Bishop Mary Lou (M. L.) Tatum Lawson Anderson was
the eldest child born to the late Mr. and Mrs. Green (Belle Davis) Tatum on
March 22, 1907. She married Reverend Charles William Lawson in 1930 to which
three children were born: Bishop Burgie L. Penn, Sister Ethel Lee, and the late
Brother James Lawson (1944-2010). Reverend Lawson would pass in 1958. Years
after his home going, Bishop Anderson would marry Elder Murray Anderson
In the late 1920s, Bishop Anderson moved to Roanoke,
Virginia to work to help support her family. It was there she accepted the Lord
and joined a local church. However a close friend invited her to a local
Apostolic Church congregation. It was soon that Bishop Anderson wanted to
continue steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine as the bible commanded in Acts
2: 42. Bishop Anderson heard the word of God go forth and kept attending. She
later joined and was baptized in Jesus Name. One day while ironing clothes,
Bishop Anderson felt the power of God and began tarrying in the basement of her
employers’ home and received the infilling of the Holy Ghost. She later
received her call into the ministry. Around 1935, Bishop Anderson heard the call of God
to come back home and start a local mission. Bishop Anderson understood that
“There is but one motive for which this brand of believers in Christ do
organize or come together…That is, that all who may unite with the Church may
continue steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship”. She led her church a number of years under
Overseer Esther Phanelson, Overseer Ethel
Smith, and Bishop Monroe Gravely.
In the 1950s, Bishop Anderson became the first woman
to receive a license to marry.
On February 2, 1957, work began on a charter to
organize and establish the True Apostolic Church of the Living God. The charter
stated according to church records was signed by the board of Elders and
Deacons consisting of Bishop Anderson, Bishop William M. Davis, O. C. Hairston,
Eddie Isom, Eddie Brim, Lucille Davis, and Evelyn Tatum. In August of 1957,
receiving her charter, Bishop Anderson who was already an Associate Overseer
was chosen as General Overseer, thus forming the organization known today as the
True Apostolic Church of the Living God. During its first General Assembly, it
was agreed that Trinity Church of the Living God would serve as headquarters.
Between the late 1950s and the early 1960s, Bishop
Anderson wrote the Discipline of the True Apostolic Church of the Living God.
Later she would author another book, God’s Great Name, a powerful revelation of
God’s one true name. During her ministry, she preached some inspiring messages
such as “I’m The Door” (John 10:9), “I Wouldn’t Mind Dying, If Dying Was All”
(Hebrews 9: 27), “Its Better Farther On” (Matthew 26:29), “What Have We Failed
To Do?” (I John 1:7), “I Found a Place in God, “I Can’t Stop and I Can’t Turn
Around” (Ephesians 6:13), “I’ll Let Nothing Separate Me from the Love of God”
(Romans 8: 35) and many others.
Under Bishop Anderson’s auspices, Elder M. R.
Millner started a mission on Mother’s Day Sunday of 1966 with five souls in
Independence, Virginia namely the Gospel Temple True Church of the Living God.
And in 1973 to further make services accessible to the public, Elder Millner
opened an additional mission in the Old Town community, just outside of Galax,
namely the Gospel Temple Number Two: The Redeemed True Church of the Living
God. After praying for nearly a year, Bishop Anderson felt the need of someone
to assist her in the bishopric; and on August 27, 1978, General Evangelist,
Elder M. R. Millner was consecrated as Vice-Bishop of the True Apostolic
Church. In 1984, Bishop Anderson appointed Elder R. J. Penn as the assistant
pastor of the Trinity Church. On February 25, 1985, Bishop Anderson went home to
be with the Lord. She had worked in the vineyard as pastor of Trinity for
nearly 50 years. On April 27, 1985,
Founder’s Day was made an annual celebration in honor of Bishop Anderson’s
dedication on the first Sunday in March of every year.