(Updated 9/23/2016) The Rev. Errol D. Gilliard Sr., pastor of Greater Harvest Baptist Church and president of the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity, died Sept. 17. The cause of death was not known at press time. Gilliard, a son of Baltimore, served as Pastor of Greater Harvest Baptist Church for more than 30 years.

The Rev. Erroll D. Gilliard, a passionate advocate for Blacks. (Courtesy photo)

The Rev. Erroll D. Gilliard, a passionate advocate for Blacks.
(Courtesy photo)

Gilliard is remembered as a passionate advocate for African Americans and the under-served from every background according to Rev. A.C.D. Vaughn, senior pastor of Sharon Baptist Church and a board member of the Baptist Minister’s Conference.

“He was one of the greatest preachers God put on this earth.  He did not spare anybody who he did not think was protecting our people,” said Vaughn. “He was just like a son to me,” Vaughn reflected.

During Baltimore’s Civil unrest in Spring 2015, Gilliard led members of the Conference in de-escalating violence by walking through the streets of West Baltimore hand-in-hand. More than 100 clergy flooded the streets of West Baltimore, serving as human shields between community residents and law enforcement dressed in riot gear.

Gilliard also worked with former state senator and current radio host Larry Young, whom he knew for more than 20 years, on anti-violence issues. “Last year we did a 16 week prayer vigil for the gun violence, Earl helped intiate that. Regretfully, we don’t have the ministers today who care enough about our community to get things done,” Young told the AFRO. “The one thing most people will tell about Earl is that he was very frank. Most ministers try to be political correct but that wasn’t how Earl did it.”

After the historic march, Gilliard and others are credited with bringing opposing factions, including gang members, public officials and ministers together at New Shiloh Baptist church to discuss how the civic and community officials can work together with youth to keep the peace during the historic unrest.  

The Minister’s Conference voted unanimously to change its name from the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity to the Minister’s Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity, to reflect the interdenominational spirit embraced by Rev. Guiliard, said his friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Frances Draper.

During his more than 30 years as pastor of Greater Harvest, Gilliard organized the Greater Harvest Baptist Church Housing Corporation as well as the Family Life Center. In 2012 he was one of the leaders of the ultimately unsuccessful fight against same sex marriage in Maryland.

Gilliard had a reputation for straight talk from the pulpit and spoke out often about violence, gang activity and the responsibility of the church, community and public officials in Baltimore.   

“My generation and the generation present have failed our young people. We’ve got to stop cutting them off, stop writing them off,” Gilliard said during a television interview in 2013 when questioned about the surge of youth violence in the city.

“Gangs are obviously giving the youth a sense of acceptance and belonging. So let’s go forth and take the ministry to the streets without shamming and scamming because they can see that as well.”

Gilliard graduated from Graduate of Carver Vocational High School in the city. He Matriculated at the Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia and was attending the Palmer Theological Seminary in St. David’s Pennsylvania at the time of his death.

Rev. Errol D. Gilliard Sr. will lay in state in the sanctuary of Greater Harvest Baptist Church on Sept. 23 from noon to 8 p.m.

The Celebration of Life service will be held on Sept. 24 at 10 a.m. at Greater Harvest Baptist Church (GHBC); 1617 West Saratoga Street in Baltimore.

An additional evening of celebration in honor of Rev. Guilliard’s life will be held Friday, Sep. 30 at 7 p.m. -11p.m. at Martin’s West, 6817 Dogwood Rd., Donation for the evening is $100.00.   Please contact GHBC at 410.945.2287.