Garrett-Evangelical News

Bishop Edsel Ammons and Helen Fanning Ammons Receive Eliza Garrett Awards

EVANSTON, Ill., November 2009 -- Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary presented Eliza Garrett Distinguished Service Awards to Bishop Edsel A. Ammons and Helen Fanning Ammons during a recent service welcoming the new director of the Center for the Church and the Black Experience, which Bishop Ammons helped establish 39 years ago.

ammons-amersonThe award is presented in the name and spirit of Eliza Clark Garrett, who was the inspiration and chief benefactor/founder of Garrett Biblical Institute. Founded in 1853, the school has grown and evolved into Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. The award is given to honor persons who by their imaginative acts of communal restoration and healing reflect God's mission and purposes for our world.

After earning a bachelor of divinity degree from Garrett Theological Seminary in 1957, Edsel Ammons began his ministry in the African-Methodist (AME) tradition before transferring to the Methodist Episcopal Church (which became The United Methodist Church in 1968). His success in his first assignment to an inter-racial church led to his appointment as the organizing Director of Urban Work that involved 14 Methodist congregations in Rockford. As a result of his visionary leadership there in what became known as the "Rockford Experiment," which still serves the community today, he was appointed Director of the Church in the City in downtown Chicago.

In 1967 Garrett invited him to join the faculty as professor of urban ministry, beginning one of the most formative periods of his life of service to church and community. He was one of the founders of the seminary's Center for the Church and the Black Experience. In 1976, a year after he received his doctorate of ministry at Chicago Theological Seminary, he was elected and consecrated bishop in the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. He was assigned to the Michigan Conference and served there for eight years before being moved to the West Ohio Conference in 1984, where he served until his retirement in 1992.

He is the author of two books: "My Membership Vows" and recently with two other authors, "The Confessions of Three Ebony Bishops," both published by Abingdon Press. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Distinguished Alumnus Award at Garrett-Evangelical where he is a Life Trustee, and a special award of appreciation from the Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR).

Mrs. Ammons' life has been devoted to The United Methodist Church through leadership in local congregations; membership on several general boards and agencies, including the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry from 1984 to 1992; election to the World Methodist Conference; and Director of Student Life at Garrett-Evangelical from 1977 to 1998. In 1972 she became the first African American woman to join the seminary's Board of Trustees and was on the board during Garrett's union with Evangelical Theological Seminary.

She is a member of BMCR and the United Methodist Black Caucus; is a founding member of BMCR's Chicago Chapter; was communications teacher, counselor and group leader of the Pembroke Institute, a ministerial recruitment and leadership development program instituted by Chicago BMCR; and received the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Board of Preachers, Sponsors and Colloquium of Scholars Award in 1993.

As a member of the seminary staff, she actively supported the work of the Center for the Church and the Black Experience. While serving all Garrett-Evangelical students as Director of Student Life, she engaged in special recruiting efforts to black colleges, connected black students and black faculty, and reached out to black students in particular ways to ensure they received the financial, spiritual, academic and community support they needed to be successful seminarians.

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