Debbie and I are away from our district right now (we are in Springfield, MO (just in time for all the sectional councils which take place before the District Council in a couple months) – and we learned this morning of the exciting news that the Phoenix Metro Indian Section of the Arizona District Council of the Assemblies of God just elected the first female Native American Sectional Presbyter to serve in the Assemblies of God (one of only three other Native American Presbyters?)!! The AZ District has lead the movement in making history in the AG! This is indeed exciting and wonderful news!! We know Cheri personally and she is a great friend and pastor with a wonderful heart for the Lord and for people.
Just a little more info: Vernice Cheri Sampson, 51, serves as pastor of Salt River Indian Assembly of God in Scottsdale, Arizona. She will join three other Native American presbyters in Arizona. Sampson is a Pima Indian and a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, a sovereign tribe located in the metropolitan Phoenix area.
And for those who may wonder about the governmental structure within the Assemblies:
The AG has a hybrid presbyterian and congregational form of polity. Churches are organized along congregational lines and, if healthy enough, are sovereign. Churches don’t pay dues to the denomination. Ministers are organized into Districts, and each district contains sections. Each section elects a presbyter to represent that section at the District level. There are also General Presbyters (about three District leaders represent each District at the national level, for a total of 250 or so), and Executive Presbyters (there are only 20 of these, and they make higher level decisions than the GPs). Ministers, unlike churches, do pay dues to the denomination. For this reason, the AG is usually considered a Fellowship of ministers moreso than a Fellowship of churches. In fact, for the first 3 years, only ministers could be members of the AG. Churches were all independent. It was only when the Conscription Bill came before Congress in 1917 that the AG changed its polity to allow for churches to join, because church members could only claim to be conscientious objectors if they were members of “well-recognized denominations” that stated an objection to war and killing in war.
Congratulations Cheri!! Debbie and I love and appreciate you and know you will do a wonderful job as a presbyter!!