The Right Rev. Theodore Larry Kirkland, Sr., will soon enter a new phase of his ministry as a preacher of the Gospel.
Currently, he serves as the presiding prelate of the Fifth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes 14 Western and coastal states. However, due to the denomination’s mandatory retirement age, the bishop will officially retire in July 2016 at the AME Church’s General Conference. Members of the Fifth Episcopal District plan to salute his accomplishments during the district’s Mid-Year Convocation at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton Hotel.
The convocation’s opening worship service on Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. Bishop Jeffrey Leath of the 13th Episcopal District will preach. On Thursday, March 10, at 7 p.m., Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake of the Church of God in Christ, Inc., will bring the message. On Friday, March 11, at 5:30 p.m., a gala reception will be held for Bishop and Episcopal Supervisor Mary L. Kirkland.
Both the convocation and reception, open to the public, are expected to attract thousands of ecumenical leaders, elected officials and community representatives that have been positively impacted by his 55-year ministry.
Reflecting on his long tenure, Bishop Kirkland said, “I feel that as far as success is concerned, my ministry has been very rewarding and successful. I don’t mean monetarily rewarding because most ministers are not rich.
“When I say rewarding, [it means] to see folks change their lives, to see people converted. It’s just simply an amazing feeling as I end my active ministry. It makes me feel great!”
Kirkland credits God with his career success. After serving many years as a pastor of several parishes, he was elected and consecrated as the 114th bishop of the AME Church in 1996. As a bishop, he served four years in Central Africa in 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 Fifth Episcopal District.
During his long ministry, Kirkland enjoyed both success and challenges, however his faith never wavered. “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.
God’s miraculous power was truly apparent when Bishop Kirkland served as pastor of Brookins Community AME Church in Los Angeles. When appointed by the late Bishop H. Hartford Brookins in 1977, Kirkland had a congregation of eight members borrowed from First AME Church. But, by the time he was elected bishop in 1996, more than 8,000 members were on the rolls.
In addition, the sanctuary was renovated, surrounding properties were purchased, and several outreach ministries were established under his leadership. Also, Brookins’ socio-political presence grew as Kirkland advised mayors, governors and national leaders on issues such as voter’s registration, police brutality, and economic empowerment.
“One of my most memorable moments is my ministry at Brookins. I know it wasn’t me that caused it to grow. It was the power of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I’m very rewarded for that in so many ways. It was just an outstanding moment in my life,” he recalled.
Although retiring as bishop, Kirkland insists that he is not retiring from preaching. In fact, he plans to pursue a number of activities. His interests include creating an international ministry to aid villages in Africa and starting a school of ministry to help young pastors with church growth and development.
“I feel like, as I get ready to retire or whenever the Lord calls me home, I did all I could and I want to thank the church for helping me,” said the bishop.
“I want to thank God for my ministry and I thank God for the people that have supported my ministry and served with me. I didn’t do that by myself. People came and invested their money, their time, and their talents.”
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.”
To RSVP for Bishop Kirkland’s Retirement Celebration, visit kirklandreception.eventbrite.com. For details, call (323) 735-1251.