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N.Y. Baptist leader Samuel Simpson dies

NEW YORK (BP) — Samuel G. Simpson, a retired Southern Baptist leader and New York pastor known for a legacy of faith, vision and integrity, died Feb. 23 at his home in Bronx, New York. He was 83.

Simpson served two terms as president of the Baptist Convention of New York, was the founding pastor of the Bronx Baptist Church and Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church, both in New York, and was a Home Mission Board (North American Mission Board) missionary. He was often called the “Bishop of the Bronx.”

He helped pave the way for African Americans to serve in Southern Baptist life, said Gary Frost, vice president for the North American Mission Board’s Midwest Region.

“He was a pioneer, a true trailblazer at a time when not many African Americans were connecting with Southern Baptist work. He was a wonderful ambassador for Christ and representative for the work of Southern Baptist missions,” Frost said. “If any of the ethnic leaders in the Southern Baptist Church family are reaching high, it’s because we’re standing on the shoulders of giants like Samuel Simpson. And he is truly one of the giants of the Southern Baptist family.”

Frank I. Williams, current senior pastor of the Bronx and Wake-Eden Baptist churches, said Simpson will be greatly missed by the church and community, where he left “a legacy of faith, vision, and integrity that can be best understood in his own simple yet profound words, ‘God is good, it is good to be good, and it is good to do good.'”

Simpson was a founding member and two-term president of the Clergy Coalition of the 47th Precinct of New York and was a past chairman of the Board for the Council of Churches of the City of New York. Simpson was instrumental in founding several New York churches, including Protestant Community Church in Northern Bronx, Honeywell Baptist Chapel and New Hope Mission in Spring Valley, and Grace Baptist Chapel in the Bronx.

“The Bronx is a better place because of Dr. Simpson, and I am a better servant because of Dr. Simpson, who was not only my mentor, but my spiritual father as well,” Williams said. “Dr. Simpson was a dreamer; he truly believed that with God nothing is impossible.

“He concluded his [2003] book, ‘To Dream the Impossible Dream,’ with these words, ‘And I saw a new Bronx. Hope replaced despair; redemption blotted out condemnation. Meaning brought life to material success. For Christ’s constraining love had permeated her streets, through the poured-out lives of His people,'” said Williams, quoting the book. “This hope, this dream, this vision is a part of his great legacy. His dreams are etched in my heart and are now a part of my vision.”

Simpson was born in Jamaica, West Indies, relocated to the United States in the early 1960s, and was ordained at Evergreen Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1963. He pastored Bronx Baptist Church for 45 years and Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church 39 years.

Simpson received a Master of Professional Studies from New York Theological Seminary, was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, and a Senior Common Fellow at Regents Park College of Oxford University. He received honorary doctorates from Asia Bible College and Martha’s Vineyard Theological Seminary.

K. Marshall Williams, president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, referenced Simpson’s “awesome legacy of integrity, faith and vision.

“He labored, planting several churches over 20 years as a Home Mission Board (NAMB) pastor/director of church planting in the Bronx, New York. May the Lord bless his dear wife, family and congregations in their hour of sorrow,” he said in a written statement.

Viewings are scheduled 12:30–8 p.m. Thursday, March 12 at Bronx Baptist Church; 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Friday, March 13, at Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church, and at 4 p.m. March 13 and continuing until the 6 p.m. funeral at North Bronx Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Survivors include his wife Lola Simpson, their three children Erica Simpson, Stephen Simpson, and Kim Simpson-Turnbull, and five grandchildren.