By Ashley Benkarski
NASHVILLE, TN—One of Nashville’s most influential figures, Bishop Joseph W. Walker III, celebrated three decades of pastoral ministry April 20 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Though people from all over the nation —including Bishop T. D. Jakes and Grammy winner Le’Andria Johnson— were in attendance to honor Bishop Walker and his wife, Dr. Stephaine Walker, he focused the attention on God and organizations doing important work to change lives in the community.
Bishop Walker’s leadership has led the congregation to grow exponentially throughout his tenure—from 175 in 1992 to over 20,000 today, according to the Tennessee Historical Society.
“Vision lives beyond the visionary,” he said. He’s confident in Mt. Zion’s foundation and all that is to come from its legacy.
Bishop Walker said the collaboration between the community and the church has led Mt. Zion to its current path, bearing out a “culture of creativity where people find acceptance in this space.”
Walker has led his congregation with love and compassion, employing emotional intelligence to foster trust and communication.
Formed in 1866 Mt. Zion is a cornerstone of north Nashville, built on compassion and empowerment and focused on the community. “It’s important to be stewards … Mt. Zion is a beacon of light and hope,” he said.
“Mt. Zion’s legacy is one of continued sustainability and viability [that] impacted this community spiritually, economically, educationally–because we have balance, because there are folks who are four generations deep still in this church,” Walker has said to the Tribune previously.
He’s continued that legacy with sustained outreach to the community. “We’re trying to be a community that gets it right,” he said.
The key is to pay it forward, and then teach others to do the same, he added.
Bishop Walker said he’s blessed to have his wife, Stephaine, who he relayed was instrumental in Mt. Zion’s successful approach to health and safety during the pandemic. “I’m blessed to live with the science,” he said fondly, and added that the couple’s combined careers of ministry and medicine had been an advantage not just in the last two years but for quite some time now; Stephaine spearheaded a program aimed to promote nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
Throughout April, Bishop Walker was busy paying it forward, committing $30,000 to the community in 30 days.
As part of that mission he announced the donation of thousands of dollars for scholarships and to Legacy Builders, a nonprofit working to train young men in honing life and career skills.
Walker also announced a new $1 million campaign goal, with $903,000 raised in less than five days.
Video of Bishop Walker’s pastoral celebration can be found in two parts on Mt. Zion’s YouTube channel, and information on the Church and its outreach efforts can be found at mtzionnashville.org.