After Criticism, Rev. Norvel Goff Withdraws Bid to be AME Church Bishop, Endorses Columbia Pastor Rev. Ronnie Brailsford

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The Rev. Norvel Goff, former interim pastor of Emanuel AME Church, withdrew his bid Monday to become a bishop in the AME Church after garnering fewer votes than two other candidates from South Carolina in early voting. 

Sources confirmed that Goff threw his support behind the Rev. Ronnie Brailsford, pastor of Bethel AME in Columbia, who was elected bishop in a later round of voting.

The withdrawal means Goff remains presiding elder overseeing more than 30 churches in South Carolina, including Emanuel AME in Charleston. He served as interim pastor of the grief-stricken church after its pastor and eight other worshippers were gunned down in its fellowship hall last summer.

The denominations’s general conference, which meets every four years, voted Monday to fill six bishop seats.

Goff’s withdrawal comes just days after loved ones of those killed in the Emanuel AME Church shooting came forward to describe how they felt he neglected their spiritual needs during his tenure.

Close family members of six victims told The Post and Courier that once the high-profile funerals ended, Goff never called or visited them to pray or provide religious counseling even as he held memorials and other public events for the so-called “Emanuel Nine.” Several said they contacted Goff repeatedly but he didn’t respond. Nor did he send one of the three dozen clergy he supervised to provide pastoral care, they said.

Goff declined comment through Emanuel AME’s attorney on Friday, but in the past has strongly defended his ministry, saying he has left every church he pastored better off than when he arrived.

However, the Rev. Sharon Risher, an AME minister whose mother died in the shooting, was among those who didn’t support his candidacy.

“God is in control,” she said when she heard Goff had withdrawn. “No matter what man does, God is going to make it right.”

Bishop Richard Franklin Norris promoted Goff to presiding elder seven months before a gunman walked into Emanuel’s Wednesday Bible study and killed nine people, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and most of the church’s ministerial staff. The bishop then assigned Goff to lead the church.

Seven months after arriving at Emanuel AME, Goff announced he was running for bishop.

Norris has reached the mandatory retirement age and strongly endorsed Goff, often applauding his leadership after the shooting. Nationwide, people have praised Goff’s preaching skills, and Gov. Nikki Haley awarded him the Order of the Palmetto.

However, questions about how he handled financial matters followed him from New York to Columbia to Charleston even before the shooting victims’ families discussed their concerns.

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Source: Post and Courier | Jennifer Berry Hawes