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A Pastoral and Collegial Response To The General Conference Delegation Meeting in Cape Town, Republic of South Africa African Methodist Episcopal Church

June 27, 2021

There has never been a time, since 1816, when the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church did not convene. Not even World Wars prevented the gathering of delegates. But our collective war with a deadly pandemic was sufficient cause to postpone the Conference from its quadrennial routine, with the hope that the coronavirus would soon be abated. It was always the aim of church leadership to save lives and to encourage the lifestyle habits that were known to mitigate the spread of a very contagious disease.

For all its vicious and indiscriminate assault on our humanity, COVID also came with a unique opportunity to accomplish a new thing: one church simultaneously meeting on two continents. Inclusion was always a matter of serious consideration. It was critical that delegates from Districts 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 be included in the total delegation constituting a deliberative body working in real-time. We reasoned that there simply could not be a General Conference without the inclusion and participation of these Episcopal Districts. The General Conference was postponed for a year as it evolved with a solution to the realities being faced by the real threat of a death-dealing virus.

Hearing the news from South Africa of the new and rapid surge of the virus and its variants, resulting in a nationwide move to Alert Level 4 for a period of 14-days, caused church leadership, most notably the General Conference Commission and the Council of Bishops, to once again swing into action. Only days away from the opening of the historic 51st General Conference, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the government in South Africa acted prudently to take extra precautions to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus. Our mantra, like the political and scientific leadership in South Africa called for a unified voice on both sides of the ocean —“ safety first.”

We wanted so much to witness a bona fide legislative denominational meeting to actually convene on the continent of Africa, with the ability to participate in real-time with brothers and sisters doing the business of the church: making policy, electing church officials, and engaging in other convention matters addressing a comprehensive agenda.

It is still the aim and heartfelt desire to require the participation of fellow AMEs and doing everything possible to find solutions related to connectivity through technology. We want the people in Districts 14- 20 to feel appreciated and connected to the Connection. Our prayers are with you as together we seek God’s Grace and Favor. Be assured, we are feverishly working to sort through the possibilities. Our priorities continue to be Safety, Inclusion and Participation. By God’s Grace, we expect a good outcome. As solutions evolve, stay tuned to the AMEC platforms for up-to-the-minute information.

Yours for the Kingdom,

Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Senior Bishop
Bishop E. Anne Henning Byfield, President, Council of Bishops Bishop John Franklin White, Chair, General Conference Commission

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