No convocation without representation.
That isn’t Bishop Brandon Porter’s official campaign slogan, but it neatly summarizes his main campaign platforms.
Porter is one of 23 candidates for the 12-member General Board of Bishops of the Church of God in Christ, and the only candidate from Memphis.
There hasn’t been a Memphian on the Memphis-based denomination’s presiding board since Bishop G.E. Patterson died in March 2007.
Two years later, the Memphian-less board voted to move the denomination’s 105th annual Holy Convocation from Memphis to St. Louis, where it is meeting this week for the third consecutive year. The previous 102 were in Memphis, where the denomination was founded in 1907.
“Memphis is our headquarters city, our spiritual home, our Jerusalem,” said Porter, 53, pastor of Greater Community Temple Church of God in Christ.
“I’m not saying the board wouldn’t have moved the convocation with a Memphis representative, but I can’t see us getting the convocation back without one. Memphis needs to be represented on the board. I love the church and I love Memphis. I want to be a bridge between them.”
This will be COGIC’s first quadrennial election away from Memphis. Porter is counting on Memphis-area bishops, their wives, elders, pastors, supervisors and other eligible General Assembly delegates to travel to St. Louis to vote.
Each delegate can vote for 12 board candidates. The top 12 vote-getters are elected.
The 2012 Holy Convocation opened Monday evening, but the campaigns will go into high gear over the weekend. Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake of Los Angeles will deliver his annual address Sunday. The General Assembly opens Monday, and all candidates will get a chance to speak. The election will be held Tuesday at the St. Louis convention center.
Blake, General Secretary Joel H. Lyles of Maryland, and Treasurer Charles Harrison Mason Patterson of Memphis are expected to be re-elected to four-year terms.
The drama will come with the General Board election. Three of the board’s 12 seats are open this year — an unusually high number. General Board members stand for re-election every four years, but most, once elected, serve for life.
This year, two longtime board members are stepping down for health reasons — Bishop W.W. Hamilton of California, and Bishop Samuel Green of Virginia. A third, Bishop Chandler David Owens of Atlanta, died in 2011.
“This is quite a change for the church,” said Bishop David Allen Hall of Memphis, one of 15 Trustee Board members. “We are preparing for a major turnover in leadership. Most of the current (board) members are in their 70s or 80s. Bishop Porter represents a new generation.”
Porter is well-known in church circles across the country. His father, the late Bishop W.L. Porter, chauffeured COGIC’s founder, C.H. Mason, in the 1950s. He spent the following decades helping presiding bishops plan and organize the annual convocation. He also served briefly on the General Board.
Brandon Porter has served three terms on COGIC’s 15-member Trustee Board, finishing third in voting four years ago. He was the denomination’s national public relations director for 12 years, and national youth president for four.
“Bishop Porter represents a new generation of leaders,” said Hall, who is supporting his fellow bishop’s bid for General Board. “These younger men have a broader perspective on the world, and a deeper appreciation for Bishop Blake’s urban initiatives.
“It’s also critically important to have somebody from Memphis on the board. This is the headquarters of the church. We need someone on the board who will help us bring the convocation back to our Jerusalem.”
Porter’s bid also has the backing of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
“His efforts reach individuals beyond the church with everything from poverty programs and prison ministries to summer camps for youth of the community,” Wharton said.
Both mayors say Porter’s election to the board matters to Memphis.
“We hope one day to get the convocation back home to Memphis, and so it’s important for COGIC’s headquarters city to be represented,” Luttrell said.