AME Church uncovers ‘possible’ irregularities in retirement fund

The African Methodist Episcopal Church said it is investigating “possible financial irregularities” in retirement fund investments the church holds.

The possible issues were uncovered as the church’s Department of Retirement Services was moving to new leadership, according to an email Tuesday responding to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Details of the problems with the retirement fund, such as when the problems were uncovered and the amount of money involved, were not explained. It’s also not known how many employees of the AME Church have their retirement or pension funds invested there, but church officials, clergy and bishops are among the beneficiaries.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we immediately engaged outside legal counsel and forensics experts to conduct an independent and comprehensive investigation into holdings managed by the Department of Retirement Services,” according to the Nashville-based denomination, which has more than 500 churches in the Sixth Episcopal District in Georgia.

“This investigation is ongoing, and we do not yet have all of the answers,” according to the statement. “A preliminary update on this investigation was provided during the December 2021 General Board Meeting and the church has notified beneficiaries of the retirement fund.”

The email went on to say that the denomination is also working with law enforcement to investigate and “recover any misappropriated funds.” Church officials report all current retirement funds are secure and all contributions are being held in an escrow account.

According to the AME website, the denomination grew out of the Free African Society established by the Rev. Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, an abolitionist and member of the clergy, and others in 1787 in Philadelphia.