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Bishop S.C. Johnson
Founder and Former Pastor (1933 to 1961)
Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith

He was born Sherrod Charlotte Johnson in Edgecomb County, North Carolina, at the turn of the 19th Century. While not many details are known about his formative years, much is known about the charismatic leadership and moving ministry of the late Bishop and pioneering founder of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the

Apostolic Faith.
Prior to his spiritual calling, Johnson held several jobs in varied professions. Like most Blacks of the south of that time, he endured the hardships of racism--poverty, limited education, and poor wages. He knew he would need to move north to change his circumstance.

His Ministry
Johnson's ministry began under the leadership of Bishop Robert C. Lawson whose Apostolic church was headquartered in New York City. Then-Elder Johnson's duties were centered in North Carolina where he was State Overseer. Over time, Bishop Lawson and Elder Johnson developed doctrinal differences that led to their separation in the early 1930s. However, despite these differences, the two men maintained respect for one another, often times sending a representative to visit the other's congregation.

After severing ties with Lawson's organization, Bishop Johnson moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he would head his own church. He held several jobs to support his family while building his congregation. One such position was with Frankford Arsenal, the manufacturer of military ammunition, where he was trained in carpentry. This training proved quite useful in the physical building of his church edifices around the country.

Bishop Johnson located a site and purchased the grounds at 22nd and Montgomery Avenue in North Philadelphia. In an effort to minimize costs in the midst of the Great Depression, he purchased several old abandoned homes, demolished them, and preserved the lumber for use on the new church building. With the help of the brothers and financial contributions from all members, a suitable church building was erected in 1935. The sanctuary held approximately 250 people, although the active membership was only around 50 at the time of the dedication.

With the success of his radio broadcasts and open debates, Bishop Johnson's congregation grew exponentially. By 1948, the congregation had outgrown its space on Montgomery Avenue. The members sacrificed and raised the finance needed to purchase an existing church building at 22nd and Bainbridge Streets in South Philadelphia. Bishop Johnson set the precedent of self-reliance, not accepting government or charitable subsidies, which is true of the organization even today. The structure at 22nd and Bainbridge Streets had been owned by a Presbyterian congregation and was designed by one of Philadelphia's most famous retailers, John Wanamaker. The exterior was beautifully finished with stonework. It was three stories high with two auditoriums; one seated 500 and was primarily used for Sunday school classes, and the main auditorium seated approximately 1,500 and was used for worship services. There was a very elegantly designed balcony with a deep mahogany wood finish and a pipe organ that added a quaint charm and sense of serenity to the auditorium. There were apartments on the upper level, and a luncheonette, nursery, and offices on the lower level. The interior was nearly all wood, which proved to be deadly some years later when the large edifice went up in flames. On Sunday, November 30, 1958, with a congregation of more than 1,000 in attendance, a fire spread throughout the building, demolishing it and killing one of the congregants.

The members rallied around their fearless leader who vowed to rebuild a church, the likes of which had never been seen in the City of Philadelphia. And in just over 11 months, Bishop Johnson's vision was realized. The new church edifice was erected and dedicated; the seating capacity was 5,000, making it the largest (now the second largest) church auditorium in that city.

The Church was on the move once again. In the 28 years of his ministry, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith grew from 50 members to more than 2,000.

On a trip to Kingston, Jamaica, in 1961, Bishop Johnson passed away.
There are those who still try to imitate his sound and style, but his chapter in church history has been respectfully closed. Even he realized the value of being progressive, of growing in grace, knowledge, and education. He was a man of and for his time, and he led the church with distinction. His memory is cherished by today's church, which still stands at 22nd and Bainbridge Streets where the fruits of his labor flourish under the formidable leadership of Bishop Omega Y. L. Shelton.

Education
What Bishop Johnson lacked in formal education, he more than made up for in faith in Christ Jesus and a strong sense of purpose to bring the Word of God to the people. His industriousness, persistence, and business savvy shaped the early church organization, leading it to great heights. He was a man of great vision and was not too proud to call on those of higher education, like Brother Samuel McDowell Shelton, whom he sent to school, and who subsequently succeeded him in the ministry.

Personal
Bishop S.C. Johnson was married and together with his wife, Rose, raised nine children.


 
 
 
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