Mount Tabor senior pastor resigns from fellowship
After 20 years of service to the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, Bishop Neil Ellis, senior pastor at Mount Tabor Full Gospel Baptist Church, has resigned as second presiding bishop and from the Bishop’s Council of the church that is described as one of the fastest growing multi-cultural and multi-denominational reformations representing more than 10,000 leaders of faith, 2,000-plus churches and millions of associates across the world. He also withdrew the membership of his Pinewood Gardens church from the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International.
Ellis officially tendered his resignation with immediate effect to Bishop Paul Morton, international presiding bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International in Atlanta, Georgia, in a letter dated Monday, August 19.
“I am satisfied, after much prayer and reflection, that the Holy Spirit is now leading me to bring this season of my life in the fellowship to a close,” Ellis wrote.
The decision came on the heels of a surprise move that shocked the international and local Christian communities in July at the fellowship’s international conference in Louisville, Kentucky, when Ellis pulled out of a two-man race for the leadership of the Christian group.
During the conference, Ellis took to the stage and told the conference delegation that he had heard things that he did not think were good for the fellowship. He told them that he had spoken to Morton about stepping out of the leadership race. At the time, he said Morton spoke to him about his faithfulness to the work that would not permit him to step out of the race.
But Ellis said as he walked around the conference he could feel the tension, and that as he preached he could feel the Lord dealing with him.
“I wasn’t quite sure what He wanted me to do, so I just started running,” Ellis told the delegates. “I couldn’t stop until I got a release.”
At that time, Ellis said he shared with Morton that it really did not matter who won, as there was a possibility of a division in the fellowship. Ellis said as a result, he could not afford to be a part of a process that could possibly, on their 20th anniversary, create divisions among them. He said he decided to officially stand down from the leadership race.
“Doing it this way we all win,” a somber Ellis told delegates.
He also told them that he was good with his decision that his wife Patrice was good with his decision, the council was good with it as well as the Bahamian delegation.
In his resignation letter, Ellis said that at the root and core of his Christian journey has always been a resolve to yield to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a resolve that he said has guided his relationships and decision-making within the fellowship.
“It is this resolve that allowed me to remain in the fellowship and endeavor to serve as a faithful and dutiful member and loyal assistant to you; even though you and I know that there were occasions when humanly, I could have reasonably walked away,” wrote Ellis.
The Mount Tabor senior pastor thanked Morton for the opportunity he was given to serve, and for the support they had given him and the confidence they placed in him over the years.
Bishop J.W. Walker III will be the next leader of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International. Morton will demit office in 2015.
During the Kentucky conference, Morton described Ellis as a “big man”.
One day after Ellis tendered his official resignation, in a written letter to the Full Gospel family, Morton said the resignation of Ellis was a loss and that they were sorry to see him depart.
“Personally, it saddens me that he’s not remaining until my term ends in 2015, but God knows best,” he said.
Morton’s letter said Ellis worked faithfully through the years and that every promotion Ellis received he fulfilled with excellence. And that the process that God gave to them to elect their next presiding bishop, involving the Bishop’s Council (his peers and the leading body of the fellowship) was fair and honest.
“This great council of bishops heard God’s voice through much fasting and prayer. Of course, Bishop Joseph Walker won the majority vote of his peers. This does not mean Bishop Ellis was not qualified; he is a great leader, but I truly believe for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, Bishop Joseph Walker is our leader for this next season.”
Morton said that Full Gospel was “blessed” with Walker. And that he is one of the greatest spiritual and innovative leaders of this generation.
“When I look at his awesome ministry which is second to none, and his successful tenure as bishop of the senior pastors’s division (which has grown and developed way beyond my expectations), I’m confident that he will take this great fellowship to the next level. I’m godly proud to call him our next leader, and I am personally excited and am looking forward to serving under him.”
In his letter, Morton urged the fellowship members to keep Walker in their prayers, and to not allow the media to turn the upcoming
season of their transition into something negative.
“With change comes changes, but there’s no split,” he wrote. “God has been faithful to us and I know he will continue to do so. This is our 20th year and we are going to continue to rejoice and celebrate the years to come.”
Morton wrote that the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship will remain strong, vibrant and impactful to this generation and the generations to come.
During Ellis’ years with Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, he transitioned from role to role. In 1994, he began his tenure as state overseer for The Bahamas. At that time, The Bahamas was under the Florida region. Within 10 months, they grew from three churches to 16 churches. The rapid growth resulted in The Bahamas becoming a new region. Ellis was consecrated in 1995 to the office of bishop to serve as the first regional bishop for The Bahamas. Simultaneously, he served as the first bishop of foreign ministries with responsibilities for churches outside of the continental United States. In that role he was afforded the privilege of being the voice and face of the fellowship in Africa, India, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean.
As the fellowship expanded he had the opportunity to serve as the first an only chairman of the College of Bishops, first assistant to the third presiding bishop. He served as first assistant to the international presiding bishop.
Eleven years ago, he was appointed to serve in the capacity as third presiding bishop, a post that allowed him to serve as acting presiding bishop for a three-month period while Morton took a leave of absence after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. For the last seven years, Ellis served in the office of second presiding bishop.
Mount Tabor was organized in February 1987 with its name originally being Mount Tabor Union Baptist Church. In a Chicken Unlimited conference room, then located on Mackey Street, 13 people — Ellis, his wife, DeHavilland Newton, Melanie (Johnson) Huyler, Pamula Ellis, Delton Ellis, Anna (Clarke) Ellis, Jennifer (Black) Dean, Antoinette (Cartwright) Miller, Sharlene (Ellis) Gibson, Eunell (Rolle) Armbrister, Cathy (Williams) Butler and Shirley Lloyd stepped out in faith to start the new ministry.
The first worship of Mount Tabor was held on Sunday, February 22, 1987 in the chapel of the Bahamas National Baptist Convention’s headquarters on Baillou Hill Road with 53 people in attendance, including Reverend Philip Rahming, then president of the Bahamas Christian Council who presided over the service. Ellis, preached a sermon entitled “The Mission of the Church”.