Special to The Truth
In 1961, a young man and his wife got lost on their way to an interview in Toledo, Ohio. As they drove around downtown, what they saw while trying to find First Church of God that day convinced them they wanted the job—and they wanted to stay long-term.
“We got a nice tour because the driver first took us to the wrong address. We drove past the museum, the University of Toledo and such. We decided in the car ‘if they ask us to come here to pastor, we are going to stay here for a long time,’” Rev. Dr. Robert Culp recalls.
And they did stay. Rev. Culp started as lead pastor that fall, a few years after finishing ministerial studies at Anderson University (then Anderson College), where the tall Pennsylvania youth also played varsity basketball. He did graduate work at Anderson, too, while at his first pastorate in Danville, Illinois. Now, 60 years later, Bishop Culp is set to retire from his pastoral role at First Church of God.
During his entire six decades in Toledo, Bishop Culp has been involved in bettering the conditions for Toledo’s low-income neighbors, and that won’t be changing now.
Reverend Culp’s activism for the Black community took the form of efforts like:
- involvement with the NAACP and other groups working to fight discrimination early in his time in Toledo, building on efforts he made while a college student in the late 1950s. (He helped to get several businesses in Anderson, Indiana, to open their doors to Blacks for the first time.);
- helping convince the Toledo City Council in the late 1960s to pass a fair housing ordinance against redlining. While it was later overturned by voters, federal law soon helped reduce that discriminatory housing practice; and
- creating a corporation of sorts to expand job opportunities for the poor in Toledo. At its peak, the corporation had a McDonald’s franchise, two grocery stores, and a small factory. “It helped community members with spiritual life andthe quality of their lives, really,” he recalls.
“My retirement from being lead pastor here at First Church is not really a retirement, but shifting roles,” Culp said. He is diving headfirst into an ambitious community service project—transforming a closed satellite campus of the University of Toledo into a hub for community services programming.
Toledo can continue to expect Bishop Culp to remain an active face and voice in the community lending his time and talents to new projects and initiatives. Bishop Culp will have a retirement celebration on May 20, 2023 at Downtown Hilton and will remain at First Church of God, Toledo Ohio.
In carrying the mantle forward at First Church of God will be Pastor Eric Von Butler Sr. He is originally from Akron, Ohio and grew up at The Arlington Church of God under the leadership of Dr. Ronald Fowler. He attended Bay Ridge Christian College, expecting only to play basketball but God had other plans. Pastor E (as he would like to be called) accepted a call to the ministry during his sophomore year.
He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Life Ministries. He has a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Leadership and Care from Mid -American Bible University. Pastor Butler has served as at Rosenberg and South Park Church of God in Texas. He spent seven years as pastor of Community of Faith in Oklahoma City where his passion and love for the urban community emerged.
Pastor Butler’s most recent tenure of seven years at Bethesda Christian Fellowship under the leadership of Horace Sheppard Jr. where he served as Young Adult Pastor and Church Ministerial Assistant.
“I stand on the shoulders of some amazing giants, said Butler and I am honored to carry on the work of this giant ‘The Bishop of Toledo’ Robert A. Culp. He has accomplished so much in Toledo he is truly the city’s bishop and I look forward to continuing his work and legacy as a community pastor.”
Pastor Butler and his wife of 23 years, Twila Butler, have three children: nephew Cory and his wife Cora, son Eric II and daughter Avalon. Pastor Eric loves people and has a heart for worship, teaching and for service. They look forward to encouraging the existing, next and upcoming generations of the church, to take their place now in proclaiming the message to the world that a life of excellence includes being a light in a dark world.
Please join First Church of God for the Installation Weekend Celebration of Pastor Eric Von Butler Sr.
Friday September 16, 2022 at 7:00 pm
A Celebration of Bishop Robert A. Culp and passing of the baton
The Rev. Dr. Charles Myricks of Arlington Church of God
Saturday September 17, 2022 at 11:00 am
The Installation of Pastor Eric Von Butler Sr. and First Lady Twila Butler
Rev. Dr. Horace Sheppard Jr. of Bethesda Christian Fellowship Church of God
Sunday September 18, 2022 10:00 am
Join us for Sunday Worship Service with Bishop Robbie Davis of Celebration Church.
*All services will be held at First Church of God 3016 Collingwood, Toledo, Ohio 43610
For further information, contact the church office at (419) 255-0097
While Bishop Culp plans to retire as lead pastor in the spring of 2023, he will not be riding off into the sunset. He and First Lady Maggie Culp will remain at First Church of God and he will remain as active in the community as ever.
Many thanks for the contributions of chogministries and Mark Butzow in the preparation of this article.