The late Reverend Dr. Timothy Stewart is being remembered by his family as the people’s pastor – a person who gave of himself sacrificially, a champion for the underserved, and a man who was accessible – anyone could speak to him, according to his niece Gandhi Pinder.
Stewart, senior pastor at the historic Bethel Baptist Church on Meeting Street, and the 21st president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), died on Friday, September 17. He was 64 years old.
“At his core, Rev. Stewart was a family man who loved his wife [Sharon Stewart née Williams]. She worked hand in hand with him in ministry, she was caring and devoted, and they had a wonderful relationship,” said Pinder.
“He loved his in-laws and extended family. He was our patriarch and a father to so many of us. I have 20-plus first cousins, and all of us thought of him as a father. He would pour into us.”
As much as he gave to his family, Pinder said they realized they had to share Stewart, who was known affectionately as “Rev” in the family, with everyone else.
As the tributes pour in to the family, she said they have come to realize just how selfless and giving Stewart was.
“He was the people’s pastor. Rev. Stewart had so many layers but, at his core, he had a love for people. We remember his legacy of love, kindness, forgiveness, service and so many things.”
Reverend Dr. Ivan Butler, Jr., pastor at Kemp Road Ministries, described Stewart as a man of impeccable character who made The Bahamas proud with his leadership.
“He was a visionary, a tremendous leader, strong family man with a great love for people,” said Butler.
Reverend Arnold Hutcheson, associate minister, Bethel Baptist Church, said Stewart fought a good fight and was faithful to the end.
“We mourn, not in despair, but in hope that we shall meet again,” said Stewart.
Dr. R.E. Cooper, pastor at Mission Baptist Church, said Stewart was a visionary with a deep passion for bringing to the fore the rich heritage that Baptists had been entrusted with.
“He sought to share his life, unselfishly, promoting the gospel. He was one with a philosophical mind and great penetrating insight with what was required to make worthwhile living a life for Christ,” said Cooper.
Dr. Ralph Canty, PNBC ninth president, who served as special counsel to Stewart, described him as a remarkable leader of extraordinary vision, commitment and courage.
“His imprint upon our convention will be indelible,” said Canty. “Great is his eternal inheritance.”
Stewart served the convention for over three decades.
Pinder, who is also the PNBC’s director of communications, said as the convention mourns, they remember and celebrate a “great shepherd” who pastored Bethel Baptist Church – the husband, father, family man, visionary leader, counselor and friend. And they grieve not in despair but with hope that they shall meet again.
Stewart made history in 2018, when he was voted the first president from the international region in PNBC’s 60-year history. The organization he led started as a movement which reflected the religious, social and political climate of its time. Its mission was to transform the traditional African American Baptist Convention as well as society. The formation of the convention of which Stewart served three years of his four-year term was wrapped up in the Civil Rights Movement.
During his PNBC presidency, Stewart focused on the theme “In Pursuit of Wholeness” with year one on the recovery of the sacred; year two’s focus on revitalization of the community; year three on the maximization of potential; with his fourth-year focus to have been on promotion of unity.
The late Bethel Baptist Church senior pastor and PNBC president was described as an accomplished spiritual and civic leader – an anointed pastor/teacher who was eloquent and effective – and with the heart, soul and mind of a humble servant of God.
Stewart received the call to become the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church at age 25. He went on to be one of the longest-serving pastors of the oldest Baptist church in The Bahamas, and the oldest continuing Baptist church in the Caribbean.
Throughout his tenure, Stewart served God and the constituencies of Bains and Grants Town, which are among the largest and oldest working-class communities in The Bahamas. Today, the church still provides food (over 30,000 meals per year), clothing, counseling, educational development opportunities and other human services to the communities.
In August 2018, Stewart was elected to become the first ever non-American to ascend to the presidency of the PNBC, which has membership of more than 2.5 million people worldwide.
PNBC is headquartered in Washington, DC, with world reach through its member churches, whose mandate is to give voice, sterling leadership, and active support to the fight for human freedom. The convention was the denominational home and platform for the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nationally, Stewart’s accomplishments are numerous, including moderator emeritus of the Bethel Baptist Association, having served in that capacity from 1997 to 2018. The association comprises 17 churches throughout the archipelago. He was also a past executive board member of the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention.
His early Christian training included a Bachelor of Arts in Bible and Theology with a minor in History and Social Science from the American Baptist College. He was awarded an honorary Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky; and Doctor of Humane Letters from Eastern Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Stewart is survived by his wife Sharon Stewart and three sons, Timothy II, Henry Michael and Gardner Calvin.
EVENTS CELEBRATING THE LIFE OF REV. DR. TIMOTHY STEWART
Wednesday, September 29
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention Headquarters/Auditorium, Jean Street
Thursday, September 30
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Bethel Baptist Church, Meeting Street
6:30 p.m. – Wednesday, September 29
Bethel Baptist Church
Friday, October 1
Official Homegoing Service
11 a.m. – Bethel Baptist Church
Friday, October 8
Bethel Baptist Association
New Covenant Baptist Church
Monday, October 11
American Baptist College Alumni Association breakfast fellowship in honor of Rev. Dr. Timothy Stewart
Tabernacle of Praise
Thursday, October 21
11 a.m. – First Baptist Highland Park
6801 Sheriff Road
Host pastor: Dr. Henry P. Davis III