By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
The rumors swirling about the imminent departure of Rev. Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant from the influential Empowerment Temple Church in Northwest Baltimore were confirmed by Bryant himself during a conversation with the AFRO on Nov. 20.
Bryant said he will be starting the next chapter of his ministry at the New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Ga., near Atlanta on Dec. 9. His last sermon at Empowerment Temple will Dec. 2. His final sermon at Empowerment on the first Sunday in December will end a nearly 20-year journey, in which Bryant has led the church to become one of the most influential in the city.
“It was never my church, it’s God’s church,” Bryant told the AFRO. I had to be weaned off of the idea of possession. It’s a defining moment not just for me personally, but for the ministry. The church can’t be built on my personality, but on the principles of Christ.”
The website of New Birth Missionary Church, a megachurch located in Lithonia, Ga., just outside of Atlanta proclaims Bryant’s arrival in December. “Welcome Jamal H. Bryant our new Senior Pastor,” the webpage reads, with a photo of the charismatic Bryant fully engaged in a sermon.
Empowerment Temple will be losing its long-time leader and founding pastor and Bryant will be exiting Baltimore where he has been an integral member of the city’s faith community for many years.
Bryant, 47, founded Empowerment Temple in 2000 with a meager 43 members, but the church quickly grew in congregants and prestige. The church, which is affiliated with the historic African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church now has more than 10,000 members according to its website.
Bryant is the son of Bishop John Richard Bryant, presiding Prelate of the Fourth Episcopal District of the AME Church and the Rev. Cecilia Williams-Bryant, Senior Episcopal Supervisor of the AME Church.
In addition to Jamal Bryant’s foundation in Baltimore’s faith community, he has simultaneously built a record as social justice leader, going back to the 1990’s when he was a youth leader of the NAACP.
New Birth Missionary Church where Bryant will become the new senior pastor, has a congregation of about 25,000 members according to their website, more than twice the size of Empowerment Temple. New Birth’s long-time pastor, Bishop Eddie Long died January 15, 2017 of lung cancer.
Bryant is confident Empowerment Temple will continue to prosper after he exits because of the spiritual foundation he has helped craft.
“I’ve poured enough into the church so that whoever comes next, can take Empowerment Temple to the next level,” he said.