Bill Rose, a founding minister of the Presbyterian Church in America and one of the first ministers of Warrior Presbytery, passed away on Friday, February 11, 2000. He was 78.
Born William Henry Rose, Jr., in West Point, Mississippi, on May 29, 1921, the future minister attended Kemper Military School, Davidson College, and the University of Mississippi, receiving his Bachelor of Science from Ole Miss in 1947. For theological training, he attended Mid-South Bible College and Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia, from which he graduated in 1960. Licensed by East Mississippi Presbytery in 1957, he was ordained by North Alabama Presbytery in 1960. He served as pastor of Ward Memorial Chapel, Gadsden, Alabama, 1959-63; was on the pastoral staff of First Presbyterian Church, Gadsden, 1960-63; pastored the Durant (Miss.) Presbyterian Church, 1963-65; pastored Mt. Olive (Miss.) Presbyterian Church and Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Mt. Olive, Mississippi, 1965-67; was pastor of Oakland Heights Presbyterian Church, Meridian, Mississippi, 1967-71; and pastored Woodland Heights Presbyterian Church, Selma, Alabama, 1971-87.
It was while in Selma in 1973 that he joined the fledgling Warrior Presbytery, and helped lead his congregation into the Continuing Presbyterian Church movement, which became the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Pastor Rose achieved notoriety at the Convocation of Sessions held in Atlanta in May 1973, prior to the formation of the denomination. He told the delegates that he had written a book, and he held up two large pieces of cardboard taped together. On the outside of this "book" were the words, "All the Good Reasons for Staying in a Liberal Denomination." He then opened the "book" to reveal blank white cardboard-and he brought the house down!
Like many of his fellow pastors in the Continuing Church movement, he was more "conservative" in his religion than "Reformed" in his theology, but he also was willing to learn what it meant to be Reformed. A deeper understanding of the doctrines of grace-truths such as divine sovereignty and predestination-became wedded to his evangelistic zeal, which he never lost. He published his own evangelistic tracts, which he would leave with waitresses as well as give to pastors for further distribution.
On the denominational scene, he became a well-known figure at General Assembly. His Southern drawl often was heard to say, "Mr. Moderator, I'm Pastor Bill Rose of Warrior Presbytery. I rise to call the question." But besides moving for cloture, he also participated in some of the key debates on the floor. In 1989, he experienced perhaps his finest hour when he led the floor fight which helped to defeat, at least temporarily, the expansion of the Administrative Committee-an expansion which caused that body to resemble an interlocking board rather than an ecclesiastical committee. The next year, he helped to put a muzzle on the Stated Clerk by supporting an amendment to the Rules of Assembly Operation, specifying that the Clerk was not to speak on issues unless the Assembly specifically authorized him to do so. The last Assembly he attended was in 1996.
After his 1987 retirement, he and his wife settled into Jackson, Tennessee, where they became active in Grace Presbyterian Church. As an honorably retired minister, he transferred his credentials into Covenant Presbytery. Even in retirement, he sought opportunities to engage in evangelistic outreach and to do church planting in North Mississippi.
Besides his church work, Bill was also known as a ventriloquist and a harmonica player.
Bill Rose is survived by his wife, the former Miss Flora Adams, whom he married on March 15, 1961. He was buried in his native West Point, Mississippi.