Bishop Joseph Walker III Says Death of First Wife to Cancer Shook His Faith: ‘I Felt Powerless, I Wanted to Tear Up My Bible’

During Joseph Warren Walker III’s wife, the bishop struggled with his faith. “I just felt so powerless,” he said. “I wanted to tear up my Bible. What’s the point?”(Photo: John Partipilo / The Tennessean)
During Joseph Warren Walker III’s wife, the bishop struggled with his faith. “I just felt so powerless,” he said. “I wanted to tear up my Bible. What’s the point?”(Photo: John Partipilo / The Tennessean)

The doctor came into a small hospital consulting room looking concerned, twiddling his thumbs.

“I’ve got some tough news for you,” he said. “We found cancer, pancreatic.”

Joseph Warren Walker III was terrified. The tough news was about his wife, Diane.

Suddenly, the spiritual leader for the humongous Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the man who lit the path for 29,000 members, was himself lost. Bishop Walker, at one point, wanted to tear up his own Bible.

“I felt like this person who had all this power in different places, but in that moment, I felt completely helpless,” he said. “I can pray for other people. In that moment, I felt like, ‘No.’

“I had no answer. It became very difficult. Superman had hit some kryptonite. Batman had lost his utility belt.”

Eleven years earlier, Walker was a divinity student at Vanderbilt and Diane Greer was a dental student at Meharry Medical College. The two met at a function at the Stadium Club hosted by Walker’s fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.

Walker said the two shared “an intellectual attraction” from the start. “And her sense of humor,” he said, smiling.

They got married two years later. He began building his religious empire, she began practicing dentistry, but Diane Walker supported her husband’s efforts from the church’s humble beginnings in North Nashville.

The church had just started building its church in Antioch when Diane Walker’s medical problems began.

First, she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, the lung disease that killed comedian Bernie Mac. After that, hyperprolactinaemia, which affects breast and breastfeeding development during pregnancy.

And then there were vomiting and night spells, the sore spot in her midsection in 2003.

That’s when she got the diagnosis of her rare pancreatic cancer, neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. Bishop Walker started having a crisis of faith.

“So there’s all the theological questions, this Job moment,” he said. “OK, God, why? We’ve been doing great things for you, we’ve been building your kingdom. Why?”

His wife, a dentist, a woman of science, started researching her disease, looking at treatments, printing out statistics. She concluded that she’s going to beat this cancer and told her husband so.

For a brief time, Bishop Walker’s faith kicked in, and he turned it over to God.

Until she started chemo.

Walker had a feeling of dread as the nurse attached the first bag to the pole above the chair.

“I’m watching the fluid drop, and I knew when that fluid hit her body, it would never be the same,” he said.

“I just felt so powerless. I wanted to tear up my Bible. What’s the point?”

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Tennessean
Brad Schmitt

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