as a member of the Young People’s Division (YPD) and later went on to become YPD President at both the Conference and Episcopal District level. It was also in St. Stephen where he met and came under the tutelage of local lay president Mrs. Jessie Pryor and began his monumental journey in the organized Lay Organization.
Later in life as he resided in different places, he always stayed connected with the AME Church. Jesse L. Burns, Jr. worshipped wherever he lived and wherever he lived, he served. He became a member of Greater Bethel AME Church, Gainesville, FL, and St. John AME Church where he served as steward, treasurer, and chairman for the Commission on Stewardship and Finance. At the time of his death, he was a member of Saint Paul AME Church in Ocala where he was actively engaged as a steward, musician, local lay president, and Church School teacher.
It was in the church where Jesse received his first and most lasting training. It was in the church where he experienced some of his most profound blessings. A delegate to the General Conference since 1976, Jesse served as a member of the General Board in 1976 and 1988. Additionally, he was a member of the Episcopal Committee in 1976, 1980, 1984 and 2000.
Always an ardent lay person, he rose through the ranks to its highest office being appointed as the Connectional Lay President in 2003 after the death of Connectional President Arthur Brown and elected to the position in 2005. As a precursor, he served as local lay president at St. Stephen A.M.E. in Bradenton, FL, president of the Ft. Myers District Lay Organization and president of the Eleventh Episcopal District Lay Organization. He has left a pathway strewn with accomplishments and contributions that will be long held and heralded as exemplars for years to come.
Under his watch, the first Connectional Lay Summit/Retreat was held in Orlando, FL, in 2004, and the Brown-Williams Mentoring Program was instituted. Jesse spearheaded a task force to rewrite the Lay Study Guide. At the Episcopal level he rearranged the committee system, spearheaded successful membership recruitment drives, established the Episcopal District Lay Organization Economic Development fund and reactivated the Bahamas Conference Lay Organization.
His past employment history includes time as the Director of Human Resources for Tropicana Products, Inc., the multinational company that specializes in the production of orange juice in Florida.
Jesse transitioned from the Church militant to the Church Triumphant on September 16, 2020.
11th District Historiographer