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"There will be a revival
in the A.M.E. Church.
It will stir up on the inside
and bubble over to the outside
...It will start with Jesus."

52nd General Conference of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church

ABOUT

About Rev. Byrd

Rev. Vernon R. Byrd Jr. is the son of the late Bishop Vernon R. Byrd, Sr. and retired Episcopal Supervisor Theora Byrd. He is a child of the parsonage and attended schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Bermuda. He is a graduate of Central High School in Philadelphia. He received his BA degree in Economics and Sociology from Harvard University. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. And he received his Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.

From a young age Rev. Byrd was active in virtually every area of the church. He was spiritually nurtured in the Sunday School and the YPD. Rev. Byrd is a composer, singer and musician. As a teenager he began directing choirs and has led choirs at Morris Brown AME in Philadelphia, St Paul AME Cambridge, MA and Hemmingway Memorial AME in Maryland.

After much resistance, Rev. Byrd, finally answered the call to preach, and under the unction of the Holy Spirit, was ordained to serve the A.M.E. Church. His walk in ministry started out at Hemmingway Memorial in Maryland where he answered the call under the late Rev. Dr. William R. Porter. Prior to being assigned to St. Matthew AME Church, Rev. Byrd was the pastor of Grant Chapel AME in Trenton NJ and St. Paul AME in South Bound Brook NJ.

As an attorney, Rev. Byrd served as Assistant General Counsel and Vice President of Legal Education at Johnson & Johnson. Prior to that he was a Senior Counsel for The New York Times. He is a member of the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York Bar Associations. At the General Conference in July of 2012, the AME Church elected Rev. Byrd to serve as a member of the Judicial Council. His colleagues on the Council elected him Secretary for the current quadrennium.

In his leisure Rev. Byrd likes to golf and to hike. On September 11 of 2014 Rev. Byrd reached another summit when he successfully climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. In May of 2017 Rev. Byrd also successfully climbed Machu Picchu in Peru.

Rev. Byrd is married to the Rev. Dr. Melinda Contreras-Byrd, and they are blessed to be the proud parents of two daughters, Kamaria and Alexa.

Last but not least, Rev Byrd is simply a child of God who strives to live so that the world might see the love of Jesus and give God the glory.

Request To Preach
Journey

The AME Journey

I am a life-long AME.  As a son of the late Bishop Vernon R. Byrd Sr. and retired Supervisor Theora L. Byrd, my life was shaped by the itinerancy.  I was born in Seaford Delaware in March of 1959 when my father was the pastor of Macedonia AME Church.  As my father was moved I got to appreciate some of the length and breadth of the AME Church.  As a child of the parsonage I was blessed to be nurtured and influenced in such diverse places as St. Paul AME Bermuda, Macedonia AME in Camden NJ, Morris Brown AME in Philadelphia and St. James AME, Newark NJ.  The lessons that I learned in those places whether as a YPDer, member of the Sunday School or being a director of the Youth Choirs, gave me a great foundation for success.  But it was more than lessons.  At each of those places I developed life-long friends, who I count as part of my extended family and there were countless AMEs who corrected me and encouraged me.  I can still hear the late Ethel McNair telling me as a teenager, “son, you need to get some info under that afro!”  And I found an amazing woman at St. James Newark, Melinda Contreras and eventually asked her to marry me.  She said yes!  And God has blessed us to be married for over 30 years with two beautiful daughters Kamaria and Alexa.

As I matured and went off to college and later law school there were two other churches that had a major impact on my life: St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge and Hemmingway Memorial. Under the dynamic leadership of the then pastor Rev. Dr. LeRoy Attles, Sr., St. Paul was the place where I developed a sense of my faith away from the eyes and ears of my parents. I was in college then, finally on my own. It seemed to me like a great time to play the role of the prodigal son—and play it I did. But Rev. Attles and St. Paul brought me back home. Well to be more accurate, I came running back and they graciously took me in and gave me a role to play in leading the Inspirational Choir and the Angels Without Wings Choir.

At Hemmingway Memorial my life changed. I was minding my own business working as a paralegal at a law firm in Washington DC when I received a call from my friend Grainger Browning who asked me to come to this little out of the way church in Maryland where he was on the ministerial staff. He wanted me to play for a choir. Rev. Browning ignored my expressions of reluctance and told me what time he was going to pick me up that Sunday. The pastor was the late Rev. William Robert Porter. It was under his liberating and compassionate preaching of the Good News, I accepted the call to preach. He taught me the importance of preaching the Good News because people had heard the bad news all week long. I received my license from an extraordinary preacher and servant of God, the late Presiding Elder Walter Hildebrand. And I was admitted on trial under the erudite leadership of Bishop John Hurst Adams. Rev. Porter got upset with me when I told him I was going to law school instead of seminary but that too was part of God’s plan for my life.

Finally, I will be forever grateful to Bishop Gregory G. M. Ingram for entrusting me with the leadership of one of the pillars of African Methodism, St. Matthew AME Church in Philadelphia. There were many pastors he could have chosen, but he saw something in me and I am humbled. What an extraordinary people. What an amazing legacy. We are honored and proud to lead in the work of Jesus Christ at St. Matthew.

And now my journey continues with another calling on my life: to serve God and the church by being a spiritual servant at the Episcopal level. Leadership sets priorities, determines the cultural norms and values of organizations. If the church bestows that honor on me, the center of my leadership will be Jesus, his love, his values, and his standards. It is his church. He is our foundation. Help Me Lift Jesus.

Engagements

Upcoming Preaching Engagements

Wilmington District Conference

Pastor Byrd will be preaching the Wilmington District Conference in Willmington, DE.

Newark District Conference

Pastor Byrd will be preaching the closing worship of the Newark District Conference in Newark, NJ.

Tuskegee, AL

Pastor Byrd will be preaching in Tuskegee, AL.

Letters

Letters From Rev. Byrd

  • WE ARE HEALERS

  • THE TRUST DIVIDEND

Published by the Christian Recorder, March 15, 2019

Rev. Vernon R. Byrd, Jr., JD

1st Episcopal District

WE ARE HEALERS

There are a great many sick people in the church. We are a body of angry, anxious, abused, and depressed people. Sick folk sing on the choir, teach Church School, usher on Sunday morning, evangelize, serve in the food pantry, and preach the Word. Indeed, all of us are wounded in one way or another. Here is the mind-blowing good news: God brings us together in fellowship and communion and gives us the power to be healers of one another. That power comes through loving one another as Jesus loves us: forgiving seventy times seven and turning the other cheek when smitten on one cheek. If you are compelled to go one mile, go two. All of these add up to a call to be gracious to one another especially when it is difficult. Ephesians 4:2-3 puts it this way, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Is this difficult to do when all of us have limited patience and some think of gentleness and humility as weakness? Yes. However, if we do not even try to live out the radical love of Jesus then the angry get angrier and the depressed get even more depressed. Without love, sin just keeps replicating sin. The church becomes more toxic than tonic. Who wants to be a part of a church where you get just as hurt there as you do in the world? An example of our collective healing power is found in the second chapter of Mark. It contains a story about four men who carried their paralyzed brother to Jesus. The house where Jesus was preaching was so crowded that they could not get in through the door. So they agreed upon an approach that was both creative and disruptive. They decided to break a hole in the roof and lower their brother down to Jesus. Mark 2:5 says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Before the man was lowered down to Jesus, the church had compassion on him. While everybody else was getting blessed, church members refused to leave him out there by himself. Their collective compassion leaned in his direction. Not only was this church compassionate, but it was also coordinated. They had to be on one accord about the route they would take and the pace they would go. If they had not been coordinated, the man would have gotten even more injured by good intentions without good planning. Finally, the church was Christ-focused. They did not stop and do protocol. They were too focused on getting the man to Jesus to spend time on less important things. If we more deliberately embrace our identity as healers and operate in the radical love of Jesus, God will look down on our collective faith and heal each of us. The Rev. Vernon R. Byrd, Jr. is the pastor of St. Matthew AME Church in Philadelphia and a member of the Judicial Council of the AME Church. He holds the Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University, the Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and the Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. A lawyer by profession, he served as senior legal counsel to the New York Times and assistant general counsel at Johnson and Johnson Corporation. He is married to the Rev. Dr. Melinda Contreras-Byrd and has two daughters, Kamaria and Alexa.

Byrd for Bishop #405. Help me lift Jesus.

Rev. Vernon R. Byrd, Jr., JD

1st Episcopal District

THE TRUST DIVIDED

Building a culture of trust should be a key imperative for any organization. When I worked in corporate America, every other year we would be asked to complete a survey that would include questions about trust. We would typically be asked, “On a scale of 1 to 5 How well do you trust management? How safe do you feel raising issues without fear of retaliation? How well are we living up to our values?” We would answer anonymously, and the results were reported in such a way as not to focus on or embarrass individuals. It was solely about taking the temperature of the culture and it was a big deal. The results would be reported to everyone in the company from members of the board of directors to employees who worked in the cafeteria. Action was taken as a direct result of the overall responses. It was important because the company saw a direct relationship between internal trust and external success. Could such a survey be taken in the church? Whatever the answer, three things are certain. 1) Internal trust has consequences for the impact of our external corporate witness. 2) People will let you know their answer to the trust question whether they are formally asked or not. If there is little trust they will disengage, leave, not give, and speak ill of the church. On the other hand, if there is a high level of trust, not only will they stay, but they will also encourage others to join, they will participate more fully, they will more readily give, and they will speak well of the church. 3) People respond to what gets measured. Good companies have made trust a strategic imperative. The church should as well. But to be clear, it takes more than a survey. It takes agreement throughout the organization that building a culture of trust is a priority. It takes being intentional. It takes being consistent throughout the body about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. It takes being transparent about finances. It takes reducing our politics and increasing our faith. And it takes remembering that Jesus said, “All things are possible to them that believe.” It is my prayer that together we will imagine a church with a culture of trust and work diligently towards that reality. The Rev. Vernon R. Byrd, Jr. is the pastor of St. Matthew AME Church in Philadelphia and a member of the Judicial Council of the AME Church. He holds the Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University, the Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and the Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. A lawyer by profession, he served as senior legal counsel to the New York Times and assistant general counsel at Johnson and Johnson Corporation. He is married to the Rev. Dr. Melinda Contreras-Byrd and has two daughters, Kamaria and Alexa.

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