Dr. A. J. Connors, KEMBA Moderator Church and Community Leadershipby GDN Shared Post January 26, 2017
By Peter Grear, Greater Diversity News
This is the first in a planned series of articles intended to analyze community leadership provided by Black churches. Historically and today churches are our most strategic community anchors and as goes the churches, so goes the communities. In North Carolina, Baptist is the largest church denomination and are generally well organized into associations led by moderators.
Reverend Dr. A. J. Connors, is the Moderator of KEMBA (The Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Association). (See link below). He was elected to lead KEMBA in October 2015 and thereby provides the professional leadership for its 48 church members. KEMBA’s primary location is Duplin County and to a lesser degree, four other neighboring counties.
Reverend Connors was born and reared in Sampson County, a neighboring county to Duplin, and since 2004 has pastored Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Pender, another neighboring county. In 2009 he was awarded his Doctorate in Sacred Religious Sciences from the School of Theology in Milford, Illinois.
KEMBA’s history evolved from its early formation in 1870 and has grown into its uniquely important leadership of today. Its founding mission was a focus to praise God, and of course that remains its focus today. Additionally, Dr. Connors indicated that the responsibility for guiding much of the education for African Americans and community engagement rest largely with our churches.
During our interview, Dr. Connors indicated that he is constantly considering ways that KEMBA can make a bigger community impact under his leadership. Although different denominations have different approaches and perspectives in dealing with community issues beyond praise and worship, he was open and forthright in discussing the various issues of justice noted above.
While reporting on the landscape of church leadership it is important to remember that politics has always determined critical issues essential to the survival of Black people in America and that the church has always been the community institution central to our political leadership. Considering the importance of politics to the wellbeing of Black communities, it is important to understand and follow the leadership of our churches.
Many churches and leaders have different philosophies when it comes to their involvement in politics. Dr. Connors was very clear in his opinion that pastors should not serve in elected political office because he felt that would compromise their appearance of fairness and impartiality. However, he referred me to other church leaders that he held in very high regard and at least one was a former elected official.
He also named churches that have very good reputations for community engagement and suggested that some serve as models for others. He felt that community involvement by churches and their leaders was essential to maintaining and growing church membership.
Under Dr. Connor’s leadership, KEMBA is promoting Internet access and websites for all member churches. He felt that the Internet should be located in the church itself as opposed to someone’s house. This would make it more accessible and useful for churches and their members.
During our series on church leadership we will endeavor to highlight the ways different denominations lead community engagement and address economic, political, criminal, and environmental justice. It is fair to observe that most of our churches are engaged in community leadership and historical issues of justice, however issues of justice are more prominent in some denominations than others. I found it insightful that the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) announced on its website that over the next four years they will have a priority focus on one area of the four different areas of justice. (See link below).
When exploring issues of justice with Dr. Connors I found that he had very well-founded ideas of the strengths and weaknesses of our churches and their leadership as it relates to our pursuit of justice. He was very forthright in assessing his observations of other moderators and referring me to them for interviews designed to help me gain a better understanding of other moderators and the ways their associations approach our issues of justice.
He indicated that one of his greatest disappointments is the fact that there are too few job opportunities available for Duplin County students that have stayed in school, received college degrees and had to move to other locales for suitable employment. He also stressed the importance of church leaders being aware of and involved in the activities of public bodies that impact the lives of their communities.
When discussing the support of Black businesses by the church community, he noted that support of Black businesses has also been a standing objective of KEMBA and its member churches. There was a clear understanding of the importance of church involvement in the politics and economics required in the creation of wholesome communities.
Dr. Connors summed up his life’s philosophy in the following message, “Stand by the word of God; Live by the word of God; and love one another as our Lord loves us. If you can help your brothers or sisters, then do so.”
In discussions that I have had with other Duplin County leaders it was clear that Dr. Connors is constantly sought out for involvement and leadership in community activities.
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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on political, social and economic justice. To support our efforts, to unite our politics and economics, please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/greaterdiversitynews, “Share” our articles and post your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our websites www.GreaterDiversity.com. He is available for radio commentaries upon request. Finally, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to like and follow our page.