After 20 years at the helm of Goler Memorial AME Zion Church, Dr. Seth Lartey is assuming a new title and embarking on a new chapter in his life.
Lartey, a native of Monrovia, Liberia, will soon be making a triumphant homecoming to the Mother Land as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s newly-elected bishop of the Western West Africa Episcopal District. The married father of three was consecrated as the 100th bishop during 49th Quadrennial of the General Conference of the AME Zion Church in Charlotte on July 24.
As bishop, Lartey will preside over 6,700 congregations and roughly 100,000 people in the West African nations of Ghana, Togo, Liberia and the Ivory Coast. He and his wife Jacqueline plan to divide their time between Africa and the United States – where their children will remain – and Episcopal headquarters in Ghana and Liberia.
“I feel excited because it helps me link North Carolina, and Winston-Salem specifically, to where I am (now),” said Lartey. “We will have a platform for evangelism, education, economic development and empowerment.”
Lartey said he will encourage his congregations to reach beyond the walls of their churches and think beyond the boundaries of traditional evangelism and outreach. He plans to bring a greater focus to basic human needs such as feeding the hungry, caring for widows and building communities.
“The church can no longer be just a call to worship and a benediction type of an institution …We will return to basic Christianity that looks at being your brother’s keeper,” Lartey declared. “We want people to experience the Kingdom of God here so when they get to Heaven, they will recognize it.”
James Hunder, another Liberian native and member of Goler Memorial for the past eight years, says the Western West Africa District is fortunate to have Lartey as their leader.
“These countries, they have been blessed to get a bishop that has a lot of vision, a lot of energy and a lot of connections,” he declared. “These countries stand to benefit a lot from his bishopship. They are going to see a new bishop that will bring a new day to this land.”
Lartey has overseen the creation of the Goler Institute for Development and Education, Inc., the Goler Community Development Corporation and the youth empowerment organization Operation Will Power during his time at Goler. He says he will draw from his experiences in revitalizing the historic Goler Depot area as he hashes out plans for the district. He believes his new position will provide ample opportunities for local residents to collaborate with those in the nations he now represents.
“For the local community, this now allows us to be at a level and a position to see more, to do more, to expand more and to provide more opportunities for all of us,” said Lartey, who plans to travel to Africa this week to begin assessing the district’s immediate needs. “Whatever it is that we have done here, we can now expand it. The opportunities are enormous.”
The Piedmont Episcopal District will conduct a search for a new pastor to lead Goler, Lartey said. He plans to retain his position at Goler until the end of October.
“That will allow us to begin to identify a new path,” he said. “We do not want any lapse in the work that Goler is doing in the community as well as in the church.”
Hunder said Lartey’s departure will be bittersweet for his congregants.
“We were praying for him to get the bishopship, but now we are sad that he’s leaving,” said Hunder, who hails from Liberia’s Todee District. “We are very hopeful, we are very optimistic that God is going to touch the conference to send us someone the likes of Dr. Lartey.”
Watching Lartey return to their native Liberia with the charge of bringing about positive change is a source of pride for him, and for many in the community, concluded Hunder, the founder and president of the Liberian Organization of the Piedmont.
“Speaking on behalf of the Liberian community and the organization, we are just so proud of him,” he declared. “We pray that God will continue to guide him, protect him and lead him.”