Hosted by the Mid-West Episcopal District, more than 500 registered laity and clergy traveled to Knoxville, TN to participate in the 11th Quadrennial Lay Council Convention of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church , convening on July 23-27, 2017 at the Knoxville Marriott/Civic Auditorium, Knoxville, Tennessee. Under the leadership of Dr. Mary J. Matthews, Connectional Lay Council President and Mrs. Yvonne Baskerville, 1st Vice President and convention chair with the support of the steering committee, the Connectional Lay Council (CLC) Executive Board Members and Board of Lay Activities constructed a well-integrated program of informative meetings, developed with a thematic focus. Convention theme: “Refocusing on Our Purpose, Reviewing our Practices, Retooling Our People and Reaching Our Potential.”

The Pre-convention activities started on Saturday, July 22, 2017 with tours of the Beck Cultural Center and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The Young Adult Plenary Session “Straight Talk” was led by Miss Crystal Bailey and Mrs. Lula K. Howard. A number of people boarded The Star of Knoxville Dinner river boat for an authentic dinner cruise in the evening, while others enjoyed entertainment in the Marriott Ballroom, featuring Brother Michael Frencher, Jr. singing and teaching everyone to sing “Freedom” (O’ Zion Walk in Your Freedom), Pastor Donald Cozart, Anointed Praise, Mt. Pleasant Spice of Life Music Ministry, Ms. Kesha Jones, Liturgical Dancer; Price Memorial Liturgical Dancers and others.

Sunday morning began with Bible Study, led by the remarkable General Secretary of Christian Education, Reverend Dr. Kathryn Brown. Followed by a spirit-filled communion service where one person gave his life to Christ. The Communion message was delivered by Bishop Darryl B. Starnes, Presiding Prelate, Mid-West Episcopal District and Host Bishop.

The 11th Quadrennial Lay Convention opened with a Grand March Processional on Sunday afternoon at 3:35 p.m. in the Knoxville Marriott Ballroom, with Reverend George E. McKain, II, Director, Department of Public Affairs presiding. The Processional was led by Bishop Joseph Johnson, Retired, 2nd Vice Chair of the Board of Lay Activities and Dr. Mary J. Matthews, CLC President. Each Episcopal District followed, led by the presiding bishop and missionary supervisor. Following the Grand March, Reverend George E. McKain, II presented Bishop Michael A. Frencher, Sr., Presiding Prelate, Southwestern Delta Episcopal District and Board of Lay Activities Chairman. Bishop Frencher gave greetings and presented Bishop Joseph Johnson to bring greetings.

Bishop Frencher presented Dr. Mary Matthews, CLC President, to preside over the convention. Dr. Matthews greeted the convention, thanked and recognized past presidents, Mrs. Lula K. Howard, Dr. David Aikens and Dr. Yvonne Tracey thanking them for laying the ground work for her to build upon. Additionally, she presented the Connectional Lay Council elected officers, Regional Directors; recognized chairpersons of standing committees and special committees; and the appointed officers.

Plenary Session I. Dr. Mary Matthews called the 11th Quadrennial Lay Convention to order for the transaction of business at 3:55 p.m. The Credentials Committee report was read by Mr. Malcolm C. Russell, Chairman. Piedmont 62, Eastern North Carolina 77, Mid-West 34, North Eastern 59, South Atlantic 60, Mid-Atlantic 58, Alabama-Florida 25, Southwestern Delta 14, Western 8, Central Southern Africa 4, Western West Africa 5, Eastern West Africa 2. The total number certified voters on the first report was 418. The Rules Committee Report was read by Lester Belk, committee member. The Convention Program Committee Report was given by Mrs. Yvonne Baskerville, Chairperson. Ms. Patricia Lewis served as parliamentarian for the Convention. The secretariat staff was Ms. Delores Lancaster, Recording Secretary, Mrs. Thomascena LeGrand, Eastern North Carolina, Ms. Betty Evans, Piedmont, and Ms. Joan Kelley, Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District. Mr. Frank Lee Fisher served as chief marshal and appointed marshals from each Episcopal District were: Piedmont, Mr. Jerry McCombs; Eastern NC, Mr. Monte Forte; Midwest, Ms. Peggy Bryant; North Eastern, Mr. Jerome Stevens; South Atlantic, Ms. Loranda Melton; Mid-Atlantic, Mr. O. W. Burrell; Alabama-Florida, Mr. James Frazier; Southwestern Delta, Ms. Priscilla Matthews; Western, Ms. Wanda Lax; Central Southern Africa, Mr. Daniel Diogo; Western West Africa, Mr. Lawrence Atsyor; Eastern West Africa, Mr. Clarence Moseley. Appointed time keepers were: Mr. Joe Cromartie, Eastern NC Episcopal District and Mr. William English, Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District. Mr. Ervin Reid served as convention auditor. Mr. Isaiah Flowers, Bylaws/Legislation Committee Chairman gave directions on how the legislation would be handled during the legislative plenary session.

Starting on Monday, each day began with “Morning Watch” led by William Manning, Chaplain. The daily Bible Study teachers were: Reverend Dr. Otis T. McMillan, Director of Evangelism Department of Church Growth and Development; Reverend Dr. Kathryn Brown, General Secretary Christian Education Department; and Bishop Joseph Johnson, 2nd Vice Chair of the Board of Lay Activities.

Plenary Session II. Welcome Program. Greetings were received from The Honorable Rick Staples, District 15, Tennessee House of Representatives, The Honorable Tim Burchett, Knox County Mayor, Mr. David Golden, a representative from the President’s Office of the University of Tennessee, Mrs. Deborah Porter, President, Knoxville Branch of the NAACP, Mr. David Jenkins, Tennessee Conference Lay Council, Mrs. Lynda Byrd, Mid-West Episcopal District Lay Council Regional Director. The response to the welcome was given by Dr. Mary Matthews.

Bishop Frencher, Sr. presided at the evening meeting and led the assembly in singing “Blessed Assurance,” and read scripture from Romans 12:1-5. The prayer was offered by Bishop Joseph Johnson. A selection, “He Has Done Marvelous Things” was sung by the First Praise Choir. The Convention Keynote Speaker was Bishop George E. Battle, Jr., Senior Bishop and Presiding Prelate, Piedmont Episcopal District. He spoke from the subject “At the End of the Journey, What?” (Subtitle: How to Deal with Frustration). The President’s Reception followed, it was held in the Marriott Lobby.

Plenary Session III. Convention Business/Legislative Matters were held in the Civic Auditorium. Dr. Mary Matthews presented Mr. Isaiah Flowers, Chairman of the Bylaws/Legislation Committee for the first reading of the Resolutions. After the reading of the Resolutions, Mr. Flowers stated that voting on the resolutions would be held on Tuesday. Dr. Joyce Perry Edwards and the Education Committee presented a dramatization skit on the 11th Quadrennial Theme for the Connectional Lay Council “Refocusing our Purpose, Reviewing our Practices, Retooling our People and Reaching our Potential.”

Ms. Sandra Williams, Piedmont Regional Director, served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the Centennial Challenge Luncheon. The welcome and statement of the occasion was given by Bishop Michael A. Frencher, Sr., who paraphrased Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as the welcome. A solo entitled “Stand” was sung by Brother Michael A. Frencher, Jr. and Mrs. Lula Howard, who sang “Pass It On.” The Challenge: Laity Historical Message was delivered by Bishop George D. Crenshaw, Presiding Prelate, Central Southern Africa Episcopal District. His subject was “Dream Again”. Scripture reference Genesis: 12:1-3.

Plenary Session IV. Clergy Seminar I. Strategic Planning for Effective Witness in the Local Church was taught by Bishop Darryl B. Starnes. Lay Academy Session I, Presenters: My Role as a Deaconess by Bishop Mildred Bonnie Hines, Presiding Prelate of the South Atlantic Episcopal District; What Do We Believe? Doctrinal Emphasis in the Methodist Tradition by Reverend Dr. Elvin Sadler; Strategies for Multi-Generational Ministries for Making Committed Disciples by Ms. Twila Harrison; How Good Is My Leadership? by Dr. Brenda Smith; and A Healthy Church: A Healthy Tree Produces Good Fruit by Reverend Dr. Eric Leake.

Plenary Session V. The President’s Address was delivered by Dr. Mary J. Matthews, Connectional Lay Council President. Her message was entitled “Lay Leadership in Action.” After the President’s Address, the Connectional Lay Council Elected Officers made reports, followed by the Regional Directors’ reports.

The Bishop George J. Leake, III Scholarship Prayer Breakfast was held on Tuesday morning and began with greetings and the statement of occasion by Mrs. Anita Pearson Royster, Esq., Mistress of Ceremony. Prayers were offered as follows: Prayer for the A.M.E. Zion Church Seminary Presidents/Instructors by Dr. Benjamin Lartey, Western West Africa Episcopal District. Prayer for Dr. Kathryn Brown, General Secretary CED by Ms. Nora K. McNeill, CED Co-Director, Children’s Ministry. Prayer for the A.M.E. Zion Church Sunday School Curriculum Staff by Dr. W. Edwyn Baird, Eastern North Carolina Episcopal District. Prayer for the Sunday School Superintendents by Ms. Angela DeShields, Western Episcopal District. Prayer for the Sunday School Teachers by Mr. Lawrence Kofi Atsyor, Western West Africa Episcopal District. Prayer for Increase in Sunday School Attendance by Mrs. Tonya Cornelius Johnson, Southeastern Region Co-Vice President. Mrs. Effie Woodard, 2nd Vice President, Connectional Lay Council, introduced the speaker, Mrs. Sheila Wells Monroe. A solo “Amazing Grace” was sung by Dr. Donald Cozart, Pastor of Norrington A.M.E. Zion Church. The Educational Message was deliver by Mrs. Sheila Wells, Monroe, Missionary Supervisor, Eastern North Carolina Episcopal District. The subject was entitled “Power Down and Pray.” Dr. Mary Matthews, presented a donation of $10,000 to Hood Theology Seminary. The donation was received by Mrs. Carmen Wilder Harper, Director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving.

Plenary Session VI. Convention Business/Legislative Matters. Mr. Malcolm Russell read the Credentials Committee Report. As of 11:42 p.m. on July 24, the total number of certified voters was 438. Mrs. Thomascena LeGrand read the minutes of Sunday and Monday. The minutes were approved as corrected. The Bylaws/Legislative Committee report was presented, Mr. Isaiah Flowers. Each resolution was read by Ms. Stephany Ricks-Fields and action was taken on each resolution. The time was extended to complete legislation.

Plenary Session VII. Memorial Service: Ms. Rynette Nixon, Western Episcopal District Regional Director served as worship leader. Bishop Darryl B. Starnes introduced the speaker, Bishop Michael A. Frencher, Sr. Bishop Frencher’s Scripture reference was John 14:2-4 and he spoke from the subject “At Home in Heaven.”

Clergy Seminar II and Lay Academy Session II. My Church: Envisioning Its Potential was taught by Bishop Staccato Powell, Presiding Prelate, Western Episcopal District. Lay Academy Session II, Presenters: My Role as A Deaconess, by Reverend Thelma Gordon; The True Purpose of the Lay Council: Focusing on Our Mission, by Dr. Yvonne Tracey; Making Disciples Through Traditional and Non-traditional Family Involvement in the Local Church, by Reverend Dr. Frank W. Jackson IV; Ministry Skills: Skills for Personal Evangelism, by Reverend Dr. David McLean; How to Get Things Done While Working with People, by Mrs. Marjorie Kinard.

Plenary Session VIII. The Quadrennial Theme from the Board of Bishops Perspective was presented by Bishop Kenneth Monroe, Presiding Prelate, Eastern North Carolina Episcopal District. Miss LaKesha Womack, Alabama Florida Episcopal District did a presentation on “Using Social Media for Evangelism and Global Outreach.”

The Candidates Forum: Mr. Malcolm Russell gave greetings and a prayer was offered by Dr. W. Edwyn Baird. Ms. Yunorma Moore, read the guidelines and order of the Candidates’ Forum. Stephany Ricks-Fields conducted the questioning of the candidates. Incumbents Forum: President, Dr. Mary Jane Matthews; Chaplain, Mr. William Manning. New Candidates Forum: Recording Secretary, Mrs. Mireille Landrum; Financial Secretary, Mr. Ned Highsmith; Treasurer, Ms. Cynthia White; First Vice-President, Mrs. Katherine Burrell, and Mrs. Leondras “Lele” Davis; Second Vice-President, Ms. Timmery Mechan Bryant, and Mrs. Connie Bell Wright.

Plenary Session IX. Convention Business/Quadrennial Budget. Mr. Malcolm Russell read the final Credentials report: Piedmont 66, Eastern North Carolina 79, Mid-West 40, North Eastern 66, South Atlantic 60, Mid-Atlantic 66, Alabama-Florida 29, Southwestern Delta 15, Western, 11, Central Southern Africa 4, Western West Africa 5, Eastern West Africa 3, total 444 certified voters as of July 25 at 11:00 p.m. Mrs. Thomascena LeGrand read the minutes for Tuesday, July 25. The minutes were approved as corrected. Dr. Matthews called for the Budget Committee’s report. Mrs. Joyce Reid, Budget Committee Chair presented the budget and moved for the adoption. Following discussion, the budget was adopted. Dr. Elvin Sadler gave instructions on how the voting would take place during the afternoon session.

Ms. Queen Degraphenreid, presided over the Social and Political Actions Panel. Panel Discussion: Voting Rights: Suppression, Depression or Oppression? The panelist included: Ms. Sheila Johnson, Mr. Lester Belk, Ms. Ophelia Ealy, and Ms. Lily Fleming. The summary and challenge was given by Ms. Queen Degraphenreid. Bishop Dennis V. Proctor, Presiding Prelate, North Eastern Episcopal District, President of the Board of Bishops, and A.M.E. Zion Church representative for the NAACP, stated that we must make sure we take people to vote in the small local elections. Presentation to Community Charities: Dr. Mary Matthews presented a donation of $2,500.00 to Mr. Ernie Roberts, Vice President of The Love Kitchen; and $2,500.00 to Rev. Renee Kesler, President of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

Plenary Session X. Election: The marshals confirmed the number of certified voters in each Episcopal District: Piedmont 62, Eastern North Carolina 69, Mid-West 27, Northeastern 60, South Atlantic 58, Mid-Atlantic 61, Alabama-Florida 29, Southwestern Delta 9, Western 11, Central Southern Africa 4, Western West Africa 5, Eastern West Africa 3; 444 certified voters but only 399 were present to vote. Prayer was offered by Bishop S. Chuka Ekemam, Retired. The newly elected officers for 2017-2021 are: International President, Dr. Mary J. Matthews, 1st Vice President; Mrs. Leondras “Lele” Davis, 2nd Vice President, Mrs. Connie Bell Wright; Recording Secretary, Mrs. Mireille Landrum; Financial Secretary, Mr. Ned Highsmith; Treasurer, Ms. Cynthia White; Chaplain, Mr. William Manning

Unfinished Business. President Matthews recognized Dr. David Aiken who read a resolution to elevate the 7th Connectional Lay Council President, Mrs. Lula K. Howard to President Emeritus status. The Resolution was submitted by Dr. Mary Matthews, Dr. Yvonne Tracey and Dr. David Aiken. The Resolution was adopted.

On Wednesday evening, the Victor J. Tulane Awards Banquet was the highlight of the convention with Mrs. Katherine Burrell serving as Mistress of Ceremonies. This event celebrated and honored lay persons with various awards; and the outgoing officers received service awards and reflected on their Quadrennial achievements. The Five Retiring Officers Receiving Exemplary Service Awards were Mrs. Yvonne Baskerville, First Vice President; Mrs. Effie B. Woodard, Second Vice President; Ms. Delores Lancaster, Secretary; Mr. Ira Golden, Financial Secretary; and Mr. Trubbie Leeper, Treasurer. There were five persons inducted into the Laity Hall of Fame: Mr. Benjamin Locke, Alabama/Florida Episcopal District; Ms. Marie M. Baxter, North Eastern Episcopal District; Ms. Joanne B. Streater, Piedmont Episcopal District; Dr. Mary J. Matthews, Eastern NC Episcopal District; and Mr. Larry Waters – South Western Delta Episcopal District. Eight persons were awarded the President’s Distinguished Laity Award: Ms. Helene Zacharias, Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District; Ms. Sandra Williams, Piedmont Episcopal District; Ms. Joyce Zimmerman, Piedmont Episcopal District; Mr. Isaiah Flowers, Alabama/Florida Episcopal District; Mr. Lawrence Kofi Atsyor, Western West Africa Episcopal District; Hon. Udo H. Ekpeowo, Eastern West Africa Episcopal District; Patricia Lewis, Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District; and Mrs. Priscilla Leeper, Piedmont Episcopal District. Mr. Isaiah Pinkney, Alabama/Florida Episcopal District received the Dr. Victor J. Tulane Servant-Leadership Award. The Dr. Betty V. Stith Trailblazer Service Award was presented to Ms. Patricia Huffman, Alabama/Florida Episcopal District. Two persons received the Mr. William Orr Membership Award: from the larger Episcopal District, the award went to Mrs. Thomascena LeGrand, Central North Carolina Conference Eastern North Carolina; and from the smaller Episcopal District, Mr. Chester Johnson, West Tennessee-Mississippi Conference, Southwestern Delta. The two Lay Council Centennial Awards (Celebrating 100 Years) were presented to Mr. Jasper McCormick, North Eastern Episcopal District and Dr. Benjamin Lartey, Western West Africa Episcopal District.

Presentation of Retiring Officers: Mrs. Katherine Burrell presented Mrs. Yvonne Baskerville, 1st Vice President; Dr. W. Edwyn Baird presented Mrs. Effie B. Woodard, 2nd Vice President; Mrs. Katherine Burrell presented Ms. Delores Lancaster, Recording Secretary; Ms. Marie Baxter presented Mr. Ira Golden, Financial Secretary; Mrs. Priscilla Leeper presented Mr. Trubbie Leeper, Treasurer. Remarks were given by each retiring officer.

At the end of the Awards Banquet, the Newly Elected Officers were installed in a ceremony by Bishop Michael A. Frencher, Sr., Chairman, Board of Lay Activities: International President, Dr. Mary J. Matthews; 1st Vice President, Leondras “Lele” Davis; 2nd Vice President, Connie Bell Wright, Recording Secretary, Mireille Landrum; Financial Secretary, Ned Highsmith; Treasurer, Cynthia White; Chaplain, William Manning.

Dr. Mary Matthews thanked everyone for attending the 11th Quadrennial Lay Council Convention. She stated that the convention had finished its business and declared it officially adjourned. The closing remarks were given by Bishop Uduak Effiong, Presiding Prelate, Eastern West Africa Episcopal District. The 11th Quadrennial Lay Convention adjourned at 10:04 p.m. with the Lay Council Closing Prayer.