Philemon Turner was born to Mr. Thaddeus Howard Turner (deceased 11/28/92) and Louisa Walker Turner (deceased 3/2/1998) in Haywood County, Stanton, Tennessee; the fifth child of 20. His siblings; James W., Franklin D., Gertha Mae, John W, Wilbia and Eva Mae preceded him in death. There were 13 boys and seven girls.
He was blessed with Godly parents who set before them very positive images, i.e., hard work, faithful church attendance, sharing with others, and being polite to everybody. His parents were not educated, but they encouraged them to get all “the learning” they could get. He attended Good Hope Elementary, Douglas Jr. High School, and he graduated from Carver High School, Brownsville, Tennessee on May 18, 1955. After high school, he moved to Louisville, Kentucky and worked at the Sealback Hotel. In the summer of 1955, he returned back to Brownsville and remained with his parents until March 17, 1957. On March 17, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and started that day working at Nickley Brothers and Company. He later became employed at Orgill Brothers. After 22 years of service at Orgill Brothers and Company he retired as Assistant Buyer in 1979, to go into the ministry full time.
He married his high school sweetheart, Margaret Bond on March 30, 1957. They raised six children, Lashelle (Pam), Llewellyn (TC), Philemon, Jr (Phil), Yvette, Edna (Bonnie), and Mi’chal (Little Bit). He honored their vows until her death on December 27, 2005. They enjoyed children brought in union through marriage, James McCarley (Pam) Martha Washington, (TC), Theresa Dennis, (Phil) Tommie Rodgers, Jr. (Yvette); Kevin Claxton (Bonnie) and Eddis Cole (Little Bit) with 20 grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.
To everything there is a season, a purpose, and a plan. On October 16, 2009 he married Evangelist Deborah E. Jones (Lady Deborah) in a beautiful ceremony. She brought three children and added a son-in-law to this union: Kelton “Spanky” Jones; Deborah “Lil Deb” (Jeff Avant); and Tisha Baker, 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild. She became his travel buddy, his best friend and caretaker. She made him happy his children are grateful. She was a blessing to him and he a blessing to her.
Bishop Turner had been raised in the Baptist faith and had been very active member of Pleasant Hill M.B. church. He had worked in the capacities of Sunday School teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, Choir Director, Choir President, Deacon, BTU Advisor and as an instructor and Co-advisor of the Youth Choir. Mother Turner had served on the usher board of Pentecostal Temple COGIC in previous years and had been assigned to serve the pulpit area. Between the two of them God had given them training in the auxiliaries of the church. They were in training and didn’t know it.
The ministry that they were saved under relocated to another city and they began looking for another ministry to join. God spoke to Pastor Turner and said, “Go Home!” Mother Turner told him that if God told him to go home, then she was staying home with him. Like Abraham unknowing what the future held, but willing to obey, he went home. While being there he began teaching his family the word of God. Every Sunday, they would have Sunday School and worship together. A short time later, God spoke to his brother, Tom Turner and his wife Rolina and said, “Join them.” Later, God revealed unto them that He wanted them to open their doors on Thursday nights to the people for prayer.
After a little chastisement from God, the doors were open for prayer. The house began to fill up and the doors were soon opened on Sunday also. God was beginning His Work! The people were coming! Pastor and Mother Turner were waiting for God to tell them where to go with the people, for God had not spoken to them concerning opening a church, as of yet. They along with the saints continued to pray. One Sunday, in 1973 the lord revealed by his spirit saying, “It is good for us to be here, Let us make this a Tabernacle.” That is how the church got its name.
He acknowledged his call to the ministry on December 27, 1973. In October of 1974 the church was organized at 2822 Midland. It was through this humble beginning the Lord’s Tabernacle Holiness Church was established. The affluent people in the community did not want another church in the community and petitioned to have the church ceased. After going to court, the church was approved in 1975. Worship services continued in the home of Bishop and Mother Turner until November, 1976. The church purchased the house next door at 2818 Midland and moved to that address on the fourth Sunday in November, 1976. Worship was held in the house-converted church until the third Sunday in July, 1981. With a march from the house church and around the neighborhood the congregation that had grown from 11 to approximately 100 marched into the newly built red sanctuary church at 2822 Midland. Remodeling and expansions have increased the size and service ability of the church. The sanctuary is now green and membership has grown.
The Lord’s Tabernacle Fellowship Ministries (LTFM) is an organization of multiple churches that have joined together for mutual edification. In 1986, Elder Jimmie Clark, Sr., from Fort Wayne, Indiana approached Bishop Turner and said that the Lord has inspired him to leave the Church of God in Christ Organization and to join up with the Lord’s Tabernacle. In 1983, the Lord had rested upon Bishop Turner’s heart and the hearts of others for him to take on the title on Bishop and it was not revealed to him the reason for his until Pastor Clark approached him about joining the Tabernacle Ministry. In 1988, the Tabernacle Fellowship Ministries was formed.
Bishop served as an Advisor of the International Mission Outreach Network (IMON), headed by Bishop Henry L. Hankins. The Network provides missionary travel and has established several churches in Africa. He was blessed to travel across the United States and several times to foreign lands, such as; Rome, Italy; Greece; Paris, France; Egypt; Israel, South Africa and Turkey.
Writings and Musical Inspirations
Bishop Turner was known for his singing as well as his preaching. His singing nickname was “Fireball” during his early years as a singer. He recorded with the Harold Bowen singers, sang with the Golden Keyes and as a soloist. He authored three books, “God’s Plan for a Successful Marriage” and “A Fresh Word from the Lord, A Book of Inspirational Sermons, Volume 1 and Volume 2. He also released his first CD, “Healing Hands” in 2005 and “My Heart at Christmas” in 2007.
The Closing of His Work on this Side…
In October, 2015, Bishop Turner called a meeting of the church and appointed Elder Melvin Kneeland and his wife, Sister Paula Kneeland to carry on the work of the Lord’s Tabernacle Holiness Church. Elder Kneeland moved into the Interim Pastor role and by the words of Bishop Turner, when my eyes close in death, this is your Pastor!”
A Life Well Lived
Bishop Turner was more than just a title. He was a family man, friend, supporter, a pastor after God’s heart. He has ministered and set the foundation in the lives of many to now take the foundation and build. On Tuesday, June 14, 2016; he transitioned from time into eternity.