The Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, Jr., now serves as the spiritual leader of one of the largest churches in the AME denomination – Reid Temple AME in Glenn Dale, Maryland. Bishop James L. Davis, presiding prelate of the AME Second Episcopal District, announced the appointment July 11. Whitlock succeeds the Rev. Dr. Lee Washington, who retired after leading the congregation since 1989.
Whitlock’s ministry is well known throughout the greater Los Angeles area. As the pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine, he led the largest predominately African American church in Orange County. Also, he established multiple ministries and outreach services, collaborated across ecumenical lines, and was an outspoken advocate of social justice and human rights.
In addition, Whitlock served as executive director of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement and as director of Community Initiatives at the USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. The Murray Center offers a range of programs such as organizational transformation, leadership development and building economic opportunity.
“I am excited, overwhelmed and just completely slayed by the Spirit of God to be the pastor of Reid Temple AME Church,” insisted Whitlock in a telephone interview. “I didn’t ask for it or politic for it, so I know this was nothing but an act of God. I had no intentions of leaving Christ Our Redeemer where I felt so much at home.”
Explaining how the appointment came about, Whitlock said Bishop Davis called him and Whitlock thought it was an invitation to speak. “But, Bishop Davis said, ‘no, it is an invitation to pastor.’”
He conferred with his wife of 35 years, the Rev. Dr. Mia Shegog-Whitlock, and his bishop, the Right Rev. Clement W. Fugh, presiding prelate of the Fifth Episcopal District, and both agreed that it was a great opportunity. But, Whitlock prayed hard about it before accepting the assignment. He also asked Davis if he could talk with Dr. Washington.
“My wife and I flew out to meet Dr. Washington and we spent the day at the church. As we prepared to leave, he said, ‘I am endorsing you completely to serve as pastor of Reid Temple.’ When I returned home, I remember being overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit. I laid on my floor, praying to God and asking, ‘is it something you want?’ and God confirmed it in my spirit,” he said.
Looking back over his career thus far, Whitlock expressed appreciation to his father-in-ministry, the Rev. Dr. Cecil L Murray. “I owe him everything. He is my mentor and he has taught me the Murray method. He inspires me daily.”
He also noted the support of Bishop Fugh, whom he called “an incredible big brother teaching me how to operate within African Methodism,” and Presiding Elder Roosevelt Lindsey, “who has been an older brother to me and has taught me the in and outs of what it takes to be an excellent pastor.” Lindsey is also serving as interim pastor of COR.
Whitlock leaves a significant legacy at COR. Under his leadership, the membership grew from five to nearly 4,000; the church maintains 40 outreach ministries and owns 13 apartment buildings that are valued at $900 million. COR’s community services include a business loan firm, entrepreneurial training for adults and youth, a summer enrichment academy teaching algebra and character development, and a sports camp lead by NFL, MLB and NBA athletes who not only teach the basics of sports, but also Christian principles and the qualities needed to excel beyond the game.
His experience at COR will serve him well at Reid Temple, a mega-church with more than 18,000 members worshipping in a 3,000-seat, 140,000 square-feet sanctuary. The church also operates 80+ ministries, an elementary school, a private college, an edifice in Laurel, Maryland, and are preparing to purchase a $60 million senior citizens home.
“Dr. Washington created a ministry that is par excellence. He took that church from a very small membership to where it is today,” said Whitlock. “It is an incredible place to do worship and I am just so grateful to God for this opportunity.”
When Whitlock preached on July 14 at Reid Temple, he said that he “felt at home” and the members welcomed him and his wife “with loving arms.” Also, 20 people accepted Christ as their Savior during the worship service.
Still, it’s not easy to leave COR, a place where he ministered for two decades, admitted Whitlock, who said, “My greatest regret is to leave the members of Christ Our Redeemer, who have been nothing but wonderfully giving to the pastor, to come to Reid Temple. We were very satisfied at COR. We have never had one controversy or embarrassing moment. I hope they understand that I am an itinerant minister and our job is to go where God calls us to go. God called my wife and I to go to Reid Temple and we were obedient to the spirit of God. It is a daunting task, but it is a divine assignment to do the work of the Lord for Reid Temple AME church.”
The Whitlocks are now living in Maryland, but will return to Southern California in August to perform the marriage of their son, Mark Whitlock III.