Bishop Richard L. Johnson
JRN 337: News Reporting & Writing
Professor Nelly Aguilar
T. Faith Harkness
June 27, 2010
Richard L. Johnson sits completely at ease in a black jacket, black slacks, and a black long sleeve turtleneck when others would be sweating in this El Paso heat, drinking a venti white chocolate mocha from Starbucks. His only adornment is a simple watch and a silver cross that hangs from a silver necklace. He sips his drink and watches the people coming and going, smiling pleasantly when one of his fellow patrons happens to meet his gaze. But it’s not his appearance that draws one’s eyes to him--even though he is a dark man, wearing dark clothes with a shock of white hair and matching goatee. Mr. Johnson just seems to command attention and is sincerely at ease with being at the center of it. And he should be. He is the bishop and founder of Destiny Family Christian Center at 9615 Dyer St.
Bishop Johnson knew he was different from an early age. He knew that he was destined for great things. To hear him tell it, “I knew that there was so much more for me out there. God had determined it and I knew I had to see it through. I just, I guess, in the beginning I was scared. I doubted in a small place in my heart.”
He said he was called to the preaching ministry while he was young, but he “heeded and understood” the call when he was in his teenage years in East Orange, New Jersey. There he regularly went to church with his family where his father was an elder. It’s obvious the bishop is used to teaching, for he explains the term without even being asked to. He describes an elder as “a man, highly versed in the teachings of the bible who is blessed with the obligation to help and guide the flock.” This person would be just under the pastor and co-pastor of the church, but would have practically the same duties. And it was under this same guidance that a young Richard Johnson learned to love God and want to serve him in some capacity.
Whether it be by divine intervention or just fate, the military draft brought Bishop Johnson to El Paso, TX in 1965. He did not want to be drafted. He strove to avoid it on the grounds that it violated his religious principles. Bishop Johnson picks up his King James version of the bible that has been lying on the table in front of him and quickly flips to Isaiah 2:4. He passes it over so that I can read it and recites, “‘And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against Nation, neither will they learn war anymore.’”
“I registered my voice and complaint as a religious objector to the war, but in those days, no one cared about objectors. The government felt they had right on their side and as the old saying went, ‘Might is right’. But I refused to carry that gun. And when they made me, then I refused to load bullets in it. If might makes right, then God’s right is mightier than theirs and trumps it in my opinion.” Bishop Johnson laughs at his own joke and nods at the people who turn to regard this man with such a deep, rich, rolling laughter.
In 1967, just two years after arriving in El Paso, the 20-something year-old Johnson meets Pastor Clayton Carr and starts attending his church. By then, he is out of the military having served his mandatory time and while going to the church, meets Pastor Carr’s family. A family that includes five daughters, but only one holds his attention—the youngest, Adele. He sees in her the same that she sees in him, a calling by God to do his work. They marry soon after on January 13, 1968.
In the early stages of his ministry and marriage, Richard Johnson served under his father-in-law in many capacities for 19 years. His duties included being...