When the Rev. Glen D. Cole was senior pastor at Capital Christian Center, about 5,000 people showed up on Sundays to hear his Bible-quoting sermons. (Lezlie Sterling / Bee file, 2004)
The Rev. Glen D. Cole, an influential pastor and forceful advocate for traditional values who built the Capital Christian Center into the first megachurch in the Sacramento region, died Tuesday. He was 78.
Cole was found unresponsive in his car in the parking lot at Trinity Life Center in Sacramento, where he was senior pastor, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday, executive pastor Chuck Seielstad said. Seielstad said he administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation before emergency responders arrived.
"He drove to work, undid his seat belt and passed," said the Rev. Rick Cole, who succeeded his father as senior pastor of Capital Christian Center. "This is a great shock for us, a big loss for us and for the community."
He said his father, an avid golfer who played Monday, did not have any known health issues.
During 53 years of ministry, Glen Cole was one of the best-known pastors in Northern California and a visionary spiritual leader. His legacy includes large congregations known as megachurches that draw thousands of believers seeking the personal, emotional connection with God that he preached.
As senior pastor from 1978 to 1995, he transformed Capital Christian Center into one of the biggest Assemblies of God congregations in the country. About 5,000 people flocked to the church's landmark sanctuary off Highway 50 in the Rosemont area every Sunday to hear his Bible-quoting sermons, which were broadcast on TV and radio.
"He was a giant among pastors," said the Rev. Henry Wells of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. "He was a builder, a man of vision."
Cole was a regional and national leader in the Assemblies of God, including many years as a member of the denomination's Executive Presbytery. He influenced generations of ministers - including his two sons and a grandson - who followed in his footsteps to preach at churches around the country.
"He was the best mentor I've ever had," said the Rev. Ray Johnston of Bayside Church in Granite Bay, the biggest megachurch in the Sacramento region. "In my estimation, he was the single most important Christian leader in the history of Sacramento."
Cole's religious message - including a strict belief in the Bible - went beyond the pulpit into social and political issues. Legislators courted him, and news reporters regularly turned to him for his conservative viewpoints on moral issues. He served on the board of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority group.
He was an ardent critic of growing tolerance for gays and lesbians in society. He spoke out against domestic partnerships for unmarried couples, condom ads on television, local officials who supported "Sacramento Coming Out Day" and politicians who were not conservative enough for his convictions.
In 1987, he led Capital Christian Center and other churches in quitting the Interfaith Service Bureau after the bureau admitted a largely gay congregation.
"I'm very conservative, and ... I'm going to say what the Bible says," he said in a 2004 interview.
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SOURCE: The Sacramento Bee
Robert D. Dávila and Jennifer Garza