When pastor Myles Munroe died on Sunday in a plane crash in the Bahamas, his faithful were already starting to gather at the 2014 Global Leadership Forum hosted by his organization, Myles Munroe International. The conference, the ministry has announced, will go on without him: “This is what Dr. Munroe would have wanted.”
For hundreds of conference-goers who traveled to the Bahamas to hear Munroe and other Christian leaders speak, what was supposed to be an inspirational week has turned into a memorial for an extremely influential evangelical leader. Munroe was supposed to give the opening address at the conference, which began Monday; he and several other ministry leaders were on their way to the gathering in the private plane that crashed on its approach to the island of Grand Bahama.
The country’s Transport and Aviation minister said an investigation into the crash would begin “in full force” on Tuesday.
Bahamian Prime Minister Perry G. Christie’s statement about the accident hints at just how much influence Munroe wielded in his home country. “He was indisputably one of the most globally recognizable religious figures our nation has ever produced,” Christie wrote. “His fame as an ambassador for the Christian ministry preceded him wherever in the world he traveled, whether in the Caribbean, North America, Asia, Europe or Africa.
“He was a towering force who earned the respect and admiration not only of Christian adherents but of secular leaders both here at home and around the world.”
As is the case with many charismatic evangelical leaders, Munroe’s success as a pastor allowed him to build considerable influence and industry. In the Bahamas, the 60-year-old Munroe was the senior pastor of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International Fellowship. He was also a best-selling author and popular speaker and was well known in American charismatic circles, even if his name might not be as familiar as that of American Bishop T.D. Jakes, with whom Munroe often appeared.
Munroe’s sermons often addressed leadership, relationships and personal growth. In a devotional on Munroe’s site, the pastor says: “The greatest tragedy in life is not death but life without a purpose — life with the wrong priorities.”
Munroe’s wife, Ruth, and seven others also died in the crash at Grand Bahama International Airport on Sunday. On Monday, the AP reported that “severe weather was likely a factor” in the crash.
Heavy rain was buffeting the region when the Lear 36 Executive Jet struck a shipping container crane in Freeport as it tried to land, Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said. Mitchell said that a commercial Bahamasair flight making the same route, from Nassau to Freeport, had turned back because it was unable to land around the same time as the flight carrying the Rev. Myles Munroe and several members of his Bahamas Faith Ministries.
Ruth Munroe was herself influential in evangelical circles and was a co-senior pastor with her husband. (The Munroes have two children, Charisa and Chairo.) Several others on the plane held leadership positions in the ministry, including Richard H. Pinder, a senior vice president and pastor of Bahamas Faith Ministries Fellowship Church. Pinder was also scheduled to speak at the Global Leadership Forum.
Also repertedly on the plane: Lavard “Manifest” Parks, his wife, Radel, and their son Johanan, 5. Tribune 242 reported that the family was expecting a second child in April. Parks and his wife were the newly-appointed youth ministers of Munroe’s church. Parks was the Bahamas Hip Hop Fest founder and a well-known gospel artist. Radel Parks ran Redemptive Productions, an entertainment production company, with her twin sister.
It is not clear, at this point, what the ministry’s plans are going forward. Fox News reported that some of Munroe’s advisers plan to continue with the ministry.
In the short term, at least one prominent conference guest confirmed that he would address conference-goers — along with those who purchased $150 pay-per-view access to watch from afar.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Andrew Young, a well-known pastor and former U.S. congressman, mayor of Atlanta and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Young would address the conference “as scheduled.” At Munroe’s request, the statement said, Young planned to speak about “the Price of Leadership.”
“To reflect on the words of Martin Luther King when he said if there is something worth fighting for, it’s worth dying for — Myles Munroe died fighting for his country,” Bahamian Tourism Minister Obediah Wilchcombe said during the Global Leadership Forum’s opening session, according to an official government news release.
Wilchcombe added: “Our hearts are broken, but we understand that he is in a better place. … Use this conference to think of your own life and the things that we ought to do to advance the lives of others.”
As of Tuesday, the Myles Munroe International Web site was still displaying a pop up ad for pay-per-view access to the conference.
Many Americans might not be familiar with Munroe, but his influences and friends betray just how influential he was. In a 2005 interview, Munroe said he began to read Oral Roberts’s books “at a very young age.” He also mentions Andraé Crouch, the gospel-singer son of pastor Benjamin Crouch.
Munroe attended Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. In a statement, William M. Wilson, the president of the evangelical Christian university, called Munroe’s “work in extending Christ’s Kingdom in our generation … exemplary and world changing.” Wilson added, “His loss will be felt around the world as well as in our hearts here at ORU.”
Although Munroe was best known internationally as a motivational Christian speaker, he was also an outspoken and influential conservative voice on social issues in his mostly Christian home country. In September, in response to Bahamas Pride Weekend, the pastor released a lengthy statement condemning LGBT activists for “hijacking” the civil rights movement.
“I think the attempt to equate the historical civil rights movement with the demands for the right to dignify, glorify, and accept as normal the practice of a lifestyle that could render the human race, for which they scarified, extinct is illogical, dishonest, and is the abuse of the blood and imprisonment of many,” the statement said.
Viewers of Pat Roberton’s “700 Club” will no doubt recognize Munroe, who frequently appeared on the program as a guest. As the Christian Broadcasting Network noted in a report on Munroe’s death, the pastor once joked that “Bahamas is where God lives and He visits America often.”
[This post has been updated.]