Bishop Julius H. McAllister Sr., presiding prelate of the 8th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, began preaching at the age of 5 -- before he could even read.
As bishop of 275 AME churches in Louisiana and Mississippi, his flock numbers in the thousands. But then his congregation was his 14 brothers and sisters.
He is the middle son, child number eight, of a United Methodist pastor, the late Rev. Joseph McAllister Sr., in Darlington, S.C.
"I would get up on a box, as a very young child, and ... would always recite St. John, the third chapter, and the first three verses," McAllister said. "My sister said how amazing it was that I was reading the Bible -- until she discovered I was holding it upside down."
McAllister, 63, comes from a preaching family. A sister and a brother are United Methodist pastors, another brother is a Baptist pastor and another brother and sister are Church of God pastors. His son, Julius Jr., is pastor of an AME church in Tallahassee, Fla.
Julius McAllister Sr. accepted Jesus Christ into his life at the age of 9 on a Sunday night when he was home with his siblings while his parents were at church. On that night, another sibling was preaching.
"Some people call it playing church," McAllister said, "and I, along with my older brother, who was 13 months older than I, gave our lives to the Lord."
In the Air Force, he served four years in Omaha, Neb., married his wife, Joan, and started a family. They have three children: Julius Jr., 42; Juanita, 40; and Jocelyn, 30; and a total of five grandchildren.
He attributes his switch from United Methodist to AME to his wife, who grew up in the AME tradition. He was licensed to preach in 1972 at Allen Chapel AME in Omaha.
They moved back to New Jersey, where Joan was from, and he was ordained as an elder and felt a calling to go South.
"She is a modern-day Ruth because she was willing to follow me," he said.
In Atlanta, he worked full time and attended school full time, earning a bachelor's degree from Morris Brown College and a master of divinity from Turner Theological Seminary.
Source: The Advocate | MARK H. HUNTER