Westar Institute

Advancing religious literacy

Profiles of Giving – Mary A. Tumpkin

Reprinted with permission from the March – April 2009 issue of The Fourth R.

Mary-TumpkinFormer banker’s destiny was in ministry

According to Mary Tumpkin, preaching is in her blood. Her grandmother was a preacher, and Mary herself began preaching in her Detroit, Michigan, church at the tender age of 13. Though her minister encouraged her calling, she resisted. She attended Wayne State University and went into banking. Later, she and her husband migrated to Miami, Florida.

Mary stayed in banking and went back to school, completing a bachelor’s degree at Florida International University and then a Doctor of Ministry degree at the South Florida Center of Theological Studies. She began a church in her home and, in 1982, made the jump to full-time church work when she founded the Universal Truth Center for Better Living in 1982.

Today it operates from a 22,000 square foot facility with plans underway to build an even bigger building in the future. In addition to a sanctuary and offices, the Center houses an independent, non-profit affiliate that Mary also started called the Universal Academy, a not-for-profit childcare and early learning center.

Mary is a leader in the worldwide “New Thought” religious movement, which incorporates beliefs from a number of religious traditions, including the Unity School of Christianity, the Science of Mind, and the Church of Christian Science. She also serves as the second president of the Universal Foundation for Better Living (UFBL), an association of New Thought churches founded by Chicago religious leader Johnnie Colemon, Mary’s spiritual mentor. Under Mary’s leadership, the UFBL established the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary in Miami Gardens in 2001.

Mary first became aware of Westar through Bob Funk’s book, Honest to Jesus. She began coming regularly to the spring and fall meetings of Westar and attended several summer school sessions. She and Bob had many discussions about Westar, religious literacy, and her ministry in the church. These discussions led Bob to invite her to join the Westar board to help Westar with its interface with churches.

“I give because I want to see Westar not only survive, but get even better. When a charismatic leader like Bob passes, we must carry on his work. You have got to put your money into something you believe in, and I very much believe in Westar.”

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