Wednesday, March 21, 2007

R.I.P. Bishop G.E. Patterson a.k.a. Black Church Pioneer and Visionary...1939-2007

G.E. Patterson redefined role as COGIC's presiding bishop

By James Dowd

phone: 901-529-2737


March 21, 2007

From his humble birth in a tiny West Tennessee town, Bishop G.E. Patterson rose to international prominence as the charismatic leader of one of the nation's largest Christian groups.

As presiding bishop and chief apostle of the Church of God in Christ, he oversaw a global media empire that included television, radio, Internet and publishing divisions, and he was instrumental in swelling the denomination's ranks to more than 6.5 million members in 58 countries.

Bishop Patterson died Tuesday afternoon of heart failure at Methodist University Hospital after battling prostate cancer. He was 67.

"He was progressive and a visionary, but at the same time he was a man who never forgot our heritage, and he knew the Church of God in Christ like the back of his hand," First Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake of West Angeles COGIC in Los Angeles said Tuesday. "He was a great preacher, a pioneer of media ministries and he elevated our church in ways that touched millions of lives."

Among them, former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who mourned the bishop's passing.
"America lost an angel today. He was favored by the Almighty and he used his favor to instruct us all on how to be better servants," Ford said in a statement. "I love him like an earthly father. The only thing that gives me some peace is that I'm certain that the Lord has already put him in charge of the humility ministry in Heaven with his chief job being to continue reminding us all that we serve an awesome and all-knowing God."

Dr. David Hall, pastor of Temple COGIC, gave the keynote address at Bishop Patterson's inauguration in 2000 and knew him for more than a quarter-century.
"He was so big, yet so human and accessible," Hall said. "He was world-renowned for his preaching, but he had such a soft touch and a loving heart for the ordinary man."

Lauded as a visionary, Bishop Patterson's influence extended beyond his Memphis pulpit. His Bountiful Blessings Ministries television program was broadcast worldwide, he served as president of gospel radio station WBBP and as president of Podium Records.

But those who knew him best said Bishop Patterson's greatest attribute was his down-to-earth personality and the ability to make everyone he came in contact with feel special.
"I've lost not only a friend, but my best friend," said Bishop Jerry Maynard, chief operating officer for the denomination. "It's like losing a part of one's self."

Historically, COGIC presiding bishops served until they died, but that changed in recent years because of Bishop Patterson's enormous popularity and support within the denomination.
In 1995, Chandler David Owens of Atlanta became presiding bishop after Bishop L.H. Ford died. Owens was expected to be re-elected to a four-year term in 1996 without opposition, but for the first time in COGIC history, the top spot was challenged.

Delegates had to choose between Owens and Bishop Patterson, who had received the most votes in the General Board election. In the runoff, Owens won by a single vote.
Expressing a desire for church unity, Bishop Patterson did not seek a recount and Owens served a four-year term.

In 2000, Bishop Patterson ran for the office and won with 59 percent of the vote, becoming the sixth leader of the denomination founded in Memphis in 1907 by Bishop Charles Harrison Mason. It marked the first time in COGIC history that a presiding bishop had been unseated.
The two faced off again in 2004, but Owens withdrew from the ballot and Bishop Patterson was unanimously elected. He announced afterward that he would not seek a third term.
Bishop Patterson is credited with expanding the denomination's appeal by focusing on traditional, Biblical teachings. He also redefined the role of presiding bishop, which he once said had become mired in bureaucracy and isolation far above the people it was created to serve.
In an attempt to be more accessible, in 2002 Bishop Patterson returned to founder Mason's practice of holding Bible studies during the annual convocation and held them every year during his time as chief apostle.

"It is a return to the older days, a time of Biblical preaching and prayer," Bishop Patterson said in an interview with The Commercial Appeal in November 2003. "Some of the membership felt it was new, but to me it was simply a matter of worshiping as I did when I was a boy."
In 2005, Bishop Patterson acknowledged he was battling prostate cancer. At the 99th annual COGIC Holy Convocation last November, he said he'd considered vacating the post, but decided against the idea.

"I asked the General Board to have a special election in April to elect an able-bodied man, but I was shouted down," Bishop Patterson said.

Rather than squabbling about denominational politics, Bishop Patterson said COGIC's focus should be on saving souls and building up the church.

And he emphasized at the time that he was ready to do his part.
"If my body being afflicted can get us back to where God wants us to be, then I'm willing to suffer," he said.

Gilbert Earl Patterson was born Sept. 22, 1939, in Humboldt, Tenn., to Bishop W.A. and Mrs. Mary Patterson. He grew up in Memphis before moving to Detroit with his family in 1952.
The young Patterson preached his first sermon at 17 and was ordained as a COGIC elder by Bishop J.S. Bailey in Detroit in 1958. In December of 1961, he returned to Memphis to become co-pastor with his father at Holy Temple COGIC in Memphis.

In 1975, after years of feuding with his uncle, then-Presiding Bishop J.O. Patterson, about establishing new congregations and jurisdictional authority, the younger Patterson left COGIC and founded Temple of Deliverance, the Cathedral of the Bountiful Blessings in Memphis.
Housed in the former Mt. Vernon Baptist Church at 547 Mississippi Blvd., the congregation outgrew the facilities within three years and a new 1,200-seat sanctuary was constructed.
With a price tag of $1.2 million, it was the city's first church built by black workers that cost more than a million dollars.

Eventually, Bishop Patterson mended the family rift and was invited back into active COGIC ministry.

Under Bishop Patterson's leadership, Temple of Deliverance COGIC moved in 1999 to a $13 million campus that featured a 5,000-seat worship center. By 2007, the church -- located at 369 G.E. Patterson -- had grown to more than 13,000 members.

Bishop Patterson is survived by his wife, Louise. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Please sign the Bishop G.E. Patterson Guestbook to offer your condolences:

Copyright 2007, - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.

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