Assemblies of God ordained pastor and educator Derrick R. Rosenior sits thoughtfully at his desk, reflecting on the two framed documents that strategically adorn his office wall: the Emancipation Proclamation and the Declaration of Independence. He refers to the pair as “freedom documents,” both purposefully signaling his passion to advocate for racial reconciliation in the Church.
While currently serving as president of the Southern California chapter of the AG’s National Black Fellowship, Rosenior, 46, frequently speaks to groups on matters of race relations and faith. To Rosenior, the Church’s mission should be greater than what is practiced within its four walls. He envisions the Church spearheading changes in race relations.
“We cannot surrender and give this issue over to secularism,” says Rosenior. “We should model reconciliation to the world.”
Rosenior speaks fervently on his calling to help the Church take on a leadership role in unifying people not only in terms of race, but also in gender and socioeconomic status.
“In life, you meet a few people who leave a certain impression,” says AG urban ministry pioneer Spencer Jones, 75. “Over time, people can lose their passion due to roadblocks, but Dr. Rosenior has not lost his zeal and level of commitment to do this kind of work.”
The National Black Fellowship recently published a 40th anniversary commemorative book entitled Enough, featuring an article by Rosenior on the history of Blacks in the Assemblies of God.
“Dr. Rosenior’s knowledge and practical application of racial reconciliation demonstrates the life of Jesus, one of both grace and truth,” says NBF President Walter F. Harvey, 60.
Rosenior also is presently serving as teaching pastor at Orange County First Assembly of God in California. There, Rosenior sees a unique opportunity in using his passion for teaching intercultural communication to likewise call for more conversations that will bring healing.
“The vision for our ministry is intentional in creating a diverse congregation,” says Rosenior. “We have an English-speaking congregation, a Hispanic congregation, and one of the largest deaf congregations in Southern California.”
Rosenior reflects on the Azusa Street Revival of 1906, a notable event in the rise of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, led by Black minister William J. Seymour. Rosenior notes that the historic event in Los Angeles was an interracial gathering, comprised of worshippers who traveled from cities around the country to attend the revival services.
“When God’s Spirit moves, it breaks down walls,” he says. “But as a nation, we are so racially divided right now.”
Rosenior understands the consequences of racial division, as he traces his family ancestry back to former slaves in the U.S. His forefathers came to be known as Black Loyalists: African-American slaves who chose to join forces with the British during the American Revolution, with the promise of freedom.
When the British lost the war and could not make good on their pledge to the slaves, they shipped the Black Loyalists from their settlement in Nova Scotia, Canada, back to West Africa to the British colony of Sierra Leone. There, the former slaves founded a colony called Freetown, now the nation’s capital city. In 1792, the newly freed slaves prayed and dedicated the land to God — in the locale where Rosenior would be born nearly two centuries later.
“Dr. Rosenior’s ancestors are Pentecostal pioneers and pioneers of founding a nation,” Harvey says. “He is following in his natural and supernatural DNA.”
Rosenior’s family began attending a Pentecostal church in Sierra Leone when he was 10 years old. It shaped his appreciation and understanding of the Holy Spirit.
“Not only am I passionate about the Pentecostal movement and seeing a revival and a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but I believe that God has called us to be one in Christ as the apostle Paul describes to the Galatians (3:28),” Rosenior says.
Rosenior immigrated to the U.S. to pursue his education, ultimately earning a doctorate in rhetoric and intercultural communication from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He credits God’s orchestration of events in leading him to Embassy Church in Washington, D.C. He served as young adult pastor at the AG church.
He then transferred to Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California, where he now resides with his wife, Karine. Rosenior has taught communication at Vanguard for the past 15 years, previously serving as Communication Department chair and director of the Lewis Institute for Pentecostal Studies.
Whether teaching in the university classroom or from behind the pulpit, Rosenior works daily to manifest a life that echoes the declarations of his chosen “freedom documents,” bearing witness to racial reconciliation, human liberty, and equality for all people.