The glory of God shone round about them in Baltimore MD, in July, the third annual (GUF) Global United Fellowship’s 2016 Gathering led by Presiding Prelate Bishop Neil C. Ellis (Sr. Pastor of Mount Tabor Church in Nassau, Bahamas) named four new bishops in a holy spirit led Episcopal Consecration service.
Committed to ongoing evangelism and social ministry around the globe, GUF continues to expand its worldwide mission and agenda. The organization’s theme is, “We are a Fellowship Mandated to Unite, Equip, Enhance, Resurrect and Build.”
Namely, GUF’s newly consecrated bishops are:
- Deanza A. Cunningham, who is the SR Pastor at Christ Community Church in Nassau, Bahamas; Dr. Cunningham’s academic portfolio includes credentials in Secondary Education, a Bachelor’s in Social Studies, Masters degrees in Education and Theology and a Doctorate of Biblical Studies.
- Helen McPhee, Pastor of Agape Full Gospel Baptist Church, became the first female from The Bahamas elevated to the Bishopric. A career banker by profession (30 years in the industry), she holds a Master of Arts and a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Counseling. Her range of counseling extends from Prison Ministry to serving as a Marriage Officer for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
- Jeffrey L. Reaves, SR has been a minister of the Gospel for thirty-seven years. A native New Yorker, for the past 20 years he has served as the Senior Minister of the Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Petersburg, VA. Recipient of numerous awards and sought after for his teaching acumen, he has also served on the board level of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia.
- Rethann (Aretha) Wilson is the Founder and Chief Officer of RAW International Gathering (Remnant Affecting the World for God’s Glory) who for the past 22 years has delivered a transformational ministry affecting countless lives. She has been commended for her tireless works by the New York State Department of Education and received Congressional recognition for service to the community.
The Homily of their Bishopric was conferred by Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, SR Pastor of Los Angeles based Faithful Central Bible Church and GUF’s Vice Presiding Bishop-at-Large, who dissected a compelling call to Christian leadership. Proclaiming its responsibility as equal parts shepherd and sheep, at the core, the duality, from Dr. Ulmer’s exegesis, propels faith leaders to their highest call: guidance, service and compassion. He drew parallels to David the shepherd boy who became King of Israel. Bishop Ulmer unveiled the conundrum of this well-known parable steeped in Psalms 23; he posited leadership versus humility, surmising both of equal value. He declared that this twofold disposition exists bilaterally. He underscored that leaders of just and righteous causes must fellowship with comrades and the affected. He conveyed that camaraderie among sheep [as it were] is vital. In its very essence, Bishop Ulmer delivered a timely message that aptly applies to faith leaders as well as the current plight of community and law enforcement.
The world is reeling in a state of painful turmoil yet with the distractions and obvious hurt; there stands an organized body of faith warriors galvanized to address a myriad of global needs, measure by measure. Founded just three short years ago by Bishop Neil C. Ellis, the organization of over 500 hundred ministry leaders–comprised of bishops, pastors and faith leaders–has amassed a notable compass of achievement to include prison and street ministry, mass feeding programs and bolstering orphanages.
“GUF has put in place a stellar team headed by Pastor Ricardo Miller of Global Children’s Ministry, to give leadership and oversight of The GUF’s Children’s Ministry at our Annual Gathering, as the Director of our Children’s Division,” explained Bishop Ellis.
Praise Fest Ministries
GUF Has partnered with Praise Fest, over the past two-and-a-half years to not only provide clean water to families throughout Africa, but also to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to hundreds of children, who have given their lives to the Lord.
GUF is presently in partnership with Compassion Int’l, having in the past year through this partnership, adopted some 1400 children, from Ecuador, Haiti, Africa, Central and South America, not only sharing the gospel with them, but helping them medically, educationally and bringing them out of poverty.
Living in a world of pain and victory through a life committed to God, clergy galvanize at GUF. Relationships long held and newly formed are enhanced and cultivated. Leading by faith against global affronts, local challenges are also discussed and solutions constructed. Honesty and open embrace are the order of the day; spouses are actively engaged in ministry platforms; clergy support each other in a non-competing environment with shared goals and vision. In the words of Bishop James Dixon (Pastor, Community of Faith Church in Houston, TX), “GUF is a safe place.”
Nationally known clergy and faith leaders’ fellowship with the up-and-coming, with worshippers and those attending early Morning Prayer sessions, daily workshops and nightly church service; the music is heavenly. Bishop George Bloomer (The WORD Network) takes time to expound upon biblical practices and daily walking by faith; Bishop Marvin Sapp ministers in song and viable concepts for institution building. Numerous clergy from distant locales–including other continents–come together on one accord. GUF is a gift to ministry leaders affording them the opportunity to relate to each other with ease.
The times are daunting but not unconquerable.
Bishop Neil Ellis has put forth a plan of action with a ready defense aided by comrades to ensure that the will of God be carried out. As such GUF forges ahead to Greensboro, NC, July 11 – 14, for the 2017 Gathering, despite opposition by some wary of racial unrest. Undergirded by the power of an almighty God, resigned to resolve fear, doubt, disenfranchisement and dividedness among people of faith, God’s will yet prevails.
In 2015, GUF convened in Winston Salem, NC for its annual Gathering. The spirit of God moved mightily. Bishops James Woodson, Sir Walter Mack JR and others in the North Carolina area were stalwart in their planning, looking to build upon the vision set by Presiding Prelate Ellis. Much has happened in North Carolina and the world since the 2015 Gathering. Of the current turmoil making news headlines, Bishop Ellis and the Executive Council of the Global United Fellowship issued a resolution that included the following language–
We call upon the Congress of the United States to review and enact meaningful and effective legislation to curtail the proliferation of guns and assault weapons in our society, even as the 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms is preserved.
We urge the United States Justice Department to invoke an immediate and comprehensive review of policing protocols, and to establish minimum federal compliance standards for state and local policing practices, especially in urban and minority communities.
We call for all GLOBAL UNITED FELLOWSHIP churches, to organize and convene an immediate series of prayer vigils, including collaborative interfaith gatherings, for the strategic purpose of intensifying our prayers, extending our faith and increasing our solidarity for peaceful coexistence, restoration of biblical justice, enactment of criminal justice reforms, and healing of the racial divide which tears at the very fabric of what we call “One Nation, Under God!”
Clergy in North Carolina are in solidarity with GUF leadership.
When I sat with Bishop Sir Walter Mack JR, known for revolutionary work in street ministry within Winston-Salem NC and beyond, he shared insights about street culture and the power of spiritual transformation. “These are good people who made bad choices and bad decisions–all of us have made bad decisions before. I believe that the church is called not to condemn but to show people the way. In some ways, that’s where we [the church] have missed the mark. In some aspects, we believe that somehow, magically, people can wake up and know the way but, we have to show people the way of Christ and to making better decisions.”
Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church, Bishop Mack continued, “We see this conference…this gathering as a platform to show the path and way of which I speak. First, you have to identify with them (people of lesser means and opportunity); often, I tell them, ‘You are not here to have us vilify you at this conference, you’ve had enough of that and that approach hasn’t helped you. We are also not here to tell you that if you attend this conference the world will be a cake walk because that’s not true. Our goal is to inspire hope in you and let you know that God has not given up on you.’”
Strengthen vulnerable populations; reduce the fear of hiring people-at-risk.
GUF partners with community based organizations, local businesses and corporate entities to affect positive change in communities, some hard hit by illegal drug trade. Bishop Mack addresses that scenario stating, “It’s less about the reticence that some have to hire former drug dealers rather their inherent limitations, transportation being among them. If I’m training a guy for a job and two weeks later he gets locked up, those limitations have to be addressed because employee training is an investment.”
Calling collectively upon our better selves to give back to those who need help most, Bishop Mack underscores the duty of community reinvestment from civic, metropolitan and private stakeholders. “Those in hiring positions have an obligation to give back and to give these individuals another chance–all of us need another chance. We are not looking to beg employers for jobs rather work with them to provide stable communities through employment opportunities.” He cited an example of church shoe shine stations on Sundays as a viable means of producing steady income. “It also allows us to stay in touch with them because we don’t want the church viewed only as a place to get a job. There are other obligations as well such as weekly bible study, participation in mentoring programs and the like. We can’t just tell a drug dealer to stop selling drugs without showing them a better way.”
Academic pursuit is also a factor.
The shoe shine opportunity is just a start on the road to transformation explains Bishop Mack. “We’ve had young men leave the gang life for a better way. Then they go back and tell their friends. We helped a young man get into college; he went on and finished a degree program. Now he’s committed to give back, looking for ways to help others like him. And it wasn’t easy for him. Once he decided to leave the gang, yes, they jumped him out but broke his jaw. He started the first day of college with a broken jaw. But we stood by him every step of the way, helped him buy his books; spiritual and economic support are vital.”
Celebrate success whenever possible.
“We don’t give up on them and we don’t let go, especially if they really want to seek a better way,” Bishop Mack asserts. Lettered with an earned Bachelor, Master and Doctorate degrees, a published author, former guest lecturer and round table participant at Oxford University in Oxford, England that focused on the role of religion in education and the government—Bishop Mack is a change agent.
“We’ve held graduation ceremonies for former drug dealers who’ve successfully completed our programs because many of them have never graduated from anything.
“Bishop Neil C. Ellis has given us a mandate for Global United Fellowship. He has shared his vision with us on ways we can bolster our collective ministries locally and globally. It is an honor to follow his leadership and to serve with him.”
GUF’s visionary leadership is solid.
Bishop Neil C. Ellis answered this high calling of global leadership having served in pastoral ministry for nearly thirty years. A favorite son of The Islands of The Bahamas, in the three short years since forming GUF, membership has tripled. Yet in its infancy and in need of additional support, both financial and corporate, to tackle the growing demands of global ministry, he is not deterred rather states, “I am so encouraged by the support of this body’s membership.”
GUF Membership Growth
On GUF’s inception in November of 2013, the first initial Membership Database consisted of 125 member pastors and their churches. GUF has experienced an amazing growth, now hosting a membership of over 700 churches, in 27 countries, and on four continents, continuing to grow.
To date, Global United Fellowship is present in these countries:
- The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guinea, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Myanmar Burma, Pakistan, Philippines
- Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Turks & Caicos, Uganda, United States, Zimbabwe and Zambia
“When God planted the vision of GUF within me, I enlisted those capable to assist in carrying it out; they have not disappointed. We endeavor to make Global United Fellowship a body of all peoples across the globe from every hue and background. This is the will of GOD.”
His closing message at GUF titled, “The Will of God,” was taken from Judges 14, illuminating the conquering feats of Samson, by his bare hands, through the will of God. Though misunderstood, at odds with his parents about a foray into the land of the Philistines, outnumbered and ill-equipped, Samson came out the victor over men and beasts. It was a powerful call-to-action that infused a transforming praise to God’s triumphant glory.
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