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Pioneering pastor dies

Dr. Mary A. Tumpkin: A woman of substance and grace

Miami Times staff report | 11/21/2013, 9 a.m.
The Rev. Dr. Mary A. Tumpkin, 64, was a beloved pastor and longtime community leader who started her church in ...
Dr. Mary Tumpkin

The Rev. Dr. Mary A. Tumpkin, 64, was a beloved pastor and longtime community leader who started her church in her own living room. As her membership grew, she moved to several funeral homes and hotels before settling in Miami Gardens in the church’s 22,000 square-foot home. As the senior minister and president of the Universal Truth Center [UTC], she led more than 25,000 members in dozens of churches across the U.S. At the time of her death, the membership at UTC was estimated at over 1,200. She was one that never wavered from speaking the truth and was known for her colorful, uplifting sermons.

Tumpkin, who died last Friday from complications from diabetes, was a pioneer in the ministry — assuming a role of leadership as a female in the early 80s when such actions were rare. She founded the Universal Truth center church in 1982 and continued to guide the “new thought” institution of empowerment, devotion, and commitment to better living. According to her vision, the Center was dedicated to develop and empower the whole person. Her leadership guided the Center from a few members meeting in rented spaces to construction of a $1.8 million facility that now includes the sanctuary, a community room, bookstore, Universal Academy, Community Development Corporation, adult education classrooms and staff offices. Expansion of the existing center was completed in 2010.

Because education was so important to her, Tumpkin earned her Doctorate degree at the South Florida Center for Theological Studies in Miami. She also was a published author and lectured throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean where she was regarded as a first-rate biblical scholar.

Tumpkin’s funeral services will be held on Thursday, Nov. 21 at the church, 21310 NW 37th Avenue. She is survived by a son, Joseph Tumpkin, Jr., many children in the ministry and men, women and children whose lives were changed for the better because of her commitment to her community and to the Gospel.