Bishop Vinton Anderson with then-Senator Barack Obama (Photo by Wiley Price)

Bishop Vinton Randolph Anderson, community leader and 92nd bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, just two days shy of what would have been his 87th birthday.

Bishop Anderson had been ailing recently, but his death came as tremendous shock to the many people whose lives he touched throughout the years, said Jackie DuPont-Walker, his former executive aid and current International Social Action officer for the AME Church.

“My life has not been the same since getting to work with him,” said DuPont-Walker. “All of the people whose lives he touched have stories just like mine. He always gave them that one word or that one nudge to focus them back on what God meant for them to be.”

His wife of 62 years, Vivienne Anderson, recalled the motto he always reiterated. “His motto as a pastor was, ‘Love the people you serve,’” said Vivienne.

A visitation was held Thursday, July 17 from 9-10:45 a.m., followed by a celebration service at 11 a.m., at St. Paul AME Church, 1260 Hamilton.

Humble beginnings

Born on July 11, 1927 in Somerset, Bermuda, he migrated to the United States in 1947 under the leadership of Bishop R. R. Wright. He had only $700 in his pocket when he arrived.

“He made people understand that he was an immigrant,” said DuPont-Walker. “He had come to this country and this country had embraced him, and he always tried to connect the values of this country with other parts of the world.”

Once in the U.S., he met Vivienne Cholmondeley at Allen Temple AME Church, and they married a few short years after both graduated from Wilberforce University. From there, they began a partnership in marriage and ministry that would span 62 years.

“From their teens until now, they’ve been true partners in their work,” said DuPont-Walker. “Her commitment has been equally as strong as his.”

Excelling in the AME Church

After receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Payne Theological Seminary, he accepted assignments which included pastorates at St. Mark AME Church in Topeka, Kansas (1952-1953), Brown Chapel AME Church in Parsons, Kansas (1953-1955), St. Luke AME Church in Lawrence, Kansas (1955-1959), St. Paul AME Church in Wichita, Kansas (1959-1964) and St. Paul AME Church in St. Louis (1964-1972).

His pastoral ministry included the development of an adult education and summer youth program, development of 162 units of low-income housing in St. Louis County and a role as a vocal advocate in civil rights and ecumenical issues.

“He was a person who was very serious when he wanted to fight for something he thought was worthwhile,” said Vivienne.

“He understood that the Black Church had a unique goal in ensuring the quality of life in the communities in which they were located,” said DuPont-Walker.

He was elected and consecrated the 92nd bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1972.

As a presiding bishop in the AME Church, he was assigned to the 15th Episcopal District (Republic of South Africa) in July 1972 then immediately re-assigned to the 9th Episcopal District in Alabama (1972-1976) and subsequently served in many leadership roles in many districts. He was elected chairperson of the General Board in 1996 and twice served as chair of the General Conference Commission (1984, 2000).

“In the districts he served, he knew the name of every pastor,” said DuPont-Walker. “He knew almost all of the clergy members, and if you attended the teachings and festivals, he knew you by name.”

As chairperson of the Commission on Worship and Liturgy for the A.M.E. Church, he wrote and edited numerous publications, including his 2002 book “My Soul Shouts!”

His ecumenical and interfaith involvements included the World Council of Churches, a constituency of over 560 million representing 330 denominations. He was elected as the organization’s first African-American president in 1991.

Although he officially retired in 2004, he remained heavily involved in church and community affairs.

Farewell to a devoted leader

“He was a disciplined and dedicated servant leader who was extremely devoted to his church,” said his son, Jeffrey Anderson.

“I knew him as my bishop, my boss and my mentor,” DuPont-Walker said. “It was through Bishop Anderson that I now have the opportunity to serve as Social Action officer for the AME church.”

He was also deeply committed to his alma mater, Payne Theological Seminary. He was the longest-serving board member when he became the chair emeritus in 2008 after more than 20 years as chair and 32 years on the board.

“He was unabashedly one of the best alumni that Payne Seminary could have had,” said DuPont-Walker.

Besides his community involvement, he cherished the time he spent with his family, which included sisters Sharon Crenchaw and Madge Daniel (Arthur); foster brother Malcolm Eve (Elvia); sons Vinton Jr., Jeffrey Charles (Edie), Carlton Lawson (Sheila) and Kenneth Robert; grandchildren Natina Louise, Carlton Jr., Jordan Isaiah and Christian Andreas; and many aunts, nieces and nephews.

“We’re all saying to God, ‘There’s a light at this end of this tunnel, we just want to see it,’” said DuPont-Walker. “We look forward to embracing Mrs. Anderson as she carries on Bishop Anderson’s legacy along with the kids.”

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