Congratulatory Announcements

February 2023

*The Rev. Dr. Roderick D. Belin Award from the Tennessee Tribune “Pastor of the Year”

Tennessee Tribune Article

(Read below or click on Tennessee Tribune Article above)

NASHVILLE, TN — Roderick Dwayne Belin is President/Publisher of the AME Sunday School Union, the publishing house for the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is an anointed preacher and teacher with a prophetic voice and a global mission to empower God’s people to reach their full potential and fulfill their divine purposes. 

In over 35 years of Christian ministry, Rev. Belin has traveled across the United States, and to Jamaica, West Indies, Trinidad, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, Israel, England, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Turkey, and the Republic of South Africa where he preached, counseled, facilitated workshops, and ministered in song. He is highly respected within national and international circles, leading people of different faiths into needful dialogue and healing.

A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, Rev. Belin earned the Master of Divinity Degree from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York as a “Union Scholar,” and the Doctor of Ministry Degree in Adaptive Leadership from Payne Theological Seminary.  In 2014, Rev. Belin was one of the inductees into the highly revered Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College.

A third generation minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Rev. Belin has served as Executive Minister/ Assistant Pastor of the Greater Allen AME Cathedral, Jamaica, NY under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake. He served as the pastor of Williams Chapel AME Church in Orangeburg, South Carolina which experienced exponential growth before returning to his native Nashville, Tennessee in 2004 to plant Kairos Community AME Church. Rev. Belin served as Presiding Elder of the South Nashville District before being appointed as Pastor of historic Lee Chapel AME Church in North Nashville. Within two years of this appointment, he led the planning and construction of a 15,550 square foot building with sanctuary seating for 500-plus persons at a cost of $3,500,000.00. This new building was dedicated in August 2015. 

As Publisher, Rev. Dr. Belin published the 2016 Book of Discipline in Spanish for the first time in the church’s history; updated the Book of Worship to make the language inclusive; and, made essential books and resources available digitally including the Book of Worship, Church School Quarterlies, and the new “We Lift Our Voices” a word hymnal. Under Rev. Dr. Belin’s leadership, a new 38,000 square foot award winning edifice was erected at a cost of $10,866,000.00. The new AMEC Publishing House also houses the General Departments of the AME Church.  

Most notably, during the pandemic Rev. Dr. Belin deftly pivoted to meet the emergent needs of the church and community by offering AME Church School classes and other enrichment offerings weekly on Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube. Discerning participants’ need for more spiritual enrichment, Rev. Dr. Belin currently leads, “INSIGHT: Life in the Spirit,” a daily prayer service which takes place Monday through Saturday at 12 noon eastern on Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube. 

A gourmand, Rev. Belin is passionate about the imperative of true Christian hospitality and acted upon this through gatherings at his table for good food and transformative conversation. He continues this practice through the use of technology, encouraging his guests to open their hearts to the other. Rev. Belin continues to bring new ideas and approaches to make positive differences in the lives of others.  He is committed to using technology and social media to spread the Gospel and share information through this expanded means of interaction. Rev. Belin believes, “telling the story gives faith a way to travel from one heart to another.”

He is a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated and is a part of a family of Christian ministers.  He is the son of Bishop Henry A. Belin, Jr. and Mrs. Lucinda Crawford Belin, and brother of the Reverend Dr. Henry Allen Belin, III and the Reverend Dr. Toni Belin Ingram.

Congratulatory messages can be sent to:
Rev. Dr. Roderick D. Belin
President / Publisher AME Sunday School Union
900 13th Avenue South
Suite 300
Nashville, TN  37212


*Amid larger push toward diversity, College of Charleston quietly makes key hire - John Thomas III, Ph.D., Editor, The Christian Recorder

As does the city in which it resides, the College of Charleston has a long, complex and troubled history.
Given the city of Charleston’s prominent role in the international slave trade and the magnitude of which enslaved labor shaped and influenced nearly every facet and institution in the Holy City, it is no surprise that slavery also helped form the city’s 250-year-old institution, an uncomfortable truth the college has increasingly recognized.

The school’s ongoing struggle over racial tensions bubbled up over the years, noticeably in 2014 amid the hiring of former Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the school’s president. Many opposed the hiring, mainly because of McConnell’s support for the Confederate flag.

Yet, it appears now that the school is pushing toward reckoning with its past, some ways in which are more obvious and direct. In 2020, President Andrew Hsu announced a 10-year strategic plan that included requiring, among other things, mandatory diversity education for staff and a commitment to recruit more minority students.

This month, the college is celebrating Black History Month with a wide range of programs and events focusing on the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans. The programs include a film screening of “If These Walls Could Talk,” which brings attention to the labor and ingenuity of enslaved Africans who were tasked with building the first municipal college in the United States.

And then there’s continued success of the school’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, which just landed a $2 million grant to increase staff, enhance collection archives, create a fellowship program and more.

But even amid the school’s more noticeable strides toward a more inclusive future, the hiring of the Department of Political Science’s first African American male, tenure-track professor is the latest, lesser-known display of the school’s strides toward diversity.

Without much fanfare or a major announcement, the school last semester hired John Thomas, whose research interests include comparative race politics, social movements, democratic consolidation, minority rights and public policy with a regional focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.

Thomas, whose dissertation at the University of Chicago examined the evolution of the social movements of Black activists in Peru and Ecuador from 1980 to 2016, also has religious affiliation. He serves as the editor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Christian Recorder, an in-house publication serving a denomination that has been among the most influential institutions in the lives of Blacks in Charleston.

Several AME clergy and college staff celebrated the new hire by conducting on Jan. 31 a ceremonial blessing of Thomas’ new office, decorated by books about Latin American social movements and Black political thought, alongside numerous artifacts and mementos that honor Black and Brown cultures.

The Rev. Norvell Goff, presiding elder of the AME Church’s Edisto District, during the ceremony appeared pleasantly surprised by the college’s push toward inclusion. Goff said he was unaware of the school’s seriousness about hiring minority professors and urged the school to keep at it.

“I can be a real witness to the fact that the College of Charleston is moving in the right direction,” Goff said.

Thomas, 41, said he wouldn’t have come to the school if he didn’t feel it was making a genuine effort to change. The Nashville, Tenn., native said he wanted to invite faith leaders to the school Jan. 31 so they could see the progress being made at the college.

“What I can say about the school is I have felt supported, encouraged, and I felt like I belong here,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ arrival is significant because it’s important to professors for students to learn about political systems and events happening in different parts of the world, said Gibbs Knotts, dean of the school of humanities and social sciences.

Hiring a more diverse staff was discussed as a top concern when the college, along with many other institutions across the nation, had a “racial reckoning” following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, said Hollis France, chair of the political science department.

The college has also discussed the need to diversify course offerings, Hollis said. Thomas’ studies in Afro-Latino social movements help address that need, she said.

College of Charleston barbershop looks to grow community for students of color


*Best Lawyer in America List 2022-23 - Attorney Derek E. Bruce is on the list



Before the cusp of the New Year 2023, Attorney Derek E. Bruce, Managerial Shareholder, GunsterLaw Firm, Orlando Office was cited and named on the Best Lawyers in America List for  the last six (6) years; 2018 - 2023.

This award was given for stellar leadership in giving back to the community in mentoring young lawyers, entrepreneurial business and professional service. Derek is an inspiring and faithful member of the Mt. Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church, Orlando Florida.

In the fall of 1980, his parents, the late Dr. Y. Benjamin and Gloria S. Bruce, became the Clergy Family of Mt. Olive. His father, Dr. Yale Benjamin Bruce, Sr. became a General Officer in African Methodism from that pulpit; Executive Director of Church Growth and Development, 1985-1992. Mt. Olive continues to be the family’s place of Worship.

Most professions have publications or guides to help select top-tier employees to hire. Best Lawyers in America is the only purely peer review guide to the legal profession for those who have excelled in their practice area.

For almost 40 years, Best Lawyers List has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the lawyers best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. The lists are published in leading local, regional, and national publications across the globe. 

With twenty plus years of practice, Derek Bruce has developed experience in numerous areas of the law, ranging from the representation of clients in complex business litigations and property tax disputes, to the negotiation of large real estate transactions and the resolution of sensitive land use issues. Today, he primarily represents clients before state and local governments throughout the state of Florida on land use, procurement and regulatory issues.

Before joining Gunster, Attorney Bruce led the statewide governmental affairs team for one of Florida’s most recognizable entities and Central Florida’s largest employer, Walt Disney World. In that capacity, Counsel Bruce developed relationships with some of the state’s most influential decision-makers in government. He is dedicated to accomplishing his clients’ goals by working effectively with government officials and their staffs. His experience in dealing with elected officials on all levels, helps him to provide clients with a comprehensive understanding of how governments operate.

Within GunsterLaw, Derek has held a number of leadership positions, including currently serving as the Orlando Office Managing Shareholder and formerly as chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

In his community, Derek has been actively involved with Leadership Florida (Class XXII Member; Class XXXVII Chair and former board member); the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida where he serves as general counsel; the board of the Florida State Parks Foundation, Victim Service Center and the McCormick Research Institute. He is a founding board member of the Randy Roberts Foundation and a past board member of the Central Florida Foundation. He has also had the privilege of serving as president of the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida and chairman of Business Force, Central Florida’s largest political action committee.

Attorney Bruce has received many citations of recognition as Counsel and Legal Leader.
HONORS- The Best Lawyers in America List - Government Relations Practice, 2018-2023.
A V Rated by Martindale-Hubbell

  1. “Evolving Future of the Hybrid Workplace,” Orlando Business Journal, roundtable participant, June 16, 2022.
  2. “Embracing History: Juneteenth Celebration,” UCF Downtown, panelist, June 15, 2022.
  3. “The Intersection of Law & Politics: Navigating an Unpredictable Environment,” CLE Lunch & Learn, presenter, Association of Corporate Counsel Central Florida, June 9, 2022.
  5. Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Board of Directors- 2020-present.
  6. The National Black Lawyers – Top 100.
  7. Orlando Economic Partnership, Alliance for Regional Transportation (ART) workgroup, 2019-present.
  8. BusinessForce, board member and past chair.
  9. Leadership Florida, past board member.
  10. Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors-past member.
  11. Florida Chamber of Commerce, East Central Florida Regional Leadership Council, past chair.
  13. Victim Service Center of Central Florida, board member.
  14. Randy Roberts Foundation, board member.
  15. Frederick Leadership Initiative, board member emeritus.
  16. Orlando Marine Institute, past board member.
  1. National Kidney Foundation, past board member.
  2. Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, past president.
  3. Seminole State College of Florida Foundation.
  4. Lastly, Attorney Bruce made a presentation with the Orlando Business Journal on an “Executive Insight on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” The link is given below.

Continued prayers and comments are welcomed as Attorney Derek E. Bruce honors God in doing his best as a Legal Leader and Counsel. 


(Click Link Below.)

Congratulatory messages can be emailed to: (Attorney Derek E. Bruce) (Mrs. Gloria Bruce)



*Congratulations to Rev. LeSean Tarkington, Pastor of Allen St John AME Church Kansas City, Missouri (Bishop Clement Fugh Prelate) and Chairman of Evangelism of the Connectional RAYAC for his recent appointment to the Chairman's Staff and Coordinator of the Collegiate Night of the Gospel Music Workshop of America. Fun Fact: The Gospel Music Workshop of America was founded by the Late Rev James Cleveland and is the largest Gospel Music Convention in the country.

Congratulatory messages can be emailed to:



On behalf of Social Action Commission Chair, Bishop E. Anne Henning Byfield and  Dr. Jacquelyn DuPont-Walker, Director, Social Action Commission, we extend congratulations as you praise God for the Joy of these significant milestone reached.