ATLANTA - The woman who was told she could never be a pastor and then went on to establish a worldwide ministry is being remembered today for her courage, faith, and conviction.
Bishop Barbara Lewis King passed away Sunday at the age of 90 at her home in southwest Atlanta. Loved ones say she was succumbed to a brief illness and was surrounded by loved ones as she died.
David Server Tavares has been a member of Hillside International Truth Center since 1999, he studied under the founder Dr. Barbara Lewis King. She ordained him in the Southwest Atlanta church and inspired his own service the HIP HOP Ministries. Her lasting legacy, he said, is her sheer resolve to preach even in the face of resistance.
"She broke so many different barriers. She had a kind of courage and tenacity that just wouldn't take no for an answer," said Tavares, who goes by the name "Minister Server" in his ministry.
Dr. Barbara, as loved ones called herm, was surrounded by loved ones as she passed away in her southwest Atlanta home. Friends and admirers like Dr. Maisha Handy of the Interdenominational Theological Center are heartbroken but inspired. She said she's grateful the ITC chose to honor Dr. Barbara in 2015 with John Lewis, Andy Young, C.T. Vivian, and several other Atlanta legends.
"For someone who was not only a minister but also a pastor in the seventies, that was remarkable because she was doing this at a time when that was not a time when women were not able to be senior pastors. She really taught the relationship between the mind, body, and spirit and the concept that your thoughts dictate your outcomes. That was a revolutionary approach to Christianity," said Dr. Handy, who is the provost of ITC, a seminary located on the campus of the Atlanta University Center. "And this whole notion of God's love, Dr. King was a big promoter of God's love and that God's love is for everyone."
The Houston native was just a teenager in the Baptist church when her pastor told her ministry wasn't an option for women. In February 2019, Dr. Barbara spoke to FOX 5's Portia Bruner about the number of people who tried to discourage her for decades from preaching. She went on to become a social worker in Chicago, eventually changed denominations and join the interfaith New Thought Movement. She founded Hillside International Truth Center in 1971.
"She was real. She was down to Earth. She was approachable," said her friend Dr. Jean Derricotte-Murphy.
Dr. Murphy met Dr. Barbara when the Hillside Chapel founder was in her late 70s and had finally decided to pursue her dream of earning a Ph.D. in Ministry. Dr. Murphy was the admissions director at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit but found herself inspired by Dr. Barbara's courage and compassion.
"She was able to do what she did because when she looked at people, she looked at the similarities--that we are all beloved people created by God," said Dr. Murphy. "Seeing Hillside and being in Hillside and being a part of the worship service, just let you know that she did the right thing," said Dr. Murphy. Hillside welcomed people of any faith and denomination and also welcomed members of the LGBTQ community.
Loved ones will hold a private funeral service for Bishop Barbara Lewis King on Wednesday, October 14. Arrangements for a socially distant service for the public will be announced at a later date.
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