by Robert Earl Houston
One of the most influential pastors in my lifetime has passed away – the Reverend Dr. Timothy James Winters, the retired pastor/builder of the Bayview Baptist Church in San Diego, California, went home to be with the Lord early Saturday morning, March 15, 2014.
I had known of Dr. Winters for years as a young preacher when he would come to Portland, Oregon to preach for the late Dr. O.B. Williams. Little did I know then that I would have the privilege of being a colleague of his and sharing pulpits with him.
In the 1970s there were a group of “young guns” in the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. – Dr. E.K. Bailey, Dr. Stephen John Thurston, Dr. S.J. Gilbert, Sr., Dr. Melvin Von Wade, Sr., Dr. A. Bernard Devers, Dr. E. Edward Jones, and of course, Dr. Winters. These “young guns” were sought out for their preaching and pastoral excellence. They came to the convention and you would see them transpose the length and breadth of the convention in various settings. Each one of them would rise denominationally and as individuals. Dr. Winters did rise.
He was called to a small congregation, the Bayview Baptist Church, in San Diego in the 1970s. He was a police officer who was called to preach and he pursued education. He wanted to be on the cutting edge and not just a preacher, but an effective communicator and visionary.
Bayview grew exponentially. It was the fastest growing congregation in San Diego for years. He went on to serve not only Bayview, but he sat on too many boards and committees and commissions to name here. He was the President of the Baptist Ministers United of San Diego and Vicinity, the Vice Moderator of the Progressive District Baptist Association, the Vice President of the California Missionary Baptist State Convention, the Educational Board Chairman of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.
He started the Christian Growth Ministries because of his desire to share what he knew with other pastors and ministers. Sadly, he just hosted a training session less than 30 days ago – his last session.
Dr. Winters embraced technology. When I came to San Diego, Churches on the internet were rare and I was one of the voices in that realm of the black Baptist Church. He not only embraced it but he took Bayview into it with sermons, videos, teaching, and etc.
Dr. Winters’ trademark was that seaman’s captain hat that he wore across the nation. He loved the ocean and in his latter years, he and his wife Betty moved near the sea and had a view of it every day.
Dr. Winters was a friend to preachers and had an open pulpit. If you had a preacher in town he would bring him in. When Dr. Winters invited you, you were assured to be blessed spiritually, financially and of course, he and Sister Betty would make sure you were fed well. They were one of the best role models of Christian marriage I ever witnessed.
Dr. Winters often took controversial stands and helped those who were in troubles because he understood that the job of the church is not to kill it’s wounded but to help restore them. He believed in redemption as an act of grace that should be modeled.
I preached in his pulpit for years – from 1995 until as recent as a few years ago. He would call me in the middle of the night and say great things – i.e., “Houston, listen – go get a blender, get you some kale and some fruit. You’ll thank me for that.”
I’m sure that when the services will be announced, no church in the city will be able to accommodate the crowd. He was a friend of preachers and my friend.
For that, I thank you Dr. Winters.