"Behold I will give you pastors according to
mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
the Presiding Bishop
Bishop Edward Smith was born
and raised in Birmingham, AL. After graduating from high school, he
enlisted in the US Army. When Bishop Smith joined the army, he was
to be stationed at a military base in Kentucky for basic training.
However, at the last minute his orders were changed, and he was sent
to Fort Jackson Army Base in Columbia, SC. God had other plans for
his life. He arrived in Columbia on September 22, 1950.
Having been raised from a
child to attend church, Bishop Smith began attending different
churches in Columbia. One day he met Sister Edna M. Friday, niece
of the late Bishop J. D. Williams. She invited him to attend
services at the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, where
she was a member. He accepted her invitation and visited the small
church located in the Taylors Community near the fair grounds in
Columbia. After attending the service, his interest in the Word of
God was greatly stimulated. He was so moved by the preaching and
teaching of the Word of God by the late Bishop J. D. Williams, that
he continued attending services, learning all he could about God’s
plan of salvation. On November 4, 1951, after visiting the church
for several months, he was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for
the remission of sins and he later received the gift of the Holy
Ghost. Although he missed his ride to church that night, he caught a
cab because of his determination to be saved. From that day forward,
God began to reveal His purpose for Bishop Smith’s life.
On August 6, 1952, young
Brother Edward Smith was united in holy matrimony to the one who
introduced him to the Progressive Church, Sister Edna M. Friday.
They were blessed with three children: Elder William E. (Sheneice)
Smith, David N. (Carolyn) Smith, and Joyce D. (Lewis) Grimes. Bishop
and Sister Smith also have three grandchildren: David N. Smith II,
Brandon E. B. Smith, and Adrienne M. Smith.
In September 1953, Brother
Smith had to make a decision between continuing his military career
as a soldier in the US Army or coming back to South Carolina and the
Progressive Church. He made the choice to stay in South Carolina
because of the Progressive Church. As time progressed, Brother
Smith continued to grow in the Lord. He assisted Bishop Williams in
the church in many capacities. He served as an usher, Sunday School
teacher and worship service leader. In 1955, Bishop Williams
appointed Brother Smith as a deacon on trial. After observing
Brother Smith’s service in the church and the call of God on his
life, Bishop Williams chose rather to license him as a minister
during the 12th Annual Holy Convocation in August 1956. He served
well as a local minister, and was ordained as an Elder during the
13th Annual Holy Convocation in August 1957.
On September 3, 1957, Bishop
Williams invited Elder Smith and his wife to attend a service with
him at the Progressive Church in Blackville, SC. After Bishop
Williams preached the message for the evening, he announced the
resignation of the previous pastor and asked the small congregation
if they would like to have Elder Smith as their new pastor. As the
small congregation replied “yes,” Bishop Williams asked Elder Smith
for his response. At the time, Elder Smith had no prior knowledge
that Bishop Williams planned to make such an announcement. Elder
Smith answered that the Lord saved him for service and that he would
be willing and obedient if it was God's will that he serve in
Blackville, SC. He was then officially installed as pastor of the
Progressive Church in Blackville, SC with only six members. At the
time only one member had a job, which paid just $11.00 per week.
However, Elder Smith often gave of himself, unselfishly, to support
the work of the small church. He later relocated the church from
Blackville, SC to Denmark, SC. With only $400 in the church
treasury, Elder Smith and the young congregation began construction
on a new church edifice in Denmark, SC. In 1963 they completed and
dedicated the new church edifice.
Although many ministers
forsook the Progressive Church during the 1950s and 1960s, Elder
Smith stood faithfully with Bishop Williams. One evening in 1959,
Elder Smith and Bishop Williams traveled to Blackville, SC to pray
for a sister in the church who was ill. While traveling down the
highway, their car was hit, head—on, by a drunken driver traveling
at a high rate of speed. Although their car was totaled, with even
the steering wheel ripped out, the Lord spared their lives. Bishop
Williams sustained a broken ankle, and Bishop Smith sustained minor
cuts and bruises. While an ambulance took Bishop Williams back to
Columbia, Elder Smith caught a ride, though bleeding, and continued
on to Blackville, SC to pray for the sister.
In January 1966, just prior
to his death, Bishop Williams established a Board of Elders to
govern the Progressive Churches after his death. He appointed five
men, including Elder Smith, to serve on the Board of Elders. Elder
Smith served on the Board of Elders from 1966 to 1973. During this
time, he was instrumental in establishing an education program for
the ministerial body of the Progressive Church. On August 20, 1973,
during the 29th Annual Holy Convocation, Elder Smith was consecrated
to the office of Bishop and became a member of the Board of Bishops.
Bishop Smith served as Executive Secretary to the board along with
other board members: the late Presiding Bishop Joel G. Washington,
the late Bishop Henry J. Breakfield, and the late Bishop Ernest
Finkley. During that time, the organization consisted of several
districts, with Bishop Smith serving as District Bishop over
District One and the Florida District. During the 39th Annual Holy
Convocation in 1983, Bishop Smith was appointed to serve as
Assistant Presiding Bishop of the Progressive Churches.
In 1985, the Lord enabled
Bishop Smith and the Denmark congregation to purchase 16 acres of
land for a new church edifice to accommodate the growing
congregation. In November 1986 they were blessed to complete and
dedicate their new church edifice, debt free. The congregation in
Denmark, SC continues to worship there today.
In April 1987, after the
death of Presiding Bishop Joel G. Washington, Bishop Smith became
Presiding Bishop of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Inc. He also became pastor of the Headquarters Church in Columbia,
South Carolina that same year. During his tenure as pastor, the
headquarters church has experienced growth in its membership as the
Lord continues to add souls to the church. Early in his tenure as
pastor, the Columbia Church purchased an apartment building adjacent
to the sanctuary that was renovated and converted into a National
Church Office Building. This building was utilized for classes and
other local and national church functions for many years. The
building was later refurbished and converted back into apartments
for the saints. Also under Bishop Smith's leadership, a smaller
apartment building adjacent to the church was acquired and renovated
by the brothers of the church. Several of the saints currently
In the early 1990's, the
Lord enabled the Columbia Church to purchase land adjacent to the
sanctuary at 2222 Barhamville Road. Bishop Smith had a vision to
build a new sanctuary and family life center for the growing
congregation. After several years of planning, Bishop Smith and the
saints of Columbia broke ground for a new 1,000 seat sanctuary and
family life center in August 1996. It was Bishop Smith’s goal to
complete the building project without a mortgage. Everything at the
time seemed to be moving ahead as planned. However, in February
1997, the construction company hired to build the new facility filed
for bankruptcy. Faced with a major obstacle, Bishop Smith stepped
out in faith and became the project manager. He contracted with C.T.
Johnson Construction Company to continue building through the use of
their contractor’s license and professional advice. Bishop Smith
assumed the awesome responsibility of hiring employees and
sub-contractors, and directing the day-to-day activities of the
building project. He appealed to the congregation to devote as much
time, energy, and resources as possible to helping complete the
building project. In addition to managing the building project in
Columbia, Bishop Smith was also involved with a simultaneous
building project for a new family life center at the church in
Throughout the building
project, Bishop Smith encouraged the congregation as Colossians
3:23-24 states, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the
Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive
the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord." For more
than two years, under Bishop Smith's direction, the congregation
became actively involved in every aspect of the building project,
from planning to performing the actual daily work. Bishop Smith
designated every Saturday and week nights that a worship service
was not held as work days for the brothers of the church. On many
nights, Bishop Smith could be found working along with the brothers
at the church until 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Bishop
Smith also involved the sisters of the church in the building
project through cleaning the building and ensuring that the brothers
working at the church had home-cooked meals while they worked on the
On October 17, 1999, after
more than three years of construction, the Lord blessed Bishop Smith
and the Columbia congregation to complete and dedicate the new
multi-million dollar sanctuary and family life center. Because of
the dedication and faithfulness of the congregation and others who
believed in Bishop Smith's vision, the new headquarters church
complex was completed debt free. To God be all the glory! Although
many proclaimed that it would never be accomplished, Bishop Smith
constantly taught the saints to have faith in God to work a
miracle. As the largest congregation in the organization, the
headquarters church in Columbia, SC has a rich history begun by our
founder, the late Bishop J. D. Williams, and it continues to
experience new spiritual and natural heights under Bishop Smith's
With 50 years of experience
as a pastor, Bishop Smith has seen God work many miracles. On one
occasion, he was called to the home of a church member who was
possessed by a demonic spirit. When he arrived at the home to pray
for the young sister, he found her in a disturbed state. As Bishop
Smith talked to her, the demonic spirit responded out of the young
sister in the distinct voice of a man. Determined that the power of
God would prevail, Bishop Smith told the sister to do all she could
to call on the name of Jesus. As she was finally able to call on the
name of Jesus, the demonic spirit was cast out of her. Through that
experience God confirmed the power of calling on the name of Jesus.
On another occasion, Bishop Smith visited a sister who was ill in
the hospital and unable to walk. As he visited her at the hospital,
he rolled her in her wheelchair to another area of the hospital,
where he prayed for her. God miraculously healed her body and she
was able to walk back to her hospital room pushing her own
wheelchair, to the amazement of many who had seen her just a few
The national church
continues to grow and prosper under the leadership of Bishop
Smith. During his tenure as Presiding Bishop, new churches and
missions have been established throughout the country. Today, the
Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. consists of
approximately 25 churches and missions. As a "pastor's pastor," he
has the awesome responsibility not only of shepherding two thriving
churches (Columbia, SC and Denmark, SC), but also that of providing
counsel and advice to the many pastors, elders and ministers who
serve under his spiritual watch. Yet as busy as he is, he takes time
to visit with the sick and the elderly, enjoy activities with the
young people, and takes time with the small children, and counsel
with those who are not saved. With the many members of the churches
in Columbia and Denmark, even down to the children, there are few
that he cannot readily call by name. The lives of many saints have
been blessed and uplifted through his advice, counsel, encouragement
and most importantly, his commitment to preaching the Word of God.
Bishop Smith greatest desire
is to see souls saved and delivered from sin. Known as a
"no-nonsense man," he often states that he does not preach to excite
people's emotions, but rather that God has called him to "provoke
thought and bring conviction." Bishop Smith travels thousands of
miles each year to visit the various Progressive Churches and to
encourage the people of God. His desire is to see the organization
united and living up to its name of being a "progressive" church. In
a time when many pastors are compromising God's Word, we are
thankful to God for giving us a Pastor and Bishop who has the people
of God at heart.
An Exclusive Interview
with Bishop Smith
young soldier coming to South Carolina, what impressed you about the
would certainly say that the physical building was not impressive at
all, nor was the location of the church, or the choir. It certainly
wasn’t the padded pews, the many instruments we have today, or the
central cooling and heating systems because the church didn’t have
those things back then. I would say that what impressed me more than
anything else was the simplicity and purity in which the Word was
taught and preached by the late Bishop J. D. Williams.
what point did you realize that you needed to be baptized in the
name of Jesus Christ?
I began visiting the church probably in the spring of 1951. After
hearing several sermons on the subject and really having been made
to understand the gospel message and my response to it, I decided on
November 4, 1951 that I needed to be baptized in Jesus name; and I
your early years in the Progressive Church, are there any persons
you feel had a positive influence on you and who played a key role
in your development as a brother in the church?
I’d say my pastor, the late Bishop J. D. Williams. I will forever be
grateful for his influence upon my life. I feel that what I am today
I owe to him and to his steadfastness, and to the Lord that sent
him. Also, the late Sister Helen Washington, who was a woman of
faith. She always had an encouraging word for me that enabled me to
hold on through some difficult times in my Christian experience.
Another person that positively influenced me was the late Sister
Bessie Williams. She taught us all how to pray and to trust God. She
would often share her vision with us concerning the future progress
of the Progressive Church.
were some of the other young men you were close to in the early
years of the Progressive Church?
The late Bishop Malon Pollock, Deacon Jeff Gilmore, Deacon Raymond
Thompson, the late Elder Herman Jackson, the late Elder Calvin
Jackson who taught us all how to play the piano, and Elder Heyward
Anderson just to name a few. These brothers, along with myself,
worked hard with Bishop Williams to build various churches and
perform other work in the church during the 1950’s. These are just
some of the brothers that I can mention, although there are more.
did you feel the call of God on your life to go into the ministry?
Well, I'd say in early 1956 I began preaching. I never asked to
preach. My pastor saw something in me and appointed me to preach. I
often look back and reflect on at what point I really felt the call
of God on my life. I'd have to say that God put a burden on my heart
early in my Christian walk for the needy, the sick and shut-in, and
for people in general. Since that time, God confirmed that this was
His will for my life.
do you feel Bishop Williams saw in you that caused him to appoint
you as a member of the Board of Elders to govern the organization
after his death? As
one of the elders ordained by him, I believe he saw my faithfulness
and steadfastness in the way, as I was not one that wavered. I
believe he also saw the loyalty I exemplified toward him and my
church. He felt I had the ability to be a part of the leadership
team for the church.
the death of Bishop Williams, what role did you play as a part of
the Board of Elders?
I’d really say that I played many roles. I specifically worked hard
to maintain the unity that existed in the church before his death
and I feel that we are a strong church today because of that
continued effort through the years. I also worked specifically
during that time as the primary planner of our Annual Holy
Convocations and in establishing educational programs for our
you ever think that you would one day be the Presiding Bishop?
really had no idea that God would call me to do this work. I simply
did what was asked of me for the up building of the kingdom of God
and for the establishment of this church, faithfully. As time
progressed, God moved me into positions where I could be most
effective in the up building of His kingdom.
April of 1987, what was the first thing the Lord impressed upon you
when you became the Presiding Bishop and Pastor of the Headquarters
Church in Columbia?
He impressed upon me the need to unite the national church so that
we might progress as our name implies. In order to do this, I was
lead to use for our 1987 Convocation theme, "The Church United for
Progress." The following November I instituted our first National
Unity Conference that focused on issues facing the church and vital
to maintaining national unity. I believed, achieving this would
enable us to meet the challenges of the coming years. I worked hard
over the years for the church to be one as Jesus prayed.
that the Presiding Bishop does not necessarily have to pastor the
Headquarters Church, why do you feel the Lord sent you to Columbia?
feel the Lord had a special work for me to do in Columbia, for which
my prior experience in the church had prepared me. At that time, I
had pastored the Denmark Church for about 30 years, served as
Presider over District One and the Florida District, and as
Assistant Presiding Bishop. While these things certainly were not
required to pastor the Columbia Church, I feel the Lord called me to
serve during such a time as this. I believe the Lord has since
confirmed His will for me to be in Columbia through the many things
He has enabled us to do. To God be all the glory.
Progressive Church has often been criticized for its uncompromising
stand on issues that relate to what the Word of God teaches. What
motivates you to rise above this criticism and hold firm to
that compromising God's Word is worse than going back into the world
and doing all the damnable things the Bible teaches against. You'll
get no more for that than you will for compromising the Word of God.
Many, in the church world today, compromise the truth for the sake
of building large church memberships and buildings. God has called
the Progressive Church to earnestly contend for the faith, which was
once delivered to the saints. As shepherd of this flock, it is my
responsibility to ensure that we hold fast to the Word that was
first spoken by the Lord, confirmed unto us by them that heard Him,
and passed down the line of time to those of us who preach the
you feel that you have been able to accomplish the goals you
initially had as pastor of the Headquarters Church in Columbia and
as Presiding Bishop of the organization?
Certainly not all of them. While having accomplished many things
during my tenure here, there is still a long list of things yet to
be done. As I continue, God gives me a greater vision for more
things to be accomplished in the coming days, weeks, months, and
years that will help us to grow and fulfill our mission until Jesus
fill three very important roles within the Progressive Church. You
are the Presiding Bishop, pastor of the church in Columbia, SC and
pastor of the church in Denmark, SC. Given that requires a great
deal of time and energy, what keeps you going?
First, I'd like to thank God for having been blessed with fairly
good health. But I believe it's not just being in good health that
keeps me going. It's the power of the Holy Ghost and my desire to
fulfill my calling and be able to help others as we travel through
this world. The Lord daily gives me the strength that I need to do
this point in your ministry, do you have a main goal or focus for
the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.?
main goal for the Progressive Church is for it to remain a true
beacon of light in a dark and sinful world. I want the Progressive
Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ to stand firm on the principles set
forth by our Lord Jesus Christ and preached by the apostles He sent.
It is also my desire that the church be an example of everything the
world needs. If the world is looking for an example of better
marriages, better homes, better reared children, better families,
responsible men who love and support their families, and women who
love their husbands and children, they should be able to look to the
church. That is certainly my desire.
words of wisdom would you share with young men who have interest in
going into the ministry?
would say to them to be men of prayer, faithful in the Word, men who
follow their spiritual leadership, and certainly to be led by the
Spirit of God. This is a taxing profession, but it is also very
rewarding. Every time you see someone delivered from Satan and sin
through the preaching of the gospel, it makes all your efforts of
preaching and teaching worthwhile. The greatest joy one can have
after receiving the Holy Ghost and becoming a minister is to see God
honor the Word that he teaches and preaches.
we certainly pray that the Lord will bless you with a long life and
many more years, if you could name certain characteristics that a
successor to you should possess, or any other words of wisdom, what
would they be?
feel that during my tenure, we have been able to accomplish a great
deal both spiritually and naturally. It would be my desire that my
successor be a man prepared to sacrifice of himself greatly to
continue building on that, which has been established. Most
importantly, I would admonish him not to let what has been done fail
but, in the words of the late Bishop R. C. Lawson, "add thou to it."
this point, what is an average day in the life of Bishop Edward
rising each day, the first thing I do is fall on my knees in prayer.
Following prayer I try to get in some physical activity such as
walking and exercising to keep my body fit for the task of pastoring.
On an average day, I spend approximately six to eight hours at the
church, although sometimes much more. This time is spent studying
the Word, planning, corresponding with other pastors by letter or by
phone, counseling, calling the sick and shut-in, keeping track of
the discouraged saints, and handling the day-to-day activities of
the church. Other time is spent visiting the hospitals, and those
who are sick at home. As often as I can, I attend all regular
services in Columbia, SC and in Denmark, SC, teaching Bible Study
and preaching. I also take time to travel to the other churches to
visit and encourage the pastors and saints.