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G.E. Patterson, 67; bishop of Church of God in Christ and minister for nearly 50 years

March 22, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

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

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

The predominantly black Protestant denomination, with headquarters in Memphis, claims 6 million members worldwide and traces its origins to the late 1800s.

The church grew with the development of its multimedia ministries, starting with a gospel radio station in Memphis and moving into television with weekly broadcasts on the BET and TBN cable networks. Patterson became known for his dynamic sermons, often featuring his signature theme, "Be healed, be delivered and be set free."

"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.

The church will begin selecting a successor after memorial services, which are pending, said jurisdictional Bishop Jerry L. Maynard Sr., the chief operating officer of the national church.

Gilbert Earl Patterson was born Sept. 22, 1939, in Humboldt, Tenn., and raised in Memphis and Detroit. He attended LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis and Detroit Bible Institute and was ordained as a church elder in the late 1950s in Detroit.

Beginning in 1962, Patterson was co-pastor of Holy Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis with his father, Bishop W.A. Patterson Sr. He went on to lead the Temple of Deliverance, the Cathedral of Bountiful Blessings, in Memphis.

Presiding bishops of the church had historically served for life, but disputes over church leadership led to a challenge in 1996. Patterson ran against Chandler David Owens of Atlanta, who had become presiding bishop the previous year after the death of Bishop L.H. Ford. Owens won the election by one vote, but Patterson won the 2000 election with 59% of the vote. He won reelection four years later.

In 2005, he told the church's annual convention in Memphis that believers 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," Patterson said. "Once you've received the word, spread it."

The church is considered a Pentecostal or Holiness denomination, with beliefs in divine healing, speaking in tongues and lively services.

It was founded by Charles Harrison Mason, a son of former slaves born in 1866 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.

Patterson is survived by his wife, Louise.

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