AFRO Publisber Rev. Frances “Toni” Murphy Draper, has retired as pastor of Freedom Temple A.M.E. Zion Church. ((Photos by Reuben Greene))

By Nicole D. Batey,
Special to the AFRO

After 20 years of faithful service as pastor, Rev. Frances Murphy Draper, known by the nickname “Toni,” has retired from her role as pastor of Freedom Temple A.M.E. Zion Church. 

Draper preached her last sermon as pastor of the South Baltimore church on Dec. 11.

“It has been an honor to pastor the loving people of Freedom Temple AMEZ for 20 wonderful years,” she said. “Although I am retiring from pastoring, I’m not retiring from the ministry or membership at Freedom Temple! A special thanks to the members of Freedom Temple A.M.E. Zion Church.” 

Draper acknowledged the late Bishop Milton Alexander Williams, who initially appointmented her in 2002, and gave thanks to Bishops Warren Brown, Richard Thompson and W. Darin Moore for each subsequent appointment.

Under Draper’s leadership, the congregation has been active in outreach and service to communities throughout Baltimore City. She has baptized over 75 infants, youth, and adults, performed over 20 wedding ceremonies and made hundreds of pastoral visits.

Draper has spiritually birthed 13 sons and daughters who were called into ministry and mentored countless others. Within the Philadelphia Baltimore Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Draper has served in various leadership positions that include chair of the finance committee, member of the trustee board and Holy Orders Committee, and conference studies instructor.  

“I have had the pleasure of serving under Pastor Frances Toni Draper for 20 years. She is a wonderful mentor, pastor, and servant of Christ,” said Kaia Stevens, chair of the Freedom Temple Trustee Board. “I will truly miss her leadership, but I am excited about what God would have her do next!”  

Draper has been an influential community leader in her native home of Baltimore for decades. With leadership positions in journalism, the faith community and education, the Renaissance woman has been the definition of grace.

Draper is the great-granddaughter of John H. Murphy,  founder of the AFRO American Newspapers. She was a graduate of Morgan State University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Baltimore all before completing an M.S. in pastoral counseling at Loyola University, Maryland. Draper then went on to earn a doctorate in ministry in preaching and leadership from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Her dissertation title was: “Relationship Theology: A Model for Producing Healthy Marriages in the African American Context.”

Vincent McCall and Tamera Pennix of the praise and worship team performed for Rev. Dr. Frances “Toni” Murphy Draper’s last day as pastor. (Photos by Reuben Greene)

Draper accepted her call to ministry in 1991, and preached her trial discourse a year later at the Lord’s Church (Baltimore, MD). In 1996, she returned to the Pennsylvania Avenue A.M.E. Zion Church, and in 1999 was ordained an elder by the late Bishop Williams and appointed pastor of the then John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church in East Baltimore in 2002. After prayerful consideration, the congregation changed its name to Freedom Temple A.M.E. Zion Church and relocated to South Baltimore.

Draper’s mother, Frances L. Murphy II, helped inspire her to be a community leader. She encouraged her to honor God, treat people the way you want to be treated and surround yourself with younger people who can keep you up to date on the latest trends and technologies.  

With all of her responsibilities locally, Draper is also a sought-after speaker all over the country and throughout the A.M.E. Zion Church, facilitating various workshops and seminars.

As a result of her tireless efforts and tremendous work, Draper has received numerous awards, including being honored three times by the Daily Record as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women.

In 2014, Draper and Dr. Pamela Love Manning co-authored the book titled “Life Happens…But You Can Finish.”  Her second book, “No Ordinary Hook-Up: The Courtship of Vashti Turley and Carl Murphy” was released in September 2016.

For more than 40 years, the now retired pastor has been married to Andre Draper.  They have four children and 12 grandchildren.

Just as Draper was inspired by her mother, she is now inspiring the younger generation. She often tells her grandchildren that it’s important to give back to the community because many people need a genuine hand up or a simple word of encouragement in order to survive and thrive.

“Pastor Toni has been more than just a pastor to my family and I. She has been a friend, teacher, and confidant,” Peggy Gullette, a member of Freedom Temple. “She allowed me to understand my purpose for God’s work. She gave me the tools and support to grow for God’s kingdom. She has forced me out of my comfort zone. Both her and Brother Andre have been a rock for my family.”

Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member –subscribers are now members!  Join here!