LOUISVILLE– The suspense has been high all week here in Kentucky’s largest city as those of us attending the 20th Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International Conference were anticipating the big announcement of our NEXT LEADER.
Tonight International Presiding Bishop Paul S. Morton announced that Bishop Joseph Walker, III, senior pastor of Nashville’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, will be the one to succeed him when he steps down at the 2015 conference in New Orleans, La.
“I’m so grateful for the confidence Bishop Morton and the Bishop’s Council has shown in choosing me as the next Presiding Bishop,” Walker wrote in a news release, transmitted minutes after tonight’s announcement.
In making the announcement, Bishop Morton made reference to the challenge Bishop Walker faced when he joined the Fellowship and left the National Baptist Convention, USA. It’s a subtle reference to the history that haunts the Full Gospel MOVEMENT that still is controversial in some circles of religious leaders.
Having dealt with this “controversy” firsthand in affiliating with the Full Gospel Fellowship, Bishop Walker will bring that experience with him.
I’m sure I’m not only non-clergyman, lay attendee/delegate here who correctly “guessed” that Bishop Walker would get the nod. Yeh, I kind of thought “I knew it” when his name was called.
The 45-year-old native of Shreveport, La.’s long list of accomplishments are detailed in the news release.
Brings A Testimony
He’s a young, strong, leader whose work at Mt. Zion has been documented in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.
You can see all that’s been written about him come alive by visiting Mt. Zion. I’ve had the pleasure of attending Sunday worship at Mt. Zion on two separate occasions. It’s always a highlight of my visit to the Nashville area on a Sunday.
In his personal life, Bishop Walker has been tested. In addition to losing his home in a fire, he lost his wife, Diane to cancer a few years, a story he shares in his book, Life Between Sundays.
His much-publicized wedding to Neonatologist Stephaine Hale is an inspiration to people like me that you can find love in your 40s.
But, Bishop and our soon-to-be first lady of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship have shown how two highly-educated professionals can co-labor in ministry, even though they have very full, successful lives. Their new book, Becoming a Couple of Destiny, is on my summer reading list as I prepare for my next step.
What’s NEXT for Full Gospel ?
Now that we, in the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, know who our next international leader will be, what can we as the lay persons (A.K.A. the pew Christians) do between now and 2015?
1. Watch as the smooth transition begins
As part of tonight’s big announcement, our Third Presiding Bishop Clarence McClendon made reference to his role as assisting with the transition. I believe that transition has to involve not only the leaders of the Fellowship, but the parishioners who will need to connect with the vision as we continue to do what God has called us to do in our local churches.
Pastoral or leadership changes happen all the time in our local churches. But, those who have been in the Fellowship have never had a transition from one international presiding bishop to another. So, there will likely be bumps in the road. Still, it’s an opportunity for lay persons to watch and learn how this transition transpires.
2. Pray fervently for Bishop Walker and those he’ll identify to work with him
This is a no-brainer. We always pray for our leaders, secular and within the Body of Christ. But, Bishop Walker as our international presiding bishop-designate will need extra prayers as he adjusts to this new role and continues to do what God has for him to do in Nashville.
3. Continue to Give
As the Full Gospel Fellowship begins its NEXT 20 years tonight, we as Covenant Partners must continue to sow into the international ministry that is Full Gospel. That starts with our sacrificial contribution over and above what we are expected to do in our local churches.
4. Focus Less on Personalities
When leadership changes happen, there is a tendency to look to see who will be jockeying for position in the “new administration.” Our International Presiding Bishop Paul Morton made it clear that this announcement was not about him, but about what God is doing with Full Gospel. That means who will be appointed to this or that is probably not as important as what we do as parishioners to fulfill the role/assignment to which we individually have anointed and appointed.
5. Get Excited About the Future
In the next two years, I believe it will be an exciting time for the Fellowship corporately. But, individually, those of us in the Fellowship probably should remember what Empowerment Temple’s Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant reminded us of in his address tonight, “We Can’t Stay This Size.”
Individually we have to grow into what God has for each of us. When Bishop Walker takes the mantle in New Orleans two years from now, we should be able to see significant growth individually. And, as a result, our churches should be different places because of us walking in our destiny.
Congratulations Bishop Walker!
We’re excited about the FUTURE of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship!