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A tribute to Bishop Vinton Anderson

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Yours truly was profoundly saddened to learn of the death of my former neighbour and close friend, African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Rt Rev Vinton Randolph Anderson BA, MA, MD, PhD.

Over the decades I have written volumes about him and how he put Bermuda on top of the world.

I confess it was difficult deciding what to write for this feature, so I decided to excerpt the following introduction I rendered at Grandparents Sunday Service at Allen Temple AME, Somerset, on September 13, 2009.

I am grateful for this privilege and honour to present the Man of God we like to think of as “our very own ‘Bishop',” Vinton Randolph Anderson.

When asked if I would like to introduce Bishop Anderson I said yes without any hesitation thinking “that would be easy” because I knew I would draw from my archives, some of the things I had over the years written about him:

I summarised at the outset how he was an internationally acclaimed theologian, philosopher, a prolific writer, publisher and editor of numerous books and journals; a church builder, one time President, Chancellor of historic Wilberforce University and Payne Theological Seminary, both just outside Dayton, Ohio.

I mentioned our great pride in hailing the fact that this son of the soil, was born and bred on the top of Sound View Road, Somerset and nurtured in the Amen Corner of Allen Temple as “a Son of Allen”; and that he was the first Bermudian elected to the distinguished Bench of Bishops of the AME Church, being its 92nd Bishop.

I realised that as the occasion was Grandparents Sunday I needed to be much more interpretative for the benefit of the young folk (and not so young as well).

I thought I could be brief, be able to take my seat by extolling how his oratorical skills and his prolific and scholarly writings had made him one of the great men of our times. Having raised believing that “as a man thinketh, so is he”, I was moved to re-read his book My Soul Shouts! The Spiritual Wisdom — the Thinking of Bishop Anderson.

He tells in his own words just who he is, the first line reads:

“I am a bishop in the church, but to me that is not prestige or power; it is a privilege of service. My distinction is the same as that of every other

Christian: first a person, then a servant of Christ.”

I felt I would be running the risk of alienating a good friend if I went on and on saying the many things I was constrained to say.

Then on reflection I thought there could be no more profound a statement of humility as that so eloquently recorded by the man himself.

Humility is the first sign of greatness, I have been taught.

Having been buoyed by that realisation — humility is the first sign of greatness, feel more bullish now than ever extolling our Bishop as not just great, but GREAT, GREAT! What else could he be?

It was some sixty two years ago he and two other young men stood before altar of St Paul AME Church in Hamilton and humbled themselves in the presence of family and friends answering the charge and clarion call from Bishop Wright to go to Wilberforce to study.

I later realised the call was to study for the ministry.

It was at Allen Temple his pilgrimage began.

It had taken him across the threshold of every continent in the world spreading the gospel and the immutable word of God.

He had travelled, from China to Chile; to Russia; the Middle East; Africa, Australia and New Zealand, spreading the gospel, all over the United States and, Canada.

Most notable was the series of sermons he delivered before a capacity crowd of 150,000 people at the Mar Thomas Convention in India in 1993.

It was in Somerset his academic career began, at Sandys Secondary School, five years at the Dockyard apprenticed as a carpenter (being the first-class carpenter that he was, he could have made a lot of money if he stayed on and worked at his tools in Bermuda).

He went on to Wilberforce University, University of Kansas, Yale University, piling on the degrees with honours as well as honorary.

He was truly God-gifted! (After some serious soul-searching I realised I would have missed my calling, if I had followed through with Bishop Wright magnanimous offer).

Vinton had the youth and exuberance to propel him to the Pastorates of various churches, far from home in the states of Kansas and Missouri and elsewhere.

For a period of 32 years after our illustrious, home-grown son, spiritual leader and advisor became Bishop he served in five different Districts within the AME Connection.

At the same time, his singularly outstanding ecumenical activities culminated in his election as First Vice President of the World Methodist Council for the North American Region, and selection as a Delegate to the World Methodist Council and Conference.

The pinnacle of his success came in 1991 when in Adelaide, Australia he was elected to a seven-year term as President of the World Council of Churches.

This august body consist of 560 million members worldwide, representing 322 denominations, Muslim, Jewish and of course the world's Christians.

Noting how he was recipient of numerous civic awards and citations most notable of which included the:

Scroll of Merit Award from the National Medical Association of America;

Daniel A Payne Award For Ecumenical Leadership, by the AME Church;

American Black Achievement Award;

Citation published in Ebony Magazine.

Throughout his dizzying journey Bishop Anderson has been accompanied by his wife of some sixty years.

In My Soul Shouts! He merely refers to her as his “Soul Mate”.

The whole world knows that the vivacious Viviene, an intellectual in her own right, mother of their four sons is the apple of his eye.

My brothers and sisters, many are called but few are chosen, I noted.

It is a pleasure, privilege and honour to present my one time close neighbour, highly esteemed friend, our most distinguished compatriot, the Right Reverend Vinton Randolph Anderson.

The man who put Bermuda on top of the world, when he and Vivienne went there themselves. My brothers and sisters, many are called but few are chosen.

It is a pleasure, privilege and honour to present to you this morning, my highly esteemed friend and an outstanding son of the soil, the Right Honourable Bishop Vinton Randolph Anderson.

This fleeting moment has thrust upon me an opportunity to speak of a great man whom I regard as a world renowned theologian, a prolific ecclesiastical scholar, a preeminent Bishop, author, and above all a friend.

In recognition of his outstanding ecumenical outreach and his administrative skills, our home grown son recorded a historical first for our country, when he was elevated to the Bishopric in 1972, when he was elected the 92nd Bishop of the AME Church.

For over a period of 32 years, this illustrious spiritual leader and advisor, served in five different Districts within the AME Connection.

In further pursuit of his ecumenical activities, he was formerly appointed first vice president of the World Methodist Council for the North American Region, and member of the executive committee and delegate to the World Methodist Council and Conference.

He was also appointed a member of the Governing Board of the US National Council of Churches from 1984 to 1989.

As an international leader, he reached the pinnacle of his success in 1991 when he was appointed President of the World Council of Churches and served in that capacity for a period of seven years.

This august body consist of 560 million members worldwide, and, representing 322 denominations.

As a renowned international figure, our home grown son has travelled and preached throughout the world.

Since securing his first charge in 1951, this man of God was truly on the battle field for over a period of sixty years.

He has travelled to China, Chile, Russia, the Middle East, Africa and New Zealand, spreading the Gospel.

As a prolific writer and scholar, our noble friend had written, published, and edited several articles and books, the most recent of which has been: My Soul Shouts: The Spiritual Wisdom of Bishop Anderson.

He appeared on national television in the United States on, Face The Nation and Tony Brown's Journal and, is currently listed in:

Who's Who in America, Who's Who Among Black Americas; Who's Who in Religion and Who's Who in the Caribbean.

The apple of his eye for the past 62 years was his loving and vivacious wife, Vivienne. Together, they produced four sons.

It is a privilege in honouring my highly esteemed friend and an outstanding son of the soil, the Right Honourable Bishop Vinton Randolph Anderson.

Due to a technical problem, The Island Notebook column by Ira Philip was not printed on Saturday.

Vinton Anderson was the first Bermudian elected to the distinguished Bench of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopalian Church, being its 92nd Bishop. Bishop Anderson was born on Somerset Island, and raised in Allen Temple AME family and rose to lead not only the AME Church, but also was head of the ecumenical World Council of Churches throughout the 1990s
Somerset-born Rt Rev Dr Vinton Randolph Anderson and his wife of more than 60 years, the former Vivienne Chomondoley, also of Somerset
<p>Vinton Anderson — a life of service</p>

Chronology

1927 — Born on Somerset Island, Sandys Parish, Bermuda on July 11

1951 — ordained itinerant deacon

1952 — ordained itinerant elder; married Vivienne L Cholmondoley

1972 — elected 92nd bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

1972 — 76 — presiding bishop for the Ninth Episcopal District

1976 — 84 — presiding bishop for the Third Episcopal District

1984—88 elected as a member of the Office of Ecumenical Relations and Development, and chairman of the Bicentennial Celebration

1988 — 96 — presiding bishop for the Fifth Episcopal District

1991, receives Religion Award, American Black Achievement Awards

1992 — receives Daniel A Payne Award for Ecumenical Leadership by AME Church

1993 — receives Scroll of Merit Award by National Medical Association

1996 — 2004 — presiding bishop for the Second Episcopal District

2004 — retires at the 47th African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference at Indianapolis, Indiana

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Published July 15, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated July 14, 2014 at 10:01 pm)

A tribute to Bishop Vinton Anderson

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