Following a leadership transition in June 2021, the African Methodist Episcopal Denomination discovered financial irregularities in the denomination’s pastoral pension fund. The scope of these irregularities has recently come to light, as three separate lawsuits have been filed against the denomination and its former head of retirement services, Jerome V. Harris, on behalf of pastoral retirees in three different state jurisdictions. According to court documents, the fund, which was purported to contain $126 million in assets at the time of the leadership transition, may actually contain less than $36 million in assets. Church officials claim that current denomination staff do not understand where the funds went, and only the former head of retirement services would be able to explain the discrepancy in assets.
AARP Foundation legally represents a number of retired clergy from the AME who depend on the pension to pay monthly bills, and the foundation has petitioned to transition the litigation into a class action lawsuit on behalf of as many as 5,000 retirees. The AME department of retirement services issued a statement on March 30, claiming that they continue to cooperate with federal law enforcement and are “committed to making every fund participant whole by restoring their full investment plus interest.” The fact that the AME suspended pension payments to retirees on March 10 casts doubt on whether the fund will ever be able to meet its obligations to retirees, or keep its promises to pay back all that has been lost plus interest.
The circumstances under which the fund’s assets went missing are rather murky, but fraud and incompetent investment strategies are the two greatest possibilities. Federal authorities are involved in a financial crimes investigation, indicating that fraud is suspected. However, court documents indicate that Jerome V. Harris performed his financial management duties with little or no oversight from denomination leadership, resulting in an investment strategy that invested money in a variety of sketchy investments, including Florida land, a solar farm, and a venture capital outlet that no longer exists.
The AME is one of the wokest denominations in the United States, producing large numbers of “Liberationists” like James Cone the father of Black Liberation Theology, a heretical bastardization of the true Gospel. Based on conventional wisdom that those who go woke will eventually go broke, and the fact that one of the major investments was a solar farm, a stereotypical leftist pie in the sky investment, is it possible that the woke chickens have finally come home to roost at the AME? No matter the result of the lawsuits and investigations, one thing is certain, if you follow the typical logic of Black Liberation Theology; the whole retirement system of the AME must have failed not because of Jerome Harris, or his investments, but rather because it is rooted in a system of financial white supremacy that is designed to oppress the clergy of the AME.
Editor’s Note. This article was written by Paul Brown for Protestia.