Mount Zion Baptist Church is one of the oldest churches organized in Nashville, TN. The church was organized in 1866; just three years after President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The church was founded by Reverend Jordan Bransford and a group of inspired worshippers. During the tenure of Reverend Bransford, the church relocated several times. After conducting services for a brief season in the home of founding member Sister Mary Cole, the church was eventually housed on Jefferson Street. Today, Sister Cole’s great grandchildren are still members of Mount Zion.
In 1905, the Mount Zion edifice, located at 1112 Jefferson Street, was erected during the administration of Reverend Sandy Matheus.
Throughout its rich history, Mount Zion was led by 14 dynamic pastors who preceded Bishop Joseph Walker, III. Each pastor was anointed by God to structure the congregation into a remarkably efficient body of people. The pastors who had the longest tenure of service were Reverend J. W. Watkins, who served for 27 years, Dr. Maynard P. Turner who served 11 years, and Reverend E.W. Roberson who served for 20 years.
In 1932, Mount Zion called her own son, her promising son, Reverend J. W. Watkins, to the pastorate of the church. Reverend Watkins preached a dynamic, uncompromising and unadulterated gospel that appealed to the common man and learned man alike.
There were other ministers who served for shorter periods of time, but were equally as important in the contributions they made to the ministry.
Dr. Maynard P. Turner, Jr. accepted the call to pastor in December 1960. Dr. Turner brought to Mount Zion the fruits of extensive training and varied experience. Before serving as Shepard of the Mount Zion Family, Turner served six years as president of American Baptist Theological Seminary.
Reverend Emanuel W. Roberson was called to Mount Zion in 1972. Many great strides and accomplishments were made under his guidance including a ramp for the incapacitated, the purchase of a van, the bus ministry was formed and new air condition and public address systems were purchased. There were also 4 lots acquired across the street, and the lower auditorium was renovated. The Deacon and Mother Boards remained strong organizations during Reverend Roberson’s term.
On April 24, 1980 the TN Historical Commission entered Mt. Zion Baptist Church in the national registry of historic places. An extensive renovation was completed & the church took on a different appearance with new roofing and walls.The church was recognized on May 16, 1985 at the Architectural Awards Program.
Mount Zion extended a call to its youngest son in ministry, Pastor Joseph W. Walker, III in April 1992, at 24-years-of-age. Before accepting the position as pastor, he served as the associate minister under Reverend Roberson. Pastor Walker had a vision of growth through studying God’s Word. He was immediately embraced by the congregation. Bishop Walker is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana.
He began his pastorate in the spring of 1992 with 175 members. Presently, the ministry has grown to over several thousand and continues to grow at a phenomenal rate of over 1,800 souls per year. Mount Zion has grown to eight weekly services in three locations. Under Bishop Walker’s leadership, the church engaged in the completion of a $17 million dollar, state-of-the-art ministry complex that seats 5,000 which was completed in October 2001.
In December 2003, Mount Zion completed a third location in Antioch, TN. This $7-million-dollar retail center and ministry complex includes a children’s wing and serves as a multi-purpose facility that seats 2,000.
Bishop Walker currently serves as International Presiding Bishop for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. Mt. Zion continues to be an oasis of hope within the Nashville community and around the world.