Farewell Presiding Bishop Gilbert Patterson (AP)

March 22, 2007

G.E. Patterson; Top Bishop Of Church of God in Christ
Associated Press
Thursday, March 22, 2007; B07

G.E. Patterson, the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ and a minister for almost 50 years, died March 20 in Memphis, the church announced. He was 67.

The predominantly black Protestant denomination, headquartered in Memphis, says it has 6 million members worldwide and traces its origins to the late 1800s.

Bishop Patterson, who was hospitalized in January for an undisclosed illness, told his followers in 2005 that he had prostate cancer.

At the church's annual Holy Convocation in November, he said he had considered stepping down but changed his mind after an outpouring of support.

"If my body being afflicted can get us back to where God wants us to be, then I'm willing to suffer," said the bishop, who received a standing ovation.

"It was a direct result of his work, such as his TV ministries, that allowed people to see COGIC as it should have been projected," said jurisdictional Bishop Jerry Maynard, the chief operating officer of the national church, who had worked with Bishop Patterson since 1992.

"Under his leadership, we've seen tremendous strides toward true spirituality," said San Diego jurisdictional Bishop George D. McKinney, a member of the church's General Board.

"America lost an angel today," former U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) said in a statement. "He was favored by the Almighty, and he used his favor to instruct us all on how to be better servants."

The church will begin the process to select a successor after memorial services, Maynard said.

In January, Bishop Patterson was named traditional male vocalist of the year for his "Singing the Old Time Way Volume 2" at the 22nd annual Stellar gospel music awards.

He was born in Humboldt, Tenn., and was ordained as a church elder in 1957 in Detroit.

Bishop Patterson attended Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis and the Detroit Bible Institute and held an honorary doctorate from Oral Roberts University. He was the editor and publisher of Bountiful Blessings Magazine, with a distribution list of more than 100,000 people.

In 2005, he told the church's annual convention in Memphis that members should overcome differences of race and culture to spread their faith.

"I don't know why we ever got stuck on that thing that we're only supposed to witness to black folks," Bishop Patterson said. "Once you've received the word, spread it. God's not going to do something to bless your work until you do something to bless his work."

The church is considered a Pentecostal or Holiness denomination, which has lively services and believes in divine healing and speaking in tongues. It was founded by Charles Harrison Mason, born in 1866 to former slaves from near Memphis. Mason and several other gospel preachers began holding revivals across the Mississippi Delta and organized officially as the Church of God in Christ in 1897.