Bishop Hoyt said that good leadership doesn’t drive members away. Don’t use the pulpit to embarrass people. He said you can do more with honey.
Bishop Hoyt urged pastors/leaders to motivate people. Don’t chastise all of the time. Standards of affiliation and association with the church organization are affirmed at the local church. After an individual takes his or her vows, they are then able to participate meaningfully. He said membership in the organization—the church—places the individual within the Priesthood of all Believers. But the Priesthood of all Believers includes people who will shout and cuss—perhaps shout then cuss you out. Hesaid these often are hurting people, people who have endured much, gone through sickness… He said stop putting devils everyone. When people act out, that could be their way of crying out for help, saying, "I need someone to care about me."
He equated turmoil with "participatory democracy." We don’t like disturbance, he said, "But I get scared if it’s too quiet." He said there are those who, even faced with the authoritative word of the bishop, will not change. And sometimes those persons don’t change until it’s too late. Yet, there are those who can and have changed. Therefore, "we must still have hope for those who can be saved." He said that regardless, the church will stand. He said given this hope for the believer, the preacher must guard his own soul. "Let not the preacher preach to everyone else, but lose his own soul. We must find a way to help preachers … and lay people who lose their way."
Bishop Hoyt said that we must observe the behavior of others and be able to help boys and girls. Leaders must have training in people skills and people relationship with respect to church structure, including the Discipline.
Bishop Hoyt said leadership is diplomatic. When something is said, there is no turning back. The truth is good, but often the truth hurts. We must learn how to tell the truth without harming others. "Tell the truth but try to build people up." He said leaders must think of the entire process—not only their initial acts, but the consequences. He gave the example of when pastors contemplate moving members from office. "Ask questions before you move someone. A wise leader looks down the road and sees the end before it happens," said the bishop. In this vein, bishops have the responsibility to provide both the negative and positive of given situations such as when considering preachers for transfer. He said that perhaps there should be a ministerial profile on each pastor.
We must be careful not to create a leadership of cultism, to the detriment of the organization. People must be allowed to have a say. In the long run, it will be a better church. Good leadership encourages open dialogue. "There should be no meeting before the real meeting," he said. A them-and-us attitude kills the group, resulting in a demonizing of human beings. We must be issue oriented, not human being oriented. We must have compassion. We must rule with compassion. We must talk with Jesus and walk with Jesus.
We must be conferred with the D.D. degree—"drunk and disorderly;" that is, "drunk and disorderly" with the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Day One – 20th CME Convocation
Yesterday, Monday, Sept. 25th, was the day before the first day of the CME Convocation. The Westin Galleria and Westin Oak Hotels in Houston, TX, were relatively quiet as early arrivers over the weekend included the Bishops, General Officers, host committee members, members of the entourages of the bishops, and others who wanted to avoid the press of the first day. Today will be another story altogether as the full throng of attendees will make their way to Houston for the 20th CME Convocation. The Keynote Assembly is tonight, featuring speaker Bishop Thomas Lanier Hoyt, Jr., presiding prelate of the 7th Episcopal District. The day itself will be highlighted mostly by departmental meetings and registration. Although yesterday was relatively quiet, there were some activities of note. The College of Bishops stayed in private session practically all day. Several of the general officers had scheduled meetings with them, including this editor. My meeting went well, as I shared with the bishops concerns about the need to increase new subscriptions as well as renewals to The Christian Index. My concerns were based on conversations I have had with CME Publisher Dr. William E. George. The Bishops were very empathetic toward my concerns and shared several suggestions on how we might improve subscription levels. Monday evening ended with a VIP dinner hosted by the Convocation Committee. Bishop E. Lynn Brown, 2nd Episcopal District and Convocation Committee chair, was very affable as usual in his introduction of the leaders of the Church. Convocation Director Dr. Tyrone T. Davis ensured that all guests were made comfortable and enjoyed the fellowship and meal. As I said, today is another day. It will begin in earnest my busyness the rest of the week producing The Daily Index. I will try to keep you in touch as much as possible.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Do we need the Convocation in the
General Conference year?
Starting Tuesday, September 26, 2006, the CME Church will convene its 20th Convocation in
Houston, TX. It promises to be another great meeting of the Church. In fact, in recent years, the Convocation has become one of the largest
CME gatherings in terms of number of persons who attend. Each year, members from throughout the Church assemble in an appointed place for training in the various departmental ministries and preaching, teaching, and fellowship. This year we return to Houston, a second visit to Texas in the last few years. So you know that everything is going to be BIG!
But the location itself is really not important. What distinguishes this year from other years in which we hold the Convocation is this year is a General Conference year in the CME Church. Why is that important? It is important because a great deal of expense and energy go into preparation for and attendance at the General Conference. Many lay and some clergy take days off from work (vacation or leave) in order to attend our CME meetings. More than a few persons who will show up at the Convocation were also at the General Conference, a 10-day event that takes you out of your normal routine of day-to-day activities. So, to add the Convocation to the days set aside for the General Conference in the same year appears a bit much and a strain on some CMEs. Add to that the additional expenses the Convocation will bring and it makes me wonder if the year in which the General Conference is held should not be a year of hiatus for the CME Convocation. After all, throw in the winter and spring meetings along with the annual conferences and you have a year full of long, expensive meetings. While we love the Convocation, with its great fellowship and training, we might also consider a quadrennial break in the years in which the General Conference is held.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Missing Mae Howard!I can't say exactly when I actually met Mae Howard. It had to be some 20 years ago in the early part of my ministry in the Washington-Virginia District, New York-Washington Conference. There was this lady who always raised her hand during the annual conferences and meetings and had something to say. To say that Mae was "fiesty" is an understatement. Some people thought she was really "over the top." But for me, Mae was just a really good friend. I was her "little brother." When I became editor in 1998, Mae taught me a lot about conducting the business of the Index. She had worked with Bishop Reddick when he was editor, and she brought that knowledge and experience with her in working with me. For several CME Convocations and the 2002 General Conference, Mae was the business manager for the Daily Index. She was very tough, to say the least. Some of the team members would come to me and say, "Dr. Jones," do we have to answer to Mae or can we answer to just you?" I would say, "Go to Mae!" Most of us still laugh about that to this day. I loved Mae Howard. She spoke her mind and didn't care who didn't like it. Of course sometimes that got her in trouble a bit, but she could handle it. She is truly being missed.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A few photos from the General Conference