BISHOP RONNIE ELIJAH BRAILSFORD, SR.
A native of South Carolina, Bishop Brailsford was born and raised in Clarendon County. In 2016, he was elected and consecrated the 136th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during the 50th Quadrennial General Conference held in Philadelphia, PA. He currently serves as the Presiding Prelate of the 19th Episcopal District which is located in South Africa and is comprised of 246 churches and over 54,000 members.
Prior to serving in the 19th Episcopal District, he served the 20th Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Church with 223 churches and over 23,000 members in the African countries of Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, and Mozambique. During a five year tenure, 28 churches and over 5,000 new members were added, culminating in an overall membership increase of 28% growth. Among many accomplishments, he oversaw that building of 9 churches, 12 new churches planted, and 16 churches added to the AMEC.
While serving in the 20th Episcopal District, Bishop and Supervisor Brailsford visited 186 of 223 churches and 26 of 35 AMEC schools, even in rural and remote areas, where safe to travel. Funds were raised to help provide school supplies for over 20,000 students and the staff. They provided funds and food for disaster relief for over 2,500 families. Medical mission trips served over 11,000 people with medical, dental, eye and dermatology services. They partnered to provide scholarships and school fees for 100 plus students. In addition, the United Methodist Church and Africa University partnership was started August 2020 and provides $700,000 of four year full scholarships for 32 students.
Bishop Brailsford graduated Valedictorian of his 1976 class at Scott’s Branch High School of Summerton, SC. He went on to graduate from the University of South Carolina, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. His Master of Divinity degree was earned at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, GA. where he was a Benjamin E. Mays Fellow and a John Middleton Scholar. An honorary Doctor of Divinity degree was bestowed upon him by A.M.E. University of Monrovia, Liberia. He did Studies in the Doctor of Ministry program at ITC and earned his Doctor of Ministry degree in 2007 from United Theological Seminary. He has received many academic, professional and community honors.
Bishop Brailsford was licensed to preach on January 20, 1980 at his home church, Historic Liberty Hill A.M.E. Church in Summerton, SC. He's served as ministerial staff at Big Bethel AMEC in Atlanta, GA, as well as Senior Pastor of Mt. Carmel AMEC (Gray Court, SC) and Amanda Flipper AMEC (Decatur, GA).
His twenty-four years (1992-2016), at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Columbia, SC were highlighted by exceptional spiritual, numerical, and financial growth. In 1995 Bethel relocated from its landlocked Sumter Street site to 819 Woodrow Street, a $5,000,000 campus with five connected buildings, 86,000 square feet, on 5 acres of land. The 1.5 city blocks offer 366 parking spaces and modern accommodations, including 120 classrooms and offices, a Christian Life Center and Gymnasium. A new school, Bethel Learning Centers, was founded, and accredited since 1995, educating thousands. A $3,000,000 new school building was completed in 2008.
In 1983, he married his partner in marriage and ministry, Rev. Carolyn Elizabeth Irvin. They have three children: Veronica-Carol, Ronnie, Jr. and David; a daughter-in love, Erica; and six grandchildren: Harper, Kyndal, Gracen, Dawson, Roman and Brendan.