As a boy growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, John Penn wanted to become a pediatrician so he could heal sick children. The compassionate youth didn’t become a pediatrician but, as an adult, he is in the business of healing spiritually. And, he has a doctorate degree, although in theology, not medicine.
The transition from the medical to the spiritual was neither quick nor easy. After finishing high school, Penn attended college. “When I completed my undergraduate degree, I received grants from the National Science Foundation to work toward a master’s degree in general science,” Penn said. “Although I did not complete that degree, I received enough credits to become certified as a general science teacher.”
While teaching, Penn considered applying to medical school so he could fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a pediatrician. But it was then that his life was changed forever. “The Lord called me to enter the ordained ministry, and the rest is history.” After his spiritual conversion, he received a dynamic and amazing call to ordained ministry. Some ministers have said they resisted the call at first, but Penn said he had no hesitation: “I felt compelled to enter the ministry, and I am still serving the church of Jesus Christ.”
Penn taught for several years before pursuing a degree at Oral Roberts University (ORU). There he earned his master’s in theology. He was then given an opportunity to serve a student appointment as pastor of a United Methodist Church in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.
“This gave me an opportunity to determine if the ordained ministry was right for me. It was,” Penn said.
That degree is just one of many the pastor earned. “In addition to the Master of Theology from ORU, I have a bachelor’s in music from the University of Arkansas of Pine Bluff, a Master of Divinity from Palmer Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary.”
His pastoral experience included more than a seven-year stint with Upper Room Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee, as director of the spiritual formation and healing program.
“I have had the privilege of training pastors and laity on how to establish an international healing ministry in churches in our country and abroad, including Brazil, Chile, Ireland, Mexico, Cuba, Scotland and several African countries,” Penn said.
After about 25 years as an ordained minister, the energetic great-grandfather retired. He and his wife, the Rev. Gloria Penn, moved to Canton to be closer to family. The two have been married for more than 60 years. They had six children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. They are active members of Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Marietta.
So, how does this octogenarian relax? “I enjoy gardening, listening to jazz and playing tennis.” A few years ago, at the age of 79, he and a partner won doubles in a local tennis tournament.
Penn’s intense desire to help people remains with him. He and his wife are continuing their work with the healing ministry via podcasts, lectures and workshops/seminars, as well as writing and publishing books.
“I am remaining active in the ministry of Christ-teaching, preaching and healing. I have started a new ministry with a colleague in the ministry entitled ‘Live Zoom Conversations on Healing and Wholeness,’” said Penn, who is in the process of writing his 10th book.
Although the word “retired” is sometimes used to describe his status in the ministry, the affable pastor continues to work hard to fulfill his childhood dream of providing healing to those in need. This healing is spiritual rather than physical, and he is a doctor not of medicine but of divinity.
– Margaret Miller has been a resident of Cherokee County for the past decade. Her writing hobby led her to become a columnist for community and daily newspapers.