“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My Name He may give you.” John 15:16 NIV
Rev. Dr. Erlinda C. Dobson not only hears the Lord speaking to her, but she also follows His directions. Almost forty-four years ago at Pleasant Hill African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, she heeded His call to share the grace of God into the lives of others and to make disciples. Dr. Dobson is a trailblazer, a mover, and shaker in this twenty-first century where pastors and churches face challenges with generational shifts and declining attendance and giving.
Having faced similar challenges in her ministry tenure, Dr. Dobson offers guidance and support to pastors to help them navigate and overcome these and other challenges. Trained by experienced pastors grounded in biblical stewardship, she successfully built budgets for missions based on biblical and theological principles and not maintenance. Under her administrative and financial leadership, every church grew spiritually and financially. Two former churches successfully added educational buildings debt-free. Even during an economic recession, a congregation under her leadership constructed a two and a half-million-dollar church through teaching and using biblical principles of stewardship and budgeting. Within just four years, the church purchased property, paid off loans and the parsonage mortgage, and simultaneously reduced the mortgage on the new church to less than seven hundred thousand dollars. The congregation moved into the new sanctuary owing less than one million dollars. Dr. Dobson also serves as the treasurer and chairperson of the finance committee for the North Carolina Conference of the AME Zion Church.
A native of New Bern, North Carolina, Dr. Dobson’s passion and motivation for ministry anchors in Acts 20:24. Like Paul, her goal is to testify to the gospel of the grace of God continuously. After receiving her ordination first as a Deacon and then as an Elder in the AME Zion Church, she accepted her first pastoral charge at Mount Olive AME Zion Church (Riverdale, NC) in 1985. Six subsequent AME Zion charges followed: Alliance Chapel (Alliance, NC), Walter’s Chapel (Newport, NC), St. Mark (Mansfield, NC), Wesley Chapel (New Bern, NC), St. Mark (Whiteville, NC) and St. Julia (Jacksonville, NC). Presently, as a Presiding Elder, she occasionally serves as an interim pastor when pastoral vacancies occur - Clinton Chapel (New Bern), St. Luke (Maysville), and St. James (Long Point Community).
In July 2012, Dr. Dobson became the first female appointed as the Presiding Elder of the New Bern District of the North Carolina Conference following the late Dr. William L. Wainwright. She provides leadership to nineteen churches located throughout four counties (Craven, Onslow, Lenoir, and Jones). She also holds the recognition as the first female to hold a position traditionally held by a male. These distinctions include the election as a delegate to the General Conference from her first appointment, her appointment to five pastoral charges (Wesley Chapel, St. Julia, Clinton Chapel, St. Mark (Whiteville, NC), and St. Luke), and her selection to preach in the General Conference on a Sunday afternoon.
In the educational arena, Dr. Dobson achievement is also impressive. She holds several college degrees. She has an Associate Degree from Craven Community College (New Bern, NC) and a Bachelor of Science Degree (Business) from the University of Mount Olive (Mt. Olive, NC). She also received bachelor’s (Theology) and master’s degrees (Ministry) through Carolina Theological Institute and Seminary (Clinton, NC). She graduated from Hood Theological Seminary (Salisbury, NC) where she received both her Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.
People consider Dr. Dobson to be a community pastor/presiding elder because of her extensive involvement and leadership in the communities she serves. She actively serves on several boards that include the North Carolina Conference Studies, the Conference Trustee Board, the Board of Election, the Democratic Party, the NAACP, the Friends to Black Children, the Council of Churches, the Council of Churches Delegate, the MLK Celebration, the Watchman of the Community, the Weed and Seed, and Juvenile Justice (chairman).
As a community leader, the Presiding Elder actively planned several workshops: Health Fair, Prostate Awareness, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, and Aging. She also partnered with Affordable Care to help the uninsured receive affordable health care. The Northeast Community Development Corporation (Jacksonville, NC), a non-profit organization, initiated a special leadership award in her honor. Dr. Dobson is the recipient of the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine (2013) given to a North Carolinian who has made significant contributions to North Carolina and the person’s community. She is also a recipient of a gold medal given by the Ole North State Medical Society as well as awards from Hood Theological Seminary and others. Most recently, the IMLA African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church awarded Dr. Dobson the Sojourner Truth Award.
Pressing to help others, Dr. Dobson serves unselfishly in many capacities in her district, communities, and the AME Zion Church. She spearheaded efforts to help those in her region recover in the aftermath of Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, and Michael. She is a strong advocate and a voice for those considered by society to be the least of God’s children.
Dr. Dobson also finds time to fulfill another passion in her life – family. She and her husband, Mr. Hank J. Dobson, share six children and seventeen grandchildren. The Presiding Elder loves her family and adores her mother, Mrs. Lelia C. Becton. While she has two sisters and three brothers, she extends her family with other adopted sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, children, and moms. She firmly believes that without the support and encouragement of her husband and loving family, she could not meet all the challenges she faces.
Dr. Dobson’s motto is, “We must raise the bar and call followers of Christ to a higher standard and discipleship.”