FORT LAUDERDALE — Bishop John F. White, the 130th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and a native of Boynton Beach, is on a mission that is taking his efforts global.
His responsibilities to the AME Church include representing the denomination in all Christian unification functions; chairing the governing board of the National Council of Churches for the AME Church, and serving on the executive board of the World Methodist Council.
“I engage in dialogue with people of all faiths, discussing issues related to world order,” White explained. “This includes race relations, the Middle East and the collaboration on and writing of a letter to [President Barack] Obama regarding opening travel to Cuba.”
As a group [the National Council of Churches], White said, “we ensure that the voices of people of faith regarding these issues are heard.”
White, who was named bishop last July, will be honored at the Sixth Annual Sistrunk Historical Gala, billed as an evening of tropical splendor. The event will take place on Saturday, May 30, at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.
During the annual search to recognize individuals, the Sistrunk Festival Committee “looks for people who are outstanding in their field,” said Denise Rodgers-Foster, the Sistrunk Festival’s executive director. “In discovering all that it takes for one to serve as bishop, we thought he would be an excellent person to recognize from the religious community.”
Rodgers-Foster also described White’s contribution to the South Florida community as “noteworthy.”
Sistrunk Boulevard has a historical place in the community, White, 61, said, “So being one of the honorees is a distinct honor.’’
White is the former senior pastor of Mount Hermon AME Church in Fort Lauderdale, and previously led Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Miami's Overtown community.
He said, “We as a people can never afford our history to be diminished. So we should always take the time to reflect on our past. It should always be a part of our memory.”
Prior to being named as bishop, White also served on Gov. Charlie Crist’s Blueprint Commission on Juvenile Justice.
“I am still active and aware of what’s going on here, but most of my work now is global,” he said.
White said he is pleased that President Obama has created a faith initiative, as it “allows us to have access to the White House that we didn’t have before.’’
He continued: “We now have the opportunity to deal with issues on racism, and trafficking issues where people are being sold. The world can now know that the faith community has a voice, and can be made aware of our position on global issues.”
President Obama in February signed an order establishing a White House office of faith-based initiatives, which is slated to bring government and religious groups together to provide social services.
If there is a need or an opportunity to travel, White said, “We would go to Palestine or Cuba; wherever we are needed.”
Closer to home, in August, White said he, along with other members of the National Council, will visit the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
“There are many places in New Orleans still in need of redevelopment,’’ he said. “We need to see what we can do.”
Others to be honored at the Historical Gala include Dillard High School Coach Johnny Alexander, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award; Andy Ansola, president and CEO of Broward Caribbean Carnival; Broward School Board Member Robin Bartleman; businessman George Burrows; Jorge Rios, a teacher at Wingate Oaks Exceptional Child Center in Fort Lauderdale; the Fort Lauderdale Police Department; and the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Photo: Bishop. John F. White
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Sixth Annual Sistrunk Historical Gala.
WHERE: Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
WHEN: Saturday, May 30. Reception, 6 p.m., dinner program, 7 p.m.
COST: Tickets are $75, advance payment required.
CONTACT: To RSVP, call 954-687-3472.