Gilbert Patterson, presiding bishop of the Memphis-based Church of God in Christ, died yesterday of heart failure. He had been ill for some time. Patterson was much admired within his denomination, the largest Pentecostal body in the United States, with some 5 million members. He commanded respect throughout Pentecostalism and sought to pull his organization back toward a focus on Bible study and soul-winning.
The Church of God in Christ has a large presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Patterson's passing elevates Bishop J. Neaul Haynes of Dallas to the second-highest position in the denomination. Haynes, pastor of Saintsville Church of God in Christ on South Marsalis Avenue, oversees some 500 churches in Texas.
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Bishop Charles E. Blake -- pastor of the biggest COGIC congregation, West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, and Patterson's appointee as first assistant presiding bishop -- will lead the denomination until its next election. --Julie Lyons