Bishop Gladys P. Joyner, a founding member and pastor of White Rock Non-Denominational Church in Southwest Baltimore, died Sept. 25 from Alzheimer’s disease at Gilchrist Center in Towson. The Windsor Mill resident was 86.
The former Gladys Privette English, the daughter of the Rev. Robert English, pastor of the United Holiness Church of America, and his wife, Gertrude English, was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina.
After graduating in 1953 from Hillside High School in Durham, she moved to Baltimore and enrolled at the Cortez W. Peters Business School, from which she graduated two years later. An advocate for education and Bible study, Bishop Joyner studied theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Roland Park and at Morgan State University.
In 1956, she met Walter R. Joyner, who was an Army corporal stationed at Fort Meade, on a blind date. After a “six month whirlwind courtship,” according to a biographical profile supplied by her family, they married in 1956.
Before launching her full-time pastoral career, Bishop Joyner worked as an administrative assistant for the Internal Revenue Service, and then joined the Baltimore Police Department’s pawnshop unit where she was recognized for her “speed and accuracy as a typist and taking notes in shorthand,” according to the profile.
Bishop Joyner had become religiously active at an early age, family members said, and for nearly two decades had been an active member and choir singer at Sweet Hope Freewill Baptist Church in Northwest Baltimore, and while at the church, was “called to preach the Gospel under the late Rev. John T. Crummedy,” according to the profile.
In 1981, she was ordained during the Baptist Conference by Bishop Robert McKinney, and conducted weekly Bible study classes with the Rev. Carolyn Whittle from Sweet Hope Freewill Baptist church, in the basement of her Windsor Mill home.
Bishop Joyner became a full-time pastor in the mid-1980s and in 1986 she was appointed assistant pastor at New Horizon Baptist Church in Gwynn Oak, and then began attending services at New Jerusalem Fire Baptized Holiness Church of of the Americas in Walbrook.
She and several other followers felt compelled to establish their own church and, initially without the aid of funds, started meeting in the home of the Rev. Martha Rich. That’s where, in 1993 they established the White Rock Non-Denominational Church which eventually settled in Southwest Baltimore near St. Agnes Hospital, according to a son, the Rev. Simeon D. Joyner, of Windsor Mill.
In 2003, she was consecrated a bishop by the late Apostle Bishop Dr. Eddie A. Montgomery.
In order to carry out her vision for White Rock Non-Denominational Church, Bishop Joyner ordained elders to assist her in the work of the church. That inspired another church to go off on its own that was led by the Rev. William A. Liggins Sr., but continued to “unite in fellowship under the umbrella of White Rock Non-Denominational Church,” according to the profile.
Bishop Joyner established a scholarship fund in her name that financially assisted White Rock’s high school graduates who were planning on attending college. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, she distributed food baskets to those in need, and provided Christmas gifts for church members.
Her favorite hymns, family members said, were “Wave My Hands” and “If I Don’t Wake Up.”
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“Because of her illness I stepped in, but she remained pastor until the end,” said the Rev. Simeon D. Joyner.
In her non-church life, Bishop Joyner enjoyed shopping, cooking, ten-pin bowling and traveling, and had visited Europe and taken an extensive road trip across the U.S.
She liked buying clothes and shoes and she had “more suits and dresses than closet space and her collection of shoes could fill a store,” the profile observed.
Bishop Joyner liked cooking and entertaining family and friends and especially looked forward to Christmas when “everyone came to her house,” her son said.
An excellent cook, she was known for her lemon butter pound cake and sweet potato pie, her son said.
Funeral services were held Oct. 1 at her church.
In addition to her son, Bishop Joyner is survived by her husband of 64 years, a retired meat cutter; another son, LeMont E. Joyner of Elkridge; a brother, Harvey Lee English Sr. of Washington; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.