Founder of Evangel Cathedral dies

Bishop John Meares died peacefully at home last night surrounded by family. He was 81.

His son Don now leads the mega-church. His father founded Evangel Cathedral, known for lavish productions featuring famed Gospel stars. But how did a white minister from Tennessee wind up pastoring a mostly African American church? His son says it was God.

“Told him he was to start a church in Washington, D.C. -- not Maryland, not Virginia, Washington, D.C.,” said Bishop Don Meares, his son. “He had no idea Washington, DC, was predominantly black.”

Meares’ church went from a tent to a theater to what’s now the Greater Mount Calvary Church on Rhode Island Avenue.

“He is one of the greatest unsung heroes of the world,” said Bishop Alfred Owens, of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church. “There have been thousands of ministers as myself who've come out of that church and become men and women of God because of his influence.”

Building the big new church in Upper Marlboro led to a scandalous lawsuit in the 1980s – later dismisses – by members who said Meares forced them to give huge donations. Today, the church is 4,000-plus strong. It’s members are loyal to Bishop John.

The community will be able to pay final respects to Bishop Meares next week--a viewing is set for Thursday, June 2nd, at 8 p.m., the funeral Friday morning, June 3, at 11--both here, at Evangel Cathedral.