Bishops Clement Fugh and Frank Madison Reid (File photos)

Jan. – AME Church Responds to Trump’s Racist Rhetoric

In a scathing rebuke of recent racist comments reportedly stated by President Donald Trump, the AME Church Council of Bishops issued a strong statement signed by Bishop Clement W. Fugh, president; Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, president of the General Board; Bishop Frank M. Reid III, chair of the Commission on Social Action; and Senior Bishop McKinley Young.

“The AME Church has consistently opposed the racist rhetoric and social policies of the Trump Administration. We will continue to speak out and hold the United States government accountable as our faith commands us to: ‘There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.’ (Proverbs 6:16-19).

“Making people aware of the ‘bronzing’ of America and Trump’s attempt to use white supremacist policies to make America white again is not enough. We support the AME V-Alert Call To Action urging us to organize for Voter Education, Mobilization and Registration (Operation EMR) in our communities and churches.  It is urgent to make changes in our local, state and national elections in 2018 and 2020.”

First Lady Crystal and Pastor Johnteris Tate (Courtesy photo)

Feb. – Mount Moriah Baptist Church Installs Tate as New Pastor

Mount Moriah Baptist Church of Los Angeles installed the Rev. Johnteris Tate as senior pastor on February 11, in the edifice located at 4269 South Figueroa St., in Los Angeles. Tate, age 24, was elected in August 2017 following the 42-year tenure and official retirement of the Rev. Dr. Melvin V. Wade, Sr. Previously, Tate was the spiritual leader of First Thessalonians Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. Actively involved in denominational work, Tate is recognized as one of the youngest evangelist that is sought after around the nation. He is the third senior pastor in the church’s 72-year history.

                 Pastor Xavier L. Thompson (File photo)

May – Thompson Steps Down as President of Baptist Ministers Conference

After more than five years leading the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California (BMC), the Rev. Xavier L. Thompson stepped down as president.

Fortunately, his move is not due to scandal or disgrace, but rather his choice in light of his growing ministry and increasing involvement in the civic arena.

Elected as the youngest president in BMC’s history, Thompson is the pastor of Southern Baptist Church in Los Angeles. His charge has expanded to include spiritual leadership of St. Paul Baptist in Pacoima and Calvary Baptist in San Fernando. Also, he serves as a Civilian Oversight Commissioner for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Looking back on his tenure, Thompson said, “I am honored and humbled to have had the privilege to serve and I take great pride in leaving on my own terms. I’m leaving by choice and not by force, without scandal, compromise of character or any blemish on my integrity.”

       Rev. Judi and Pastor Kelvin Sauls (Courtesy photo)

June – Community Gathers for Sauls’ ‘Sending Forth’ Celebration

The Rev. Kelvin Sauls and the Rev. Judi Wortham Sauls gathered with family, friends and community members before launching the next phase of their ministry.

The “Sending Forth” Community Celebration saluted the Sauls,’ who just completed a six-year tenure as the senior pastor and first lady of Holman United Methodist Church in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. Going forward, the couple will remain in Los Angeles with the Rev. Judi joining the ministerial staff at First AME Church – Los Angeles. The Rev. Kelvin plans to unite with local organization on resolving key issues such as racial justice, economic equity, gender equality, homelessness, immigration and criminal justice reform.

                   First Lady Angel and Pastor Fred Price Jr. (Courtesy photo)

July – Thousands Cheer Pastor Fred Price’s Return to the Pulpit

Amid thunderous applause and joyous cheers, Pastor Frederick Price Jr. and First Lady Angel Price entered the sanctuary of the world renowned Faithdome on July 1. The day marked Price Jr.’s return, after a year’s absence, as the lead pastor of Crenshaw Christian Center (CCC).

The prolonged standing ovation illustrated the overpowering love and affection the CCC congregation holds for Price Jr., who resumes the helm of the church founded by his parents, Apostle Frederick and Dr. Betty Price, in 1973.

Price Jr. expressed gratitude to family, friends and the CCC congregation for their prayers and support during his absence.

“I really want to say thank you to those who’ve stood with me and stood by me, those who have interceded, those who have stood in the gap. You didn’t know much. You just knew that I was away and I appreciate you not needing to know all of the details,” he noted.

As for his message, Price Jr. selected the topic, “Restorative Grace,” and explained, “I thought about what I would share today and I figured the best thing for me to talk about is what got me through this year and that’s God’s restorative grace.”

Aretha Franklin and Annette May Thomas at the artist’s Staple Center concert in 2015. (Rickey D. Brown photo)

Aug. – Aretha Franklin’s L.A. Friends Recall Her Faith and Gospel Music

The passing of the legendary Aretha Franklin on August 16 prompted scores of admirers to offer tributes and memories of her impact on the world. But before she became known as “The Queen of Soul,” Aretha was a strong believer in God and expressed her faith through her music.

The Rev. Dr. Melvin V. Wade, Sr., pastor emeritus of Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Los Angeles, was close to Aretha’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, and remembered that the singer had strong faith even as a child. Describing Aretha as “very kind every time I saw her,” Wade said his most precious memory of her was her performance at his church in 1976. Annette May Thomas, a prominent pianist, vocalist and business manager of the great Rev. James Cleveland, became friends with Aretha as a teenager. Their fathers, the Rev. Franklin and Brother Joe May, headlined gospel caravans around the country and both girls performed with their dads.

“Aretha was gracious, down-to-earth and appreciative of life. She was truthful to everything she was doing. She didn’t have to put on any airs of any kind,” recalled Thomas.

In 1972, Aretha released “Amazing Grace” with the Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir. The 2-disc set garnered a Grammy award and is still the top selling live gospel album of all time. Thomas arranged for the recording to occur at New Temple Baptist Church on 87th and Broadway in Los Angeles.

CDU Provost Dr. Steve Michael, CDU President Dr. David M. Carlisle, Bishop Charles E. Blake and West Angeles Deacon John Wilson. (Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science)

 Sept. – West Angeles and CDU Partner to Increase Physicians in Underserved Communities

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with West Angeles Church of God in Christ (COGIC) on September 11, as part of the university’s continuing efforts to increase enrollment and create more pathways to health professions education in medically under-resourced neighborhoods throughout South Los Angeles.

“Affordable, excellent education is essential in our communities. We need [an institution] in our communities that will nurture [students and teach them] to become health professionals,” he said.

Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., senior pastor at West Angeles and presiding prelate of the Church of God in Christ, spoke of his excitement regarding the MOU.

“The agreement will solidify CDU’s commitment to educating West Angeles parishioners on careers in medicine and health, establishing scholarship initiatives for West Angeles parishioners that enroll at CDU and conducting workshops on federal and state financial aid eligibility requirements. In return, West Angeles leadership will promote and recommend CDU pipeline and college programs to the congregation,” said Blake.

Rev. James Lawson (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel photo)

Sept. – Rev. James Lawson Continues Life Mission Promoting Nonviolent Action

By all accounts, the Rev. James Lawson has exceeded legendary status in the annals of U.S. history. Renowned for his teachings on nonviolent action, the pastor emeritus of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles was the master strategist behind some of the memorable marches defining the country’s civil rights movement.

Lawson worked closely with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and trained many of the future leaders of the movement including John Lewis, Diane Nash, Marion Barry and James Bevel. In addition, his students participated in the Freedom Rides, the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement.

Celebrating his 90th birthday on Sept. 22, Lawson shows no signs of straying from his life mission of training people about nonviolent civil resistance. Lawson reflected on his personal experience with nonviolent campaigns along with encouraging others to persist in conducting nonviolence action.

“One of the powers of nonviolence,” insisted Lawson, “is the ability to challenge ancient philosophies. In scripture, it says we have to challenge people with good, with hope, and determination.”