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Spokane pastor becomes auxiliary bishop

Auxiliary Bishop Ezra Kinlow has served Holy Temple Church of God in Christ for 42 years.

By Mary Stamp

Spokane has a new bishop. It's Auxiliary Bishop Ezra Kinlow.

In November, the General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Memphis, Tenn., approved the nomination of Ezra Kinlow, who has been district superintendent for Eastern Washington and the pastor of Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, as auxiliary bishop.

In January at Atlanta, Ga., the COGIC consecrated him as auxiliary bishop in the Washington State Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the COGIC. He was among eight auxiliary bishops consecrated.

"I will be assisting the Washington State Presiding Bishop," said Bishop Kinlow, 86, conscious that his new position is a reward for his loyalty and commitment for working a number of roles within the Washington State Jurisdiction and for 42 years as pastor of the Holy Temple COGIC.

As district superintendent for 10 years, he visited churches in the district. Now he will help the presiding bishop visit churches in seven states—Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Alaska—to nurture the pastors and congregations.

For 20 years, he was youth leader for the Washington Jurisdiction.

In 2004, his church outgrew its building at 312 E. 3rd Ave. and moved into the former Christian Science building at 806 W. Indiana, where it is continuing to grow.

COVID has had an impact on the congregation. It lost some members to the illness, and some did not come back when services started being held in person again. The church continues to offer Sunday worship in person and online and a Bible study on a phone conference line. About 150 to 200 now attend regularly in person and online combined.

Many members of his congregation are aging, and many have had cancer.

"Some are passing away, but God is still healing some," he said.

Bishop Kinlow has also been active in the community.

"For many years, I worked with other pastors in the Spokane Ministers' Fellowship, conversing with the police department to urge them to hire Black police officers," he said.

Their hope was to decrease the rate at which Black men were stopped and incarcerated.

Once the city agreed to hire Black police officers, the pastors visited colleges around the state to recruit candidates. They hired seven, but over 30 years since then, most have retired and were not replaced, Bishop Kinlow said.

When Sheri Barnard was mayor, she invited the Spokane Ministers' Fellowship to join with others in the community to help choose a police chief, he added.

He also was involved with organizing Churches Against Racism in connection with the Spokane Christian Coalition. The goal was to bring together faith leaders to work on common concerns, but it did not gain the traction hoped for, he said.

In 1996, he also helped organize a gathering of 5,000 church people to sign an agreement to work together and share pulpits.

"We learned about our different churches but didn't experience the progress in race relationships we sought," Bishop Kinlow said.

Also in the 1990s, the Greater Spokane Association of Evangelicals worked to form a Mission Spokane organization with leadership shared by him and and Tom Starr. It lasted several years after Tom's death in 2001.

As a pastor, he continually joined efforts to increase Black leadership and visibility in schools, in the police department and in the job market.

"We wanted the schools to hire more Black counselors, teachers and principals and had some success," he added.

Holy Temple COGIC has worked to present the Gospel of Christ and has been faithful to this mission, Bishop Kinlow said.

Because of the church's seating capacity, it has been used since 2004 as the place for gathering for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day worship service, which the Spokane Ministers' Fellowship organizes each year as a fundraiser for the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

Bishop Kinlow did prison ministry for about 20 years in Airway Heights. Currently the elders and missionaries at Holy Temple continue this ministry.

"Some felons turned their lives around after they accepted Christ," he said. "We helped some reduce their sentences and achieve early release because of our relationship with them.

"Some became active in the church and productive members of society," he added.

Working with Ezra is Elder Wayne Washington, who was trained in-house and appointed as assistant pastor three years ago. Two others, Elder Tommy Whitman and Elder Marvin White, also work in ministry with him.

Many members who came to Spokane with the Air Force and different colleges stayed.

Bishop Kinlow, who grew up in Arkansas, moved to Tacoma with his family. There he met Eleise, his wife of 60 years. Not only has she supported his ministry, but she has also organized women's retreats that have drawn women from across the United States and sparked some of them to start their own ministries.

"I'm grateful for what God has done in my life, for a southern boy from Dumas, Ark., to be picked as bishop, one of the highest offices in the church," he said. "I have been in the Church of God in Christ all my life, but initially did not see ministry in my future."

During some of his early years of ministry in Spokane, he worked as an engineer with IBM. He retired in 1985 after 17 years and focused on ministry full time.

Three of the Kinlow's six children are active in church. One son in Seattle plays keyboard at a church. One daughter is married to a minister and lives in Atlanta. A second daughter, Yolanda, is choir director at Holy Temple. Their other sons include one who paints houses, one who lives in Seattle and one who died in a car accident.

"We have 13 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. We are a close family, often traveling back and forth between Tacoma and here," he said.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March 2024