While a portion of Hogan Street bears his name, Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick, Sr.’s journey extends beyond the downtown Jacksonville church where he has served as pastor for forty-five years. The oldest African-American church in the state of Florida with more than 12,000 members, Bethel Baptist Institutional Church has grown under the leadership of a servant who has spent more than 60 years in the Bethel ministry. A choral member, music director, and Deacon prior to being called to succeed Rev. Robert Wilson in 1966 as Bethel’s tenth pastor, Bishop McKissick, Sr. maintains the record as Bethel’s longest serving leader.
Throughout his tenure, Bishop McKissick, Sr.’s exemplary teachings and spiritual guidance have inspired more than fifty servant leaders to accept God’s calling to the ministry. Among them is his son Bishop Rudolph McKissick, Jr., Co-Pastor, Bethel Baptist Institutional Church. In addition, Bishop McKissick, Sr., demonstrating his commitment to meeting and supporting the ever-changing needs and growth of congregants, has established more than fifty ministries. A Christian Mission (The Help Center), marriage ministry, church basketball league, youth retreats, and missionary outreach program are among the initiatives long recognized for its innovation and excellence. Most notably and characteristic of the passion Bishop McKissick, Sr. and his wife of forty-nine years, Estelle Williams McKissick, share for education, is B.E.S.T. (Bethel Enhancing Students Totally) Academy, a program established in 1993 to support the academic needs of elementary and secondary students. Under their leadership, B.E.S.T. has become a valuable resource earning Bethel recognition as an approved summer school site for Duval County’s most academically challenged students.
This high level of commitment to quality education is evident throughout Bishop McKissick, Sr.’s journey, as evidenced by his own educational achievements and affiliations. Bishop McKissick, Sr. holds a bachelors degree for Edward Waters College (EWC) and has received training at a number of other leading institutions including Tuskegee Institute, the Music Institute, the Music Institute of Columbia University, Princeton University and Luther Rice Seminary. He also has conferred doctoral degrees from EWC and Bethune Cookman University. He has held membership on a number of boards and commissions including appointment to the first Board of Trustees at the University of North Florida, the Jacksonville Urban League, the YMCA James Weldon Johnson branch, and The Help Center. Bishop McKissick, Sr. has launched partnerships across the globe with Bethel’s adoption of churches in South Africa and Panama. He was chosen by Fresh Ministries to participate in a 1999 tour of South Africa, and a tour of Turkey, hosted last year by the Amity Turkish Cultural Center.
Recognized as a community stalwart, Bishop McKissick, Sr. has earned a host of awards and accomplishments. A few include recipient of the 1992 Humanitarian award presented by the National Conference for Christian and Jews; City of Jacksonville’s Human Relations Award; National Association for Equal Opportunity Award; Bernard Gregory Servant Leader Award; and the Meritorious Leadership Award presented by Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. In September 2011, was elevated to Bishop of Marriage and Family in the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International.
A member of the NAACP and Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Bishop Rudolph McKissick, Sr. is married to Estelle Williams McKissick and they have one son, Bishop Rudolph McKissick, Jr. (Kimberly) and three grandchildren; Jocelyn, Janai and Joshua.