By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor
In 1961, Robert Culp, a native of Sharon, Pennsylvania, was called to be senior pastor of the First Church of God. On Saturday, May, 20, 2023, hundreds of congregants, family members and friends from far and near and a veritable who’s who of Toledo clergy, elected officials and citizens gathered at the Hiltons at Downtown Toledo to honor a man whose service to his church and community has been as impressive as it has been long lasting.
Saturday night’s event was opened by master of ceremony Eric Ellis, president and CEO of Integrity Development Corp. Ellis is regarded as one of the nation’s leading consultants and strategists on matters relating to diversity and inclusion.
The entrance of Bishop Culp and First Lady Maggie Culp was accompanied by music by Krishna Davis Fowler, an classical soprano who has performed on major opera stages around the world, and was followed by an invocation by Rev. Eric Von Butler, Bishop Culp’s successor as senior pastor at First Church of God. Then Rev. Kerwin Manning, born and raised in Toledo and now pastor of Pasadena Church (California), presented “The Legacy of the Man.”
First Church of God C. Allen McConnell, who has been a member of the church since the mid-60s, offered remarks about the impact the bishop has had on the church.
One of the highlights of Saturday’s gala was a trio of selections by gospel vocalist Vanessa Bell Armstrong, the seven-time Grammy Award nominee, Stellar Award winner and a Soul Train Award winner.
The legacy of the man who served as senior pastor of First Church of God for 62 years is extensive.
Bishop Culp served as a youth pastor in his hometown before heading to Anderson, Indiana to attend college. He served as pastor of the Williams Street Church of God in Danville, Illinois before coming to Toledo.
During his years in Toledo, he has established the Christian School, the FACTS and FORWARD programs for substance abuse and the Four Corners Project to serve youth and children. Nationally his influence has been far-reaching as several “spiritual sons” pastor churches from Pasadena, CA, to Brooklyn, NY. He was consecrated a bishop in 2014.
In the Toledo greater community, Bishop Culp has held numerous offices and leadership positions, including: president of the Toledo Chapter of the NAACP, president of Covenant Development Corporation, founder and board chairman of Toledo Academy Charter School, founder and board member of Family House homeless shelter, founder of Sparrow’s Nest operated by the Cherry Street Mission Ministries and a founding member of the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union.
He is currently a member of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Civilian Review Board, the Lucas County Fatherhood Committee, the Hope for Toledo Board and he is co-chairperson of the Toledo Community Coalition.
Culp, in his brief remarks after dinner, expressed his gratitude to those who organized and those who attended the event. His opening comments, however, were reserved for the First Lady Maggie, whom he wed 65 years ago. Together they have raised four children.
“Life has been such a rich journey,” he said as he continued. “I have a great mate and a great family. I appreciate all the work and effort to make this night such a memory.
“When I was young, I learned a lot from my parents and my teachers about what it means to serve.”
Bishop Culp recalled an experience during his college days when he felt doubts about the impact he was having on those he encountered and he sought advice from a mentor.
“He told me ‘you shall reap what you sow,’” Culp recalled. “That has been my motto ever since.”