rev-john-white_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE —After serving as pastor for Mount Hermon A.M.E. Church since 2001, the Rev. John F. White was recently named the 130th bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the nation's oldest and largest African-American denomination.

White, 60, officially started his position on July 11 and will head the national organization's Office of Ecumenical and Urban Affairs.

He received the title during the denomination's national convention held last month in St. Louis.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to utilize the gifts that God has given me,” said White, a Delray Beach native.

In his new role, White, who previously led Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Miami's Overtown for 13 years, said he wants to tackle some of the issues facing many black churches today.

“I think we have a number of churches that serve as urban centers and the communities are struggling with issues like housing, health, gang violence, the economy,” he said. “We need to lift up these issues in the urban community.”

White is a theologian and a scholar. According to the church’s web site, he is a graduate of Carver High School in Delray Beach. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Edward Waters College; a Master of Education from Florida Atlantic University; a Master of Divinity from the  Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta; and the Doctorate of Education degree in Organizational
Leadership from Nova Southeastern University where his dissertation was “The Impact of the Black Church on the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the Black Communities of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.” 

In addition to his new post, White remains focused on managing Mount Hermon's growth. The congregation now stands at 1,200 members and continues to thrive, he said. The church is also getting ready to move into a 17,000-square-foot, three-floor building which will house classrooms, administrative offices and a multi-purpose room.  The new facility is located just south of the current site near downtown Fort Lauderdale. White said the new building provides an opportunity to “service the community.”

“The Lord has tremendously blessed this congregation,” he said. “Church cannot just be a Sunday morning experience if this institution is going to grow.”

On a recent Sunday morning, White's voice boomed from the pulpit as he preached to the congregation about Matthew 15:32-39, the biblical passage where Jesus performed a miracle by feeding thousands of people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.

“When you take your little bit and look to God, you'd be surprised what God can do,” he said. “God can take a little bit and make something out of it.”

After the service, some Mount Hermon church members talked about White's new high-profile position.

“I think he's an excellent choice to be bishop,” said Davie resident John Glover, who has attended the church with his wife, Pauline, for the past six years. “He's a progressive, forward-thinking leader. He's been a very good pastor and he's done a lot of good things in the community. The church has grown tremendously since he's been here.”  

Doris Peterson, who has attended Mount Hermon for the  past 55 years, said White has reached out to children since he began leading the church, such as starting a youth ministry and summer camps. 

“Sometimes, when you get older you forget about the young people, but he's done a lot for them,” she said. “He's a spiritual leader. We love him.”

Photo: Rev. John F. White