Monday, November 1, 2010

The Rt Rev'd Bishop Barbara L. King a.k.a. Nana Yaa Twumwaa I

Bishop Barbara King During A Church Service at Hillside

By Frederick Nnoma-Addison

Like Dr. W.E.B DuBois, Shirley DuBois, the Reverend Leon H. Sullivan, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Erieka Bennett (African Union Diaspora African Forum) and a few other notable Americans with a heart for Africa, the recently consecrated Bishop Barbara L. King (Nana Yaa Twumwaa) has successfully reconnected with her ancestral continent (Africa) and is impacting one country (Ghana) in a powerful way at age 80.

She stands tall amongst both women and men, wears an interesting pair of spectacles, is naturally graceful and full of youthful energy. In my phone interview with her at her residence in Atlanta she remarked “…If you would take me dancing, I could dance all night…Honestly I don’t know what age is…we all have ideas and images of what an 80 year old should look like or be like. My thinking is energy… I am a child of God…”

On Sundays she is usually behind her pulpit at the Hillside Church on Cascade Road, South West, Atlanta feeding her congregation which numbers in the thousands or preaching in some city in the United States or abroad.


The founder and minister of Atlanta-based Hillside International Chapel and Truth Center was on September 26, 2010 consecrated as the first Bishop within the International New Thought Christian Movement of churches in a solemn ceremony attended by notables from all over the world. She was born in Houston, Texas in 1930 to a set of college students – Ms. Mildred Jackson Shackelford and Mr. Lee Andrew Lewis who was the first African American motion picture operator in Texas.

True to her pioneering spirit she first considered being a minster of the Gospel at age 13, when there were no visible examples of women ministers, especially in the African American community. Bishop Barbara, the mother of one biological son and thousands of other children worldwide recounts being raised by her grandmother - Ida Bates Lewis, the church and the community in middle class America. “… We ate well and lived a decent life. Grandma sewed for a living and sometimes when there was not enough money to pay the rent, she would talk-her-prayer, as if to a real human being. Grandma taught me how to pray and Hillside church is a faith based church… I have always trusted God to do what he said he will do…I started singing in the choir at age 13 and teaching in church at a young age…”

Dr. Barbara as she is fondly referred to had her initial spiritual orientation at Antioch Baptist Church in Fourth Ward, Houston, Texas. She is a graduate of Texas Southern University (1955 – BA), Clark Atlanta University (1957-MSW), has 3 honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees and is currently completing a Doctoral degree in Ministry (DM) with a special focus on succession in charismatic leadership at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.

After her college education in 1955 she moved to Chicago for a number of years and worked as a social work administrator at the Church Federation of Greater Chicago, South Chicago Community Center, Henry Booth House and Malcolm X College. In the early 1970’s she and her son, Michael, moved to Atlanta and has called the city home ever since.

Dr. Barbara is a recipient of several awards and honors as well as the author of seven books including Transform Your Life, Piddlin’ for the Soul, The Church: A Matter of Conscious and Prosperity That Can’t Quit. The March and November 1998 issues of Ebony Magazine listed her as “One of the 100 Most Fascinating Women of the 20th Century” and as “One of Fifteen Outstanding Black Women Preachers” respectively. On April 3, 2003 she was inducted into the International Hall of Honor Portraits in the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

In the field of religion, Dr. Barbara is known as a minister with an extraordinary gift. Her portrait hangs in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian Museum in the gallery of “Women in the Pulpit.” She has the ability to provide leadership through example and instruction, but more importantly, she is known as a spiritual healer and a truth motivator. Not only has she provided leadership to her congregation and the community, but to the larger spiritual community through the Barbara King School of Ministry, her involvement in the International New Thought Alliance, and more recently as guest lecturer at the Harvard Divinity School Summer Institute for Ministers.

At her age there are very few things left for the Bishop to pursue, one of them is to build a museum for her numerous collections from around the world and the other, further expand her church facility. Asked about some of her greatest life lessons she replied “patience and trust in God.” She lists Maya Angelo Susan Taylor, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Tavis Smiley as some of her friends and admirers.

Bishop Barbara King & Dr. Maya Angelou at the Hillside Church


Dr. Barbara entered into ministry 40 years ago with a background in social work and psychology instead of a formal education in seminary training. Over the decades she has successfully built a world-class ministry which she attributes to the grace and faithfulness of God. Despite her many life accomplishments she is focused on service to humanity and sums up her life’s mission and ministry in just a few words “impacting lives, bringing value to people and living as an expression of God on this earth.” At age 80, retirement is not really on her mind although she is proactively planning a succession strategy for the ministry.


Hillside International Chapel & Truth Center is a member of the International New Thought Alliance. Dr. Barbara began this nondenominational, ecumenical ministry in 1971 with twelve members in her living room. The Hillside complex covers nearly twelve acres with a growing congregation numbering more than 10,000. Hillside has a very visible and important role in the development of metropolitan Atlanta through its numerous programs and outreach projects. Hillside Chapel is the first African-American led New Thought affiliate to establish a sister-church in South Africa in May 1994.

Hillside Church which caters to the needs of an extremely diverse congregation is best described as a holistic ministry. It emphasizes ministry to the total man: spirit, soul and body and provides services that meets the needs of all these human departments. Members engage in intense prayer, bible study and devotion throughout the year and also learn how to live healthy and responsible lives especially in these economic times. The church is located on 2450 Cascade Road, S.W. Atlanta, GA 30311 and on the web at

Nana Yaa Twumwaa I (Center) at a Durbar In Ghana


Aside being priest Dr. Barbara is also the development Chief of Assin Nsuta in Ghana, West Africa and the first female chief in the region. She cherishes this function and title as much as her new one – Bishop and describes her consecration experience as surreal and somewhat similar to her enstoolment in Ghana on August 18, 2001. Her path to becoming a chief is not one of those things she anticipated or discerned it was more of preparation meeting a God arranged opportunity, an opportunity to serve, support and uplift a people which for her, an African-American woman has tremendous importance.

When the surprise enstoolment announcement came to her during a service in her Atlanta church, she neither knew about the word enstoolment nor its meaning. However since accepting the honor and responsibility she has contributed to her town through several development and educational programs, is currently working on a library project for her community and mothering one Ghanaian young lady in the United States. As chief she endeavors to visit her people twice a year. “ ..I am at home when I am in Ghana…”

Her stool name Nana Yaa Twunmwaa I translates into a Thursday born chief with special spiritual power, energy and courage. The name Twumwaa is related to the name Asantawaa in the Akan culture hence Nana Yaa Asantawaa, national hero of the Ashanti’s of Ghana is a spiritual sister of Nana Yaa Twumwaa I. (Dr. Barbara). In Ghana she serves on the council of Chiefs for the Nkosuohene of the Benkum Division of the Assin Apimanim Traditional Area.

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