Tribute to: Bishop Theophilus A. McCalla
Title: An Elder at the Gate
“The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music. The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.” (Lam 5:14-15 KJV)
Bishop Theophilus Augustus McCalla’s illustrious ministry and mission of unrequited love to the life and journey of Church of God of Prophecy, within the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Ghana and the universal ecclesia of God throughout the Caribbean Islands and the United States of America, stands as a huge monument and legacy of grace, rooted and established in Christ Jesus our Lord.
His vision, values, courage and unconquerable faith were hallmarks of his character and focussed leadership approach. Bishop McCalla stood as a giant among leaders of leaders and was known and personified for his clear and unequivocal approach to the advancement of the gospel, as he had been taught. His relentless love for Jesus Christ and his people was exemplary.
It pleased the Lord to summons his son, this worthy General from the field of ministry, after 67 years of service, to his home in glory, in the early hours of Thursday morning, 2nd April, 2020. His family, extended families, ministry colleagues and church community stood in honour as the news of his passing reverberated across the many modes of communication.
Bishop McCalla was a notable apostolic Minister; outstanding Senior Pastor, District Overseer, National Ministry Director, exemplary National Overseer and a wise and enduring Elder. His service of love to the life and journey of the Church of God of Prophecy, in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Ghana and worldwide are indelibly written within the nations, in our hearts, but more so in the records that are kept in glory.
Upon observation of the arc and influence of Bishop’s leadership trajectory from my youth, I have concluded that his passion to share the gospel of Christ, his vision to plant and establish healthy churches, grow and mentor leaders, were trademarks of his spiritual gifting and determined leadership methodology. Bishop McCalla stands as a colossus among leaders, at local, national and international gates of our church communities, cities and countries and is well known and personified for clear and unequivocal speech and approach to the advancement of the gospel, regardless of prevailing church issues, whether of a doctrinal or church polity in nature. It was inevitable therefore, that Her Majesty the Queen, conferred upon him, the honourable order of a Member of the British Empire, award.
Bishop McCalla’s pastoral work and labour of love in Wolverhampton and Birmingham in particular, will forever stand as monuments, in these cities. From his first pastorate in Red Cross Street, Wolverhampton, to Peel Street and then Aberdeen Street, Birmingham and then back to Gloucester Street Wolverhampton are well trodden paths, which were pioneered by him and now embedded in our collective narrative and church cartography. Who will ever forget those international journeys, or indeed pilgrimage to our General Assemblies, over many, many years? Who will ever forget the mantra, which he had many people, youthful and elderly, singing, embracing and adorning? District Four, excelling in, “Wisdom, Righteousness and Power.”
Bishop McCalla’s love for people everywhere, along with his leadership and attributes for development were recognised when he was appointed as National Overseer for both Ghana and Nigeria. Whilst in Nigeria, despite facing challenging adversity, with little or no resources, Bishop McCalla, through his prolific fundraising abilities, raised thousands of pounds for the construction of a parsonage; a primary school and secondary school, along with a bore-hole that provides fresh water to the school and surrounding communities in Kabba, Kogi State, Mid-West Nigeria. There are similar projects in Ghana.
Bishop McCalla ensured that the church’s proclamation was appropriately demonstrated in its social action programmes; feeding the homeless, empowering the marginalised through delivery of education through its community programme. Today Gloucester Street church has a major influence and is a major service provider in the social action programmes with the city of Wolverhampton. This was made possible through the visionary leadership of Bishop T A McCalla.
The collaborative dimension of Bishop McCalla’s leadership was exemplified, through his tireless work with Bishop Wilton Powell, (OBE) and others to lay the foundations of a significant housing project; Nehemiah Housing Association. Its beginnings were initiated by Bishop McCalla, Bishop Wilton Powell and Bishop Horatio Fearon at the Aberdeen Street Church of God of Prophecy, Aberdeen Street, Winson Green. This notable meeting, which took place on 19th February 1986, highlighted concerns about inadequate housing conditions for many elderly church members; many of whom were widowed, isolated, and lonely with no relatives to support them in later years of life. The social housing infrastructure and provisions were proven inadequate and thus a gap was identified in the service provision of the local council. Based on the identification of this gap, in the housing market, Bishop McCalla and Nehemiah arose to design, develop and deliver appropriate housing for older people within the community; managed by Nehemiah.
“Greater is the day of death,” proclaims Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, “than the day of birth” this seems a curious statement, at first glance especially for us in the 21st century, whom embraces a life-celebrating philosophy and religion such as Judaeo-Christianity. The Early Rabbi’s and leaders insisted that this was not a contradiction. The time of a person’s passing, they expound, is the concluding moment of his or her mission in life. This is the moment at which the soul departs from the body. The time of Bishop McCalla’s passing was the culminating moment of his mission in life and the sum-total of his accomplishments in this world coming into fruition. Physically, he is in a diminished state, as David declares, “I go the way of all the earth” but spiritually, this is his and will be our moment of highest potential, if we remain faithful to Him who has called us.
Family, we join with you, in sorrow, grief and tears, as we sit, reflect and pass through the house of mourning, knowing that a more glorious and joyous day is on the horizon. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
We, Church of God of Prophecy, in the United Kingdom, salute Bishop McCalla’s family and extended families. May you be strengthened by God’s abundant grace and mercy in this time of transition. He was truly an Elder at the gate of the Kingdom of God.
“Now unto him, that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” Jude 24-25(KJV)
Tedroy M Powell
National Presiding Bishop & National Executives of the Church of God of Prophecy, United Kingdom.