The leader of more than 150 African Methodist Episcopal churches with 10,000 members in Tennessee and Kentucky knew from an early age he was going to be a preacher.
When God tapped his shoulder, bishop Jeffrey Leath was only 7. His father and grandfather were ministers, perhaps preordaining a life in the pulpit and a career filled with inspiration and teaching.
“I had an early call to preach,” Leath said in a wide-ranging interview with The Daily Herald. “When I was about 8 years old, I felt this call from God, letting me know this was the path I wanted to take.”
Fifty five years later, Leath is 63 and taking messages about spirituality and unity wherever he goes.
The theologian, born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, has four annual conferences, three in Tennessee and one in Kentucky. He’s attending one through Sunday at Columbia State Community College’s Cherry Theater, where he works with local and state pastors on fine tuning their messages and missions.
“It’s a also time when we appoint pastors,” Leath said. “All of our pastors receive one-year appointments. Many of them have their service extended with several one-year appointments, but this is a time when we renew their commitment.”
AME churches primarily serve the black community at a crucial time in history. The need for strong ministers to filter through inflammatory rhetoric involving politics and religion rarely has been greater, even during the Civil Rights movement.
“At the top of our list right now is to participate in the voting process,” Leath said, looking ahead to the Nov. 6 elections. “It’s important for people to vote. People are becoming discouraged when they think their candidate does not succeed. My point is this: Don’t worry about whether your candidate succeeds. Vote, encourage others to vote and participate in the process. It is extremely important to participate.
“If people think their candidate always has to win, that undermines what democracy is supposed to be about,” he added. “We’re supposed to express ourselves through elections. I don’t want people to lose heart if things do not go their way. Sometimes, we think all is lost because of an election. All is not lost, no matter what your party is.”
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Source: Columbia Daily Herald