“Clergy members gathered here, we have the mission to properly teach about God. To properly teach about God, we need to understand the history of God’s Providence of Restoration, in particular, who are the central figures.” Mother Moon, ACLC co-founder
In a direct response to the growing sense that America is a divided nation, the ACLC convocation gathered on December 1-2, at the Doral Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Rye Brook, New York. The program culminated on December 3, with the twenty-first annual True Family Values Ministry Awards Banquet, held at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, and a delightful performance by the Little Angels Korean Folk Ballet held in the Manhattan Center.
Pastors Mark and Becky Williams of the Michiana Christian Ministries of Granger, Indiana, and Bishop Jesse Edwards, the Director of ACLC in New York, kicked off the Thursday dinner program with praise and worship. With Pastor Becky Williams on the keyboard and vocals, Pastor Mark Williams played the trombone, and Bishop Edwards played the trumpet. Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, Jr., National Co-Chairman of ACLC, and Patriarch and Founder of the African-American Catholic Congregations-Imani Temple welcomed the convocation attendees and invited them to prepare for a weekend full of discussion, reflection, and opportunities to strengthen their commitments as faith leaders to much needed reconciliation and healing in America.
After everyone enjoyed their meal, Pastor T. L. Barrett, Senior Pastor of the Life Center of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Chicago and Chairman of the founding committee of the ACLC, and Rev. Levy Daugherty, National Senior Adviser of ACLC, offered more songs of worship. The Williamses and Bishop Jesse Edwards closed out the night with more praise music, worship and dance.
The second day of the convocation began early, with a prayer service before breakfast. Dr. Michael Jenkins, ACLC Chairman Emeritus and Mrs. Reiko Jenkins, Co-chairwoman of the ACLC Women In Ministry (ACLC WIM) shared about the recent International Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
The program reconvened after breakfast for the first session of the morning. Rev. Tom Cutts, National Executive Director of the ACLC, gave a “Year in Review” presentation. With a humorous and light heart, Rev. Cutts showcased the many different events, activities, and milestones that have taken place this year. He paid special attention to monthly ACLC Prayer Breakfasts and the increasing frequency of ACLC Marriage Blessing ceremonies around the country.
Then Dr. Michael Balcomb, President of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) USA, gave concise and powerful remarks about Father and Mother Moon’s vision for ACLC and for America. Reflecting on True Mother’s address on Capitol Hill on Nov. 30th, Dr. Balcomb shared:
“Mother Moon felt America has not yet fully met God’s expectations. Think about what God’s expectation for this country is. It’s not just to be nation of great freedom and wealth. Father Moon said America has to be the champion, the nation that brings the Kingdom of God on earth. Those are dramatic words. Father Moon said that when America builds the Kingdom of God here in this land, other nations will follow suit, whether or not they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist. If one country can stand up and create the Kingdom of God, then other nations can follow. Mother Moon asked, ‘Do you believe that? Do you really believe that God can build his Kingdom in this world or not?’”
Following Dr. Balcomb, the convocation attendees dove heart-first into a Pastors’ Forum on the theme of “The Principles of Restoration and the Mission of John the Baptist.” Supplemented by a PowerPoint presentation on the Principles of Restoration outlined in the Divine Principle, Dr. Michael Jenkins and Archbishop Stallings guided a fluid exchange between themselves and all the Convocation participants.
They were joined in the front of the amphitheater and supported by Bishop Cecil G. Riley, Bishop Patra Kidwell, Minister Reiko Jenkins, Bishop Jesse Edwards, Rev. Dr. Tanya Edwards, Rev. Levy Daugherty and Pastor Mark Abernathy. The forum format allowed for many questions and answers, and discussion. This permitted a deep probing into the truths revealed in and through the Word of God.
First Lady Henrietta Wehye from New Jersey commented, “I had heard similar presentations before and could not accept with the conclusion about John the Baptist. But in this interactive discussion format, I could finally appreciate the point that was being made.”
They not only discussed theological topics, but delved into real issues each pastor faces ministering to a congregation.
“How do you deal with people that are difficult? Well, I spend time in prayer—you pray and you love them. You have to love them. I always pray, Lord, let me see them through your eyes, and that takes away all the clutter. Then we see them through the struggles that they’re going through, and then we can see, Wow. And then we can have mercy on them. It’s just having mercy on people because, if you give mercy, you’re going to receive mercy. If you give love, you’re going to receive love. It’s not always easy to do, but if we walk in the Spirit, walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we can give comfort, too.” –First Lady Becky Williams
After lunch, the first of two panel discussions was held. Several attendees were invited to share testimonies on the theme of “Faith Leaders Helping America Rise to Its Fullest Potential.” The panel was moderated by the two National Co-Presidents of the ACLC, Archbishop Dr. Sulanch Grant-Lewis and Pastor Mark Abernathy. Panelists included Pastor John Jackson, Bishop Carolyn Arnett, Rev. Simone Mason, Bishop Franklin Fountain, Pastor Ernest Patton, Rev. Marilyn Kotulek, Rev. Levy Daugherty and Rev. Gregg Proctor. The panel covered such topics as choosing to intentionally change the world, how racism is a learned rather than an inherent trait, how to cultivate filial piety before God, our innate nature to love, and the ever-present calling to deny ourselves, take up our own crosses, and live for the sake of others.
In the 1970’s, Pastor Mark Abernathy, the Pastor of the Connect Point Christian Center in Snellville, Georgia saw his father, a white pastor, beaten by the Ku Klux Klan. Their church welcomed people of all races, and this angered many in the segregated neighborhood around Stone Mountain. Pastor Abernathy said,
“Something had to change. I didn’t want my daughter to have to go through this. I saw what my dad was beaten by, I saw what was happening in the culture and I didn’t like it. So I decided to change it. You’ve got to decide that you’re tired of what’s happening with our culture and our situation. We’ve come here today, men and women of faith, to heal a divided nation.”
Dr. Simone Mason a certified psychotherapist from Connecticut asserted,
“We have an innate nature to love, to care about one another, to look beyond all that we see. It is a learned behavior to hate, to misunderstand, to not respect the difference of all of us because we stop looking at the soul of each of us.”
After the first panel discussion, Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, the Continental Chairman of FFWPU in North America, addressed the convocation attendees. He shared the latest news about Mother Moon’s activities, and the recent events in Washington, D.C. at the International Leadership Conference (ILC).
“All of you who are here, you are not my guests, you are my friends. Your house is my house, and my house is your house. We are that kind of friends, but more than that, we are family members—one family under God. This is the unchanging idea of True Parents, from the beginning of their ministry until now….In their eyes, it is very strange that people, whether they are looking up, looking down, or looking around, are discriminating against one another. That is not God’s idea. That is not God’s teaching.”
The second panel discussion of the afternoon focused on the Marriage Blessing movement. The panel included Pastor T. L. Barrett, Pastor Mark Abernathy, Bishop David Thibodeaux, Rev. Karen Hollie Thibodeaux, Pastor Raymond Giddens, Sr., Rev. Michael Dickerson, and Rev. Levy Daugherty.
Panelists shared about the significance and value of the Marriage Blessing. Several shared about the renewal and vitality they felt in their own marriages after receiving the Blessing. Two pastors on the panel had conducted Marriage Blessings with their own congregations and they saw how this strengthened their couples and grew the size of their congregation. Others pastors shared how this movement is building a God-centered world, starting from God-centered families.
Pastor Giddens and his wife officiated a Marriage Blessing for 61 couples in their church on November 29, 2015. This had a profound impact on the Unity Baptist Church congregation of Las Vegas. He stated,
“When I return to Las Vegas, I will meet with the pastors of 40 churches in my clergy association. We will work together to create a combined Marriage Blessing with all of our congregations. This will help bring back a family-centered America. Mrs. Kay Yamaguchi is a dear personal friend and a good friend of my church. She is a member of the Family Federation and our theological understandings are very different. But we do not dwell on our differences, and work together to make America family again.”
Pastor T. L. Barrett is the Senior Pastor of the Life Center Church of God in Christ in Chicago, Illinois. He stated,
“In order for the church to come to its fullest potential, we must realize its obligation to invest heavily in the family. Because everything that the Author of life, the Giver of life made, in the beginning, He made it in families. You cannot find a bachelor or bachelorette cloud, flower, fish, bird, insect—anything. Everything God made, He made it in families….We must do whatever we have to do to reinforce the consciousness of family.”
During the dinner program, the participants shared songs, and heard testimonies from various participants. Rev. James Elliott, the Senior Pastor of the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, shared how members of the Family Federation For World Peace and Unification were genuine friends, and were living testimonies to the love and kindness of Father and Mother Moon.
Principles of Church Growth
The final session of the day was a presentation by Dr. Calvin Rice on the principles of church growth. Dr. Rice is the Senior Pastor of the New Jerusalem Worship Center in Jamaica, Queens. Before entering the ministry, he served as a manager in the Proctor and Gamble Company. There he learned crucial management skills which helped him grow a Staten Island church from 35 to 2,500 members. He shared valuable insights regarding the spiritual conditions necessary for church growth.*
Saturday morning began with a prayer service, and breakfast. Then participants boarded buses for the one hour ride the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. There the attendees joined over 500 people from around the country and the world at this year’s 21st annual True Family Values Ministry Awards Banquet. The True Family Values Ministry Awards Banquet was founded as a way to support, encourage, and celebrate those who are striving to serve and improve society through the “ideal of God-centered families, living for the sake of others.”
Borough President Eric Adams welcomed everyone to Brooklyn, and was presented an Ambassador for Peace appointment by Mr. Tom McDevitt, Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation-USA.
Mother Moon addresses True Family Values banquet
Mother Moon was the keynote speaker at the 2016 Banquet. Before she came to the podium, Pastor T. L Barrett sang a song to Mother Moon, expressing both deep gratitude and love, as well as a touch of heartfelt humor when he sang, “You are so beautiful to me—and my wife.”
Mother Moon reminded everyone of America’s God-given mission to the world, and exhorted the audience to step up and personally take responsibility for the country and the world. Pastors were asked to participate in the Marriage Blessing and share it with their congregations. God-centered families will be the foundation for the deep rebirth, reconciliation, and healing within the family and in the community.
“Today, clergy members gathered here, we have the mission to properly teach about God. To properly teach about God, we need to understand the history of God’s Providence of Restoration, in particular, who are the central figures. The central figure is the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord of the Second Advent, True Parents. Hence, when it comes to educating and sharing the good news with the members of your congregations, I hope that you can align and unite with True Parents, but also unite with one another, so that people like you who received the Blessing can increase.
“The hope of humanity is to realize a world of peace, freedom, unity, and happiness where we attend God as our Parent. To realize that world, we need to change. What does this mean? This means that we need to move away from the realm of indemnity, to receive the Blessing of True Parents, and to be born again through the Blessing of True Parents. Unless we are born again, we cannot change, isn’t that so?”
Rev. Steven Webb said, “I felt reborn after hearing Mother Moon speak on America and the responsibility of the faith leaders in our nation. As principal of a school, and the pastor of a church, I am already very busy. But it clear that I have to help save America through restoring the family. I will be involved more in the work of ACLC.”
Six couples were recognized for actively embodying the True Family Values in their families, and serving as an example of faith, family and service to their communities. This year’s awardees included Chief George Akeen, Chairman of the Native American Church in Clinton, OK, and his wife, Eleanor Akeen, both of the Cheyenne tribe; the Honorable Una Clarke who served on the New York City Council; Rev. Dr. Calvin Rice, Senior Pastor of the New Jerusalem Worship Center in Jamaica, New York; Archbishop Angelo Rosario and Bishop Nancy Rosario, Co-Pastors of the Church of God’s Children in the Bronx; Bishop Michael Sykes and his wife, Minister Zena Sykes, pastors of the United Missionary Baptist Church in East Orange, New Jersey; and Pastors Mark Williams and Becky Williams of Indiana.
After the True Family Values Awards Banquet, the Convocation moved to the Manhattan Center for a delightful performance by the Little Angels, a Korean Folk Ballet troupe. Their performance was filled with charm, humor and graceful precision. At the conclusion of their performance, the Little Angels presented five medals. Two went to U. N. Ambassadors, and three went to ACLC clergy, Archbishop Sulanch Lewis-Rose, Rev. Sam Mosteller and Rev. V.J. Smith.
Submitted by Mi Young Eaton
* To request a copy of Dr. Rice’s handout , write to administ