Brown to preside over A.M.E. Conference

Published 1:18 am Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Rev. James Levert Davis, presiding bishop of Alabama’s Ninth District African Methodist Episcopal Church, is presiding prelate for the Central Alabama Annual Conference.

The conference began Wednesday and ends today at historic Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church. Also present are presiding elders, pastors, the Women’s Missionary Society, lay organizations, the Richard Allen Young Adult Council and leadership at every level of the district.

Brown Chapel pastor, The Rev. James Jackson, is host pastor for the conference, and the Rev. W.T. Lesueur, host presiding elder, and the Rev. E.A. Rouse, associate presiding Eeder, are serving with Davis on the Public Worship Committee.

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Davis is a native of Birmingham and the fifth generation of an A.M.E. family. While a student in elementary school and a member of Our Lady of Fatima church, he says he decided upon the church as his profession.

“Whatever gifts you have you are obligated to use them first to the glory of God,” he said. “I was 12-years-old when I knew that my gift was that of motivation as a professional salesman selling God.”

His first assignment as a pastor came when he was only 15 and entered the pulpit at St. Stephens at Airport in Birmingham.

“I was too young to have a driver’s license, so my mother drove me back and forth to the church,” Davis said.

Ordained as a deacon at 17 and named elder at 19, he entered Morris Brown College in Atlanta, majoring in Institutional Management, and there he met Arelis Beevers of the Dominican Republic, a fellow student. The two were married May 24, 1974.

After graduating from Morris Brown College, Davis entered the Interdenominational Theological Seminary (ITC) in Atlanta. With two years still to finish seminary, he was assigned to a church in Scottsboro and began a lengthy commute.

“Every Thursday afternoon the three of us — my wife, our dog, the Peek-a-Poo that was our gift to each other, and I — drove to Scottsboro from Atlanta and came back on Sunday nights,” Davis said. “Looking back, I remember how we enjoyed talking, being together.”

After four years in the Scottsboro pulpit, Davis was moved to St. Luke in Birmingham, where he stayed for five years. His wife was working in Birmingham, teaching Spanish in public school.

His next move was to Washington Chapel in Tuskegee for a six-year stay, then to Jones Chapel in Fairfield for two years before his assignment to Birmingham and St. John, the first A.M.E. church in Alabama, and a stay of three years. Finally, it was a return to Atlanta and Big Bethel, the oldest church in Atlanta, and 13 years in that pulpit.

In July 2004, Davis was elected the 123rd servant bishop of the Ninth Episcopal District.

“I saw this as an opportunity to do work at another level, to carry the tools of my experience around the world. That excited me,” he said.

Davis was sent to the Northern Provinces of South Africa with his office in Johannesburg and found his assignment “rewarding and beautiful, one of the most encompassing periods of my life.”

During his four-year stay, his wife joined him briefly four times each year, having to return to her Spanish teaching position at Frederick Douglas High School in Atlanta.

Then, on July 11, 2008, Davis was assigned to Alabama, a move that pleased and excited both.

“My job now,” he says, “I view as a planner, a motivator. Mainline churches are struggling today, and I try to help people to understand and appreciate the history and the reason they are needed in churches. My mission is in this district of 243 churches, all but four or five I have already visited.

“My wife and I are in partnership and daily we work from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. doing what we have to do. Mandatory retirement for me is at 75, and I am prepared for it in 2028, when it is time. Then I plan to enjoy my wonderful daughters and grandsons.”

The Davises are parents of two daughters: Nicole Davis Pass, a PhD. candidate in Atlanta, who has two sons, Patrick, 5, and Ashton 3.

Damarus Davis is a teacher in Atlanta and will be married in January to a minister who is still in seminary.

Bishop Davis says he has “no regrets or second thoughts about my career choice. I am thankful for my journey.”