Bishop Rudolph Waldo McKissick, Sr. is Pastor Emeritus of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, located in Jacksonville, Florida. On January 31, 2014, Bishop McKissick, Sr., retired after 47 years as the Senior Pastor. However, he now serves as Pastoral Counselor and serves at his leisure.
Bishop McKissick, Sr., is the longest serving Pastor in the church’s history. He was raised from a child in Bethel, served in the Choir, Male Chorus Choir Director, Assistant Church Clerk, Church School Teacher, Assistant Deacon and Deacon, before the Lord called him to Pastor his beloved Bethel. He believes the measure of his success in ministry is accredited to his love for people and his hands-on ministry style. His longevity in ministry is attributed not to anything he’s accomplished, but to those he has served and continues to serve.
During Bishop McKissick, Sr.’s tenure as pastor, an Educational Building was erected which now bears the name of “Rudolph W. McKissick, Sr.” A city block of property was also purchased which currently houses the Main Sanctuary and Family Life Center. The Jacksonville City Council recognized his many noteworthy accomplishments and renamed a portion of Hogan Street as Rudolph McKissick, Sr. Boulevard in his honor.
A passionate scholar and lifelong learner, Bishop McKissick, Sr. earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Edward Waters College and received Honorary Doctoral Degrees from Bethune Cookman University and Edward Waters College. He has also received advanced training at Tuskegee Institute, the Music Institute of Columbia University, Princeton University and Luther Rice Seminary.
Throughout the years, he has served in a variety of civic capacities some of which are the first Board of Trustees at the University of North Florida, the Jacksonville Urban League, and served on the Board of Trustees of Edward Waters College for thirty years. He also served on the Board of the Duval Medical Center, National Council of Christians and Jews and The YMCA James Weldon Johnson Branch. He is the former president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Jacksonville, and Former President of the Pastor’s Conference of the National Baptist Convention and founder of the Christian Mission Center which later became the Help Center where persons could seek counseling and housing assistance for drug/alcoholic addiction. Bishop McKissick, Sr., was also the recipient of the Bernard V. Gregory Servant Leader Award presented by Volunteer Jacksonville in 2003. He is the organizer of the Jacksonville Coalition of African American Pastors and holds membership in a number of organizations including Life Membership in the NAACP, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Bishop McKissick, Sr., also served as Bishop of Marriage and Family in the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. In February 2014 he was the Mayor’s Trailblazer Honoree recipient for the Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bishop McKissick, Sr. has traveled to South Africa with Fresh Ministries, Inc., participated in a tour of Turkey as a guest of the Amity Turkish Cultural Center and joined by other diverse members of the clergy, visiting historic cities and sites. He has conducted revivals in Panama, and toured the Holy Land twice.
Bishop McKissick, Sr. has impacted the lives of many as a positive role model all across this nation. His spirituality and sincerity are evidenced in his work as Pastor for 47 years and in serving the community. God has used his leadership as an instrument in the calling of more than fifty young men and women to the ministry which proudly includes his own son, Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick, Jr., who now serves as the Senior Pastor of Bethel.
In addition to the more than 40 ministries initiated by Bishop McKissick, Sr., he and his wife, Estelle established the (BEST) Bethel Enhancing Students Totally Saturday Academy which is in its 21st year of existence and has earned a stellar reputation across the city of Jacksonville. Along with this program, he was instrumental in Bethel’s approval as a summer school site for Duval County’s most academically challenged students. He and his wife established a viable Marriage Ministry which has been in existence for thirty-five years. Most recently, he has been assigned as the Special Assistant to Presiding Bishop Neil C. Ellis of Global United Fellowship.
Bishop McKissick, Sr., sees his greatest accomplishment after 47 years of Pastoring, is the people – not the buildings. “It is a blessing to see those you’ve mentored play integral parts in ministry at the church and across the nation,” Being a people’s person, you learn how to treat people, love people and care for people. And, that gives you a Shepherd’s heart.” His perpetual journey has crafted a lifetime filled with respect and adoration across the nation, as well as, unimaginable blessings and irreplaceable experiences. He is comfortable in his salvation and confident in a risen Savior, absolute, with no equivocations. His obedient spirit and total reliance on the Holy Spirit have afforded him the opportunity of preaching, teaching, and ministering for over 50 years.
Bishop McKissick, Sr. is married to the former Estelle Teresa Lee Williams, a noted retired school administrator, for over 51 years. He is the father of one son, Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick, Jr. (Kimberly) and the grandfather of three: Jocelyn, Janai and Joshua.