Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr., stands strong, committed to Christ, and determined to display leadership in the midst of challenging times.
As the presiding prelate of the Fifth Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Church, he has guided and encouraged A.M.E.s in Southern California through pastoral changes, mismanagement allegations, and multiple lawsuits resulting in negative press for the past four months.
Fortunately, the Bishop is experienced in navigating turbulent waters. His 52-year ministerial career includes 16 years in ecclesiastical service and 20 years as pastor of Brookins Community A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles as well as other pastoral assignments.
In light of his success in ministry thus far, Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr., urges his A.M.E. members to have courage in difficulties.
“I’m convinced that blessings come through difficult situations. So, I tell people to focus on Christ, because He is actually our example. So often we look to human beings for example and when we don’t find it, we’re discouraged,” said Bishop Kirkland, the 114th elected and consecrated bishop of the A.M.E. Church.
“When you hear things [about the A.M.E. Church], and you will continue to hear a lot of things, remember the early church went through all kinds of persecution, but they became stronger because of persecution.
“It is my hope for the A.M.E. Church that even in the persecution, even in the allegations against some preachers, that our church will become stronger.”
Regarding his recent decision to relieve the Rev. John Hunter as pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in San Francisco, Bishop Kirkland said, “I’m still praying about who will serve that church. In the meantime, the presiding elder takes charge until the right person is sent.”
Pairing pastors with congregations requires much prayer and spiritual discernment, admitted the Bishop, but he’s encouraged about the new assignments he made in Southern California.
“I believe the young pastors I appointed have the vision, the energy, the training, and what it takes to work hard. My objective was to find new people excited about the ministry. I believe these persons will bring the AME Church back and erase that image we received in the last few years.
“I made changes to see if I can bring back that vitality to serve the people. I believe if we serve the people again, the church will grow again.”
In addition, Bishop Kirkland will continue implementing his seven-point vision for churches in the Fifth Episcopal District, which comprises the 14 states west of the Mississippi River.
The vision emphasizes evangelism, economic development, health and human services, education, church planting, youth development and inclusion, and mission work.
“We want to carry out the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20, and fulfill the mission of the A.M.E. Church to minister to people spiritually, intellectually, physically, emotionally and environmentally by preaching Christ’s liberating Gospel.”
As for his legacy, the Bishop hopes it will be defined by his service to God and people. He shared, “I hope to be remembered as a person who is serious about his ministry, that I served the church and worked hard to make the lives of others better.”
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, firstname.lastname@example.org