Bishop Lawrence T. Wooten, pastor of Williams Temple Church of God in Christ, was honored on June 27 for 20 years of service as the Eastern Missouri Western Illinois Jurisdictional Bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC).
Dozens of cars adorned with signs and balloons paraded in front of the North City church as Bishop Wooten and his wife, First Lady Shirley Wooten, waved to supporters honking their horns.
“I was totally surprised today, amen,” Wooten said later. “When all of you showed up, it was totally by surprise. God has been good to me.”
Bishop Wooten was elected to the board of the Church of God in Christ in 2000 and as a jurisdictional prelate oversees more than 40 ministries in the region. Elected COGIC General Board secretary in 2012, he is the fourth-highest ranking member of the predominately African-American religious organization. Founded in 1897, the Church of God in Christ has 6.5 million members in 12,000 churches across more than 100 countries.
“It has been 20 years that our leader has served this jurisdiction,” said Bishop Nelson Watts. “And now he is the secretary on the General Board. I think that is a great achievement.”
Wooten has been the pastor of Williams Temple since 1979. The father of 6, grandfather of 10 and great-grandfather of 7 holds a doctorate degree and is a retired public school administrator.
“He’s been the pastor since I was 12, and we’ve always been in the church,” said his daughter Kimberly Wooten. “He’s always giving to people. He’s 79 now, and we have to look out for him.”
Several of the 12-member COGIC General Board have been impacted by COVID-19, and Wooten’s wife recently returned from caring for her mother who was diagnosed with the virus but has since recovered.
The Saturday morning gathering in the parking lot of Williams Temple practiced social distancing, with people sitting six feet apart from each other and wearing masks. The celebration included singing, dancing, and gloved hands raised in worship. The St. Louis Fire Department recognized Wooten by draping a huge American flag in front of the church.
Wooten was honored with a plaque from the Church of God in Christ by a group of area bishops and a medal and proclamation from St. Louis Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed
“You all have blessed this city so much just by your presence, not just for the things you do out in front of the public but the things you do when the public isn’t watching,” said Reed, who said he considers himself a personal friend of the Wootens.
“With all of the challenges we have, can you imagine what the City of St. Louis would be like without the Wootens here holding this church together and making sure people stand with God?”
Williams Temple is located at the intersection of Union Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Dive. Across the street from the large church sits Bishop LM Wooten Family Life Center.
“After Williams Temple came to this corner, this corner became known as the Miracle Corner,” Watts said.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden said Wooten’s impact reaches beyond the neighborhood. Wooten, who lives in Florissant, served as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners for St. Louis County beginning in 2014, during the time of Ferguson protests over the killing of Mike Brown.
“He got appointed at a time of a lot of chaos,” Hayden said. “But who was the person that God put in place to steer law enforcement at the time?”
In abbreviated remarks due to rain, Wooten said he was thankful to God for the opportunity to serve.
“I just want to be a servant to the people,” he said.