Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr.
By Cora Jackson-Fossett
Sentinel Religion Editor
Bishop T. Larry Kirkland Sr. has traveled a long way from his humble beginnings in the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. Born in segregation with limited opportunities, Bishop Kirkland defied the odds by rising to President of the General Board of the worldwide A.M.E. Church.
His appointment comes at a critical point in the life of the 224-year old denomination as it prepares for the 2011 General Board and Council of Bishops meeting held Sunday, June 26, through Wednesday, June 29, in ?Columbia, South Carolina. Many Midwestern and Southern churches were devastated by the recent tornadoes, parishes in Haiti are still recovering from the horrific earthquake, and the organization must balance a budget exceeding $57 million.
Despite these challenges, Bishop Kirkland is likely the best candidate to oversee such a time as this. His unwavering faith, decisive leadership, and executive proficiency will be invaluable as the A.M.E. Church moves forward.
“I am deeply honored to serve as president and look forward to the upcoming General Board meeting. I know God will empower the believers in the A.M.E. Church to come together as one and implement strategies to overcome these current trials and chart a successful course for the future,” said Bishop Kirkland.
“My confidence and trust in God knows no limits. He has proven, time and again, that He is able to do miraculous works in the life of His people and His Church,” he said.
Such assurance stems from Bishop Kirkland’s life experiences. “I was introduced to the power of God from birth through my parents. My father was an A.M.E. preacher and my mother was an A.M.E. missionary. They both demonstrated their dependence on God as they raised 15 children in the Deep South and each one became a productive member of society,” said the bishop.
“When I reflect on the religious values they instilled in us, I fall to my knees in praise to God for the spiritual knowledge of His presence and power in my life. My parents never doubted Him, even in the midst of the segregated south, and I will never doubt Him either.”
Bishop Kirkland was a star football player in both high school and at Alcorn State University. Accepting the call to the ministry, he went on to earn his master’s degree at Mississippi State University, and then taught school while serving as pastor to several churches in the South.
But God had greater plans for him and it was revealed through Bishop H. Hartford Brookins, the then-presiding prelate of the 5th Episcopal District. “In 1977, Bishop Brookins appointed me as the first pastor of the church he founded, Brookins Community A.M.E. Church. Naturally, the opportunity to pastor in Los Angeles was exciting, however, I didn’t realize I would have to borrow eight members from First A.M.E. Church to have a congregation,” he said.
Undaunted, Bishop Kirkland moved his wife, Mrs. Mary Kirkland, and three children to L.A. and began to grow the church. Under his leadership, the sanctuary was renovated, surrounding properties were purchased, several outreach ministries were established, and more than 8,000 people were added to the church rolls. Also, Brookins became renown for its socio-political presence in the greater L.A. area.
Elected and consecrated as the 114th Bishop of the A.M.E. Church in 1996, he served four years in Central Africa as bishop of the 17th District, then as Ecumenical Officer and President of the Council of Bishops. In 2002, he was assigned to the 9th District (Alabama) where he started a District-wide outreach program that included computer literacy training and health services for the uninsured. In 2008, he was assigned to the 5th Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Church which includes 16 Western and coastal states.
During his ministry of 40+ years, Bishop Kirkland has been featured in Ebony and Jet and many national publications. The author of several books on church growth, he is often consulted by the media for his expertise in religious matters.
For information about the General Board meeting, visit www.ame-church.com.