When one has touched the lives of many and come through – time and again – in challenging circumstances, the news of his/her passing tends to spur a flow of condolences and fond remembrances. Such is the case with Bishop Edward Lynn Brown.
Known by many as “E. Lynn Brown,” Bishop Brown passed away just before midnight Friday (Nov. 22), according to a website announcement posted by the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) for whom he once served as the 46th presiding prelate.
“A giant in the Christian faith, Bishop ‘E’ has left us a legacy of loving God, loving people, and fighting for equal rights and justice for African-American people,” said Presiding Bishop Henry M. Williamson of the CME First District. “He was a coalition-builder across denominational and racial lines. …
“Bishop ‘E’ was a great orator and one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was there on the pulpit when Dr. King gave his ‘Mountaintop Speech’ down there at Mason Temple.’
Williamson recalled Bishop Brown prominently in the mix as religious and community leaders fought to keep Dunbar Elementary School open.
“The school was kept open and improved for generations of children not yet born,” said Williamson. “The CME Church and the Body of Christ has lost a champion for God’s people. He was a dear friend and brother who supported me in all I have attempted to do. He will be greatly missed.”
Known for his inspiring oratory and rich, singing voice, Bishop Brown reached across denominational lines to mentor and befriend many young ministers. His tenure was one of outreach and compassion.
“He was a great friend and mentor,” said Pastor Dianne Young of The Healing Center. “Bishop Brown will be missed by many. Like E.F. Hutton, when he spoke, people listened.”
In 1986, Mr. Brown was first elected as a bishop of the Ninth Episcopal District (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington and Alaska). Before, during and after he honed a ministry in community service and activism in social justice and racial equality. Prior to serving in the CME Church’s highest office, Bishop Brown was general secretary of the Board of Publication Services as well as pastor of two Memphis Churches, Temple of Love CME Church and Mt. Pisgah CME Church.
Long-time friends say he was loved for his care of young people and a deep commitment to living out his faith in daily interaction.
Robert Hill, a Republican Party activist, called Bishop Brown “a dear friend, a mentor, and a giant in leadership.” Others noted his passing on social media.
“Bishop E. Lynn Brown was my buddy, Sunday dinner at Mom’s house,” said Bobby White, former senior aide to then-Mayor AC Wharton and a Church of God in Christ minister. “A big laugh and a hug whenever he saw me…and he was easily one of the greatest orators you’ve heard in your lifetime.”
He was known for supporting and propelling young leaders to elected office and community service.
“Bishop E. Lynn Brown was a great friend and supporter. He helped me win my first election, and I will always be grateful. Rest well, Bishop. Your impact will forever be remembered,” Shelby County Commissioner Mickell Lowery posted.
Javier “Jay” Bailey, son of activist attorney and former county commissioner Walter Bailey Jr., praised Bishop Brown as one of the last pioneers of civil rights.
“Bishop Brown and my father were the last of the old civil rights pioneers left here in Memphis, following the death of Russell Sugarmon. I was close to Bishop Brown. He seemed to always have a word of encouragement every time we saw each other. They don’t make them like that anymore.”
Morris Roberts — a life-long member of the CME Church — said, “Bishop Brown walked among those great and courageous giants who stood with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., marching against racial injustice and speaking for those whose voices were too small to be heard. …His legacy is sure, even as he has gone on to be with the Lord. Like other great men before him, Bishop E. Lynn Brown now belongs to the ages.”
A native of Madison County, Tn., Bishop Brown earned his bachelor’s degree from Lane College in Jackson, Tn., and a Master of Divinity Degree from Phillips School of Theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. He completed his doctoral studies at the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
Bishop Brown leaves his wife, Gladys; two daughters, Donna Brown and Cheronda Brown Guyton; and four grandchildren. His son, the Rev. Alonzo Victor Brown, preceded him in death.
Visitation is November 30th at Greenwood CME Church, 3311 Kimball Ave., at 10 p.m. The funeral service will follow at 11 p.m. In addition, Bishop Brown will lie in state on Friday at Greenwood. Time to be announced.