For generations Indiana has been blessed to have dynamic preachers of the Pentecostal tradition such as Bishop Garfield T. Haywood, Bishop Morris E. Golder and Bishop Milton L. Hall.
Fortunately, the state still has the presence of one of those ministers, Bishop James E. Tyson, who served for over 50 years as pastor of Christ Church Apostolic.
Tyson, known affectionately as “The Godfather of Pentecost,” will be honored during a special service celebrating his 83rd birthday and the 34th Anniversary of Christ Church Apostolic. The event will take place during 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. services on May 30 at the church, 6601 Grandview Ave.
In an exclusive interview with the Recorder, Tyson said he is humbled that many individuals, even those outside the apostolic faith, have held his ministry in high regard.
“You feel thankful that God has blessed you to be a blessing,” Tyson said, describing the type of feeling he has about the honor.
A native of Johnstown, Penn., Tyson’s strength and dedication to excellence were shaped by a Christian foundation built by his parents, their examples of hard work and a childhood during the rough years of the Great Depression.
At 16 Tyson left home, served in the Navy and found work in shipyards while going to radio school at night. He not only excelled at the study of technology, but also found that he enjoyed reading and public speaking.
He accepted his call to ministry in 1947 while studying under the leadership of Bishop R.L. Robinson at Mt. Calvary Pentecostal Church of Youngstown, Ohio. Tyson developed his leadership capabilities by serving in nearly every position the church had, from janitor and men’s department director, to Sunday school teacher and assistant pastor.
“I’ve always considered myself a servant of God,” Tyson said. “So with everything I’ve been asked to do throughout my ministry, I’ve been glad to do the best way I know how to the glory of God.”
Tyson served as senior pastor of churches in Ohio and Kansas as well as the mother church of PAW Christ Temple Apostolic Faith Church in Indianapolis before establishing Christ Church Apostolic of Indianapolis in 1976, which became one of the city’s fastest growing congregations.
He is known for his solid devotion to biblical teachings, and a clear, precise preaching style that calls listeners to their full potential in Christ and fearlessly stands up against social degeneration.
Tyson retired as senior pastor of Christ Church Apostolic last year and passed day-to-day leadership to his son, Bishop J. Laverne Tyson, who is also pastor of New Beginnings Ministries. Tyson said both congregations will eventually merge into one ministry.
The minister has also been active in national leadership of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, a 1.5-million member Christian denomination that is based in Indianapolis and has churches on every continent.
He is currently presiding bishop of PAW’s Fourth Episcopal diocese, which includes churches in Indiana.
“It (the PAW’s) focus should remain Bible focused,” Tyson stated. “Jesus said he is the light of the world, and the PAW’s mission should be to fulfill the direction of Jesus, who says ‘let your light so shine before men,’ that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven. Our churches must help make the world a better place and bring God’s kingdom to this world.”
Tyson said he is enjoying retirement, and visiting the 90 churches in his diocese keeps him busy. He would also like, however, to find time to travel to places such as Africa and Asia (particularly China, where the PAW has recently opened several churches.)
For Tyson, the greatest accomplishment of his life is being saved by God and allowed to serve him.
“He gave me the opportunity over the years to minister to people, as a clergyman, and I’ve also been blessed to be a father and a husband,” he noted. “But the greatest thing that has happened in my life is to help someone else do God’s will.”
The Bishop is the proud father of five grown children, two of whom are also well known ministers, and enjoys his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He has overcome significant loss in his life, including the deaths of his first two wives. He has been married to his current wife and ministry partner, Ruth, for 13 years.
Tyson laughed when told that many admirers refer to him as “The Godfather of Pentecost,” and appreciates the support.
“I guess my enemies would have other titles for me, but I’m grateful that some people would make such a kind statement about my attempt at ministry to this community and people everywhere,” Tyson said. “I try to live up to that title and do my best not to have it be just an empty title, but to do God’s will.”
For more information, call (317) 255-8761.