The Stalwart




He couldn’t be satisfied not answering the call to ministry so at the early age of eleven, he was baptized and became a follower of Jesus Christ. Bishop Robert A. Culp is a cultural icon and a legend in our region for many reasons inclusive of his tireless work to uplift others. There are not many people who are admired by multiple generations, but he is one. This beloved and humble spiritual leader has been serving our community and his church since 1961 when he was asked to succeed Reverend Leonard Roache at First Church of God Toledo which is currently located on the corner of Collingwood Blvd and Central Ave. Not only has he led from a spiritual capacity but has consistently been an advocate for citizens of the City of Toledo. He has improved livelihoods through the fight for civil rights, human rights, and economic development in urban areas.

Bishop Culp’s journey to becoming a minister and landing in Toledo is a story in faith and steadfastness. We know a lot about the man of the cloth that has achieved so much on our behalf over the last few decades. But how did he come to be so loved, influential and admired? Are you aware that he preached his first sermon at the age of twelve in his hometown of Sharon, Pennsylvania but then struggled throughout his teenage years to decide whether to make ministry his career? He questioned whether it was God’s calling or a desire of his own interests. During his final year in high school his questions were answered when he was nudged to decide. You see, Bishop was a standout on the high school basketball team. One day, he was advised by his Pastor that to follow Christ, he could not play sports any longer. After serious contemplation, Bishop Culp quit the team and then rejoined at the advice of others only to vow to never play in college due to its potential distraction from the ministry. As a result of him returning to the team and obtaining many accolades, he was offered a full athletic scholarship to attend Virginia State University.

Staying faithful to and in honor of his calling from God, he decided to decline the offer of a free education. Instead, he enrolled in Anderson University, a Christian college in Anderson, Indiana affiliated with the Church of God Ministries organization. One afternoon and only two months into his freshman year, Bishop Culp was walking past a basketball court on campus where his peers were playing a game and decided to watch. Then behold, one of the gentlemen got injured and they called on him to join them to finish the game. Of course he obliged, proper clothes and shoes didn’t matter, and he showed them a thing or two. The next day the university’s basketball team head coach appeared at his dorm room recruiting him for the team and gifted him a full scholarship. Conflicted, Bishop Culp called his mother with whom he shared deep respect and trust and asked her to pray about it because after all, it was her that supported his education by cleaning houses day after day. She told him there was no need for prayer advising him that it was a gift from God. Little did he know of the amazing journey that
would follow.

During his junior year of college, Bishop Culp was asked by the coach of Taylor University to join a newly formed team of basketball players from around the nation to serve as missionaries. The organization Venture for Victory was organized by Taylor University, a school known for training missionaries for international travel. The team’s job was to preach the word of God in Asia and South America with basketball serving as the opportunity to engage. With an interest in ministering and travel, he accepted this role and began his journey to explore the world with like-minded people which became Bishop Culp’s entry into ministry. He once witnessed fifteen hundred people giving their lives to Christ in unison which still takes his breath away today. This was directly after losing the only game they ever lost which was against the Korean military. They purposefully lost that game because of the palpable fear of communism during those times. Those memories serve as some of his most life altering experiences. He gained great friends and often reminisces on the wonderful encounters with people while visiting cities like Hong Kong, Seoul, and others. His travels taught him tremendous lessons especially how important it is to take stock of people’s divergent needs.

Once he returned from his travels, he was faced with having an additional year to complete his undergraduate studies which he completed without hesitation. He then embarked upon his graduate studies while pastoring his first church in Danville, Illinois for the next five years. In his last semester he moved back to Anderson, Indiana and worked for the Board of Christian Education at the national headquarters for the Church of God Ministries which was directly across the street from the university. As he was running from work to class one day, he ran into Reverend Roache who was visiting the church’s national headquarters and was told, “you are going to be my successor in Toledo”. So, one day pastor Roache arranged for Bishop and his wife Maggie to visit the church in Toledo. As they drove through the city trying to find the church, they passed our city’s great institutions including The Toledo Zoo, Toledo Museum of Art, University of Toledo, and they fell in love with it all. Bishop Culp and First Lady Maggie decided on the drive that if the church in Toledo liked them, they would spend the rest of their lives here.

They liked them, although due to the church experiencing years of uncertainty, they were uncomfortable relinquishing authority to Bishop Culp initially. Determined to engage himself within the community, he actively joined the NAACP, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and participated in other civic opportunities of service and the rest becomes history. Due to his engagement around the city, his church leadership eventually garnered respect and trust which allowed Bishop Culp to grow the church in ways it hadn’t previously seen. He vowed to his congregation that First Church of God Toledo was not a steppingstone for him towards a better opportunity and that he was here to stay.

As Pastor of First Church of God, Bishop Culp oversaw many baptisms, christenings, and members come and go. He, on the other hand was a mainstay for sixty-one years. Being Pastor at this church, he feels, was his lifelong calling and last year he retired. Over the years he led the church and our city through countless matters and by holding many roles such as President of the NAACP, President of Covenant Community Development Corporation, President of the National Association of the Church of God, Founder and Chairman of the Toledo Academy Charter School, Founder and Board member of Family House homeless shelter, Founder of Sparrow’s Nest and Founding member of Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union. To name a few. He was consecrated to the office of Bishop in 2014. He received numerous awards including the State of Ohio’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Governor’s Humanitarian Award which he received just last month. Although retired from being a Pastor, he is forging ahead in our community and pledges to continue his advocacy for others. He is a special community partner, a legend, and we should all be grateful knowing that he will continue building that legacy beyond his tenure at the church. On behalf of everyone I know and some that I don’t, thank you Bishop Culp for giving your life and love to Toledo. We pray you feel our love in return.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *