DUBOIS, Pa.—Gerald T. Montgomery, a pastor with an effective multicultural ministry, died Jan. 25. He was 87.
Gerald was a graduate of Wayne State University and Baptist Bible Seminary. He was a pastor for 50 years, serving First Baptist Church, Hunts Corners, New York; First Baptist Church, Reed City, Michigan; Grace Baptist Church, Chico, California; and South Holly Baptist Church, Littleton, Colorado. But his longest pastorate was at First Baptist Church, Willingboro, New Jersey, where he served for 31 years—from 1960 to 1978, and again from 1986 to 1999.
When Gerald began pastoring in Willingboro in 1960, the community was predominantly Caucasian. As the community grew and became more diverse, Gerald led his congregation to reach out to different cultures. They began by visiting every home in the community, welcoming the residents and inviting them to visit the church.
“Our concern is for all people to know Christ as their personal Savior, regardless of their race or background,” he said in a February 1999 Baptist Bulletin article. “It is totally inconsistent for us to send missionaries overseas to reach people for Christ and not to try to reach those cultures in our neighborhoods.”
The key to assimilating different cultures in a church body “lies with the leadership,” he said. “If the pastor and deacons do not feel comfortable with including minority groups, problems will develop.”
First Baptist Church soon transformed into an ethnically diverse congregation, with 50 percent of its members being non-Caucasian—comprising individuals from Nigeria, Liberia, Togo, Ghana, Haiti, Trinidad, Honduras, St. Vincent, Guyana, Japan, India, Korea, and Canada. Back in 1999, Gerald’s wife, Delores, described the congregation as being “a little taste of what Heaven is going to be like!”
Laughing, Gerald added, “When I get to Glory, I won’t have to worry whether I can assimilate!”
Gerald received a GARBC Service Award in 2005 and, for 45 years, was a member of the board of directors for the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. Many people who sat under his ministry are now missionaries around the world.
“Jerry was an extraordinary package of pastoral competencies,” says John Greening, GARBC national representative. “His ministry service represented excellence in homiletics, multiethnic respect, missions focus, pastoral care, and operational wisdom. He was a true friend and encourager for my parents and me. I always enjoyed connecting with Jerry at ABWE board meetings to tap his experiences and insight. I hold the memory of Jerry in the highest regard.”
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Delores; their three children, Mark, Stephen, and Renee Roberts; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.