From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
African-American Elder Honored for
04 May 1996 15:25:07
96078 African-American Elder Honored for
40 Years of Christian Leadership
by Julian Shipp
LUBBOCK, Texas--As the nation examined the heritage of African Americans
during February, Black History Month, the session of Messiah Presbyterian
Church here honored Bettie M. Iles, who was among the first group of women
to be ordained as elders in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Iles, whose father was one of the organizers of Messiah Presbyterian
Church, has served four decades as an elder and Christian leader,
according to the Rev. Pam Powell, pastor of the church. Iles was ordained
as an elder at Messiah during the 1950s.
"We honor Bettie as one of the faithful leaders of our church," Powell
said. "We thank God for Bettie and her ministry among us."
Iles was born June 3, 1908, in Rusk, Texas, to the Rev. William Venice
Christopher, a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and Mary Ann
Tennison. When Iles was a preschooler, her mother died and her father
Ora Hancock Christopher raised Bettie Iles. Christopher is still
living in Jacksonville, Texas, and will be 100 years old next Dec. 14.
Iles' parents were strong Christian examples to Iles, her sister and their
11 brothers, and she recalls being baptized by immersion at Mt. Hebron
Presbyterian Church in East Texas.
"I can still remember the sound of the water as I was lifted up," Iles
Iles' father had a strong singing voice, and Iles and nearly all of
her siblings became ministers or gospel singers. "When I sang, I literally
blew my top," Iles said.
Iles married Oscar Iles on Feb. 25, 1955. She said she met her husband
while renting a room for $6 a week at his boardinghouse. Iles, who worked
for Avon for 42 years and for Bobby Layne, the former Detroit Lions
football player, supported herself financially.
One day, Oscar knocked on her door and invited her to come out into
the sitting room. He told her that he wanted to go to Clovis, New Mexico,
to get married. Iles was absolutely astonished, but Oscar was convinced
that God had sent Bettie to him. Iles said she considered Oscar's proposal
all night, and the next morning, dressed in a gabardine suit and a straw
hat, she married him in New Mexico.
"There was just a hint of snow on the ground," Iles recalled. "We were
married for 14 years until Oscar died on October 14, 1969."
Iles suffered a dibilitating stroke in 1994 that has impaired her
speech and her ability to walk, and she uses a walker. Nevertheless, she
faithfully continued to serve on Messiah's session until she rotated off in
When asked what was the most important thing to do in life, Iles
replied, "To try and follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ."
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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