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Bishop Lemuel F. Thuston, a graduate of Central Bible College (1979) and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (1981), was elected at the 109th annual Holy Convocation last November to serve as Chairman of the General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC).
The General Assembly is highest of three branches of government in the COGIC, often referred to as the denomination’s legislative body. As Chairman, Thuston presides over the legislative session, establishes legislative priorities, and works between convocations to shepherd legislation. He will serve out the four-year term vacated by Bishop James W. Hunt, who passed away suddenly just before Holy Convocation. Thuston previously served as Vice Chairman of the General Assembly.
Thuston will remain Bishop of the Kansas East Jurisdiction of the COGIC, a position he has held since 2004. He will also continue as pastor of two congregations: Historic Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ (Kansas City, Missouri) and Mason Temple Institutional Church of God in Christ (Kansas City, Kansas).
Thuston has deep roots in the Church of God in Christ. He grew up learning from the example of his father, Elder Floyd Thuston, who was a noted COGIC pastor in Kansas City, Missouri. When the younger Thuston felt a call to the ministry, he recognized his need for formal theological training to supplement his practical ministry experience. His father urged him to consider “quality academic Pentecostal training…no matter the sacrifice.”
While Thuston considered several schools, one in particular seemed to stand out – Central Bible College (CBC, now a part of Evangel University), the Assemblies of God ministerial training school in Springfield, Missouri. He packed his bags and headed to CBC, where he was mentored by noted theologian Stanley Horton. Thuston went on to earn his Master’s Degree in Biblical Languages at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, also located in Springfield.
According to Thuston, these Assemblies of God schools were formative in his spiritual and academic development. “My time in Springfield afforded me the opportunity to rub shoulders with leading Pentecostal thinkers and church leaders,” he noted. Looking back, Thuston can see the hand of God: “The Lord knew that I needed to have a broader foundation for my future, and education provided not only tools for ministry, but relationships and new ways of looking at old problems.”
After seminary, Thuston mastered training and pastoral charges in the Ozarks; Bronx, New York; and West Texas. He then moved to Minneapolis, where he served as Professor of Urban Ministries at another Assemblies of God school, North Central University. He successfully navigated the worlds of both the Church of God in Christ and the Assemblies of God, becoming a pioneer bridge-builder between white and black Pentecostals.
In addition to ministry within the COGIC, Thuston was also on staff at several schools outside the Pentecostal tradition. He taught at Nazarene Theological Seminary (Kansas City, Missouri) and St. Paul (Methodist) School of Theology (Kansas City, Missouri). Never content to sit still, Thuston continued his education and earned a Masters of Divinity at St. Paul School of Theology and a doctorate from Faith Baptist Seminary. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Drew University.
Over the years, Thuston has risen in stature in the COGIC. Melding anointed ministry with academic excellence, he is well-known for delivering substantive, impassioned sermons. He is also noted for his administrative abilities and his sense of humor.
Bishop Thuston is widely recognized for his Christian leadership, and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary named him Alumnus of the Year in 2010. He has ministered in 40 states and 14 countries. He is the author of five books, including his most recent, Decently and in Order, which details the history and defines the contemporary global capacity of the General Assembly. He hosts a weekly telecast and is the director of The LINK, a community re-entry program for ex-convicts. He formerly served with the Federal Department of Justice and in the United States Air Force Reserve Chaplain Corps.
The newly-elected Chairman of the General Assembly relishes the opportunity to help build his ancestral church with this new assignment. But he also feels called to build bridges across the racial and denominational divides, and few people are as well-qualified and well-prepared to do just that.