2023 was a year of highs and lows in the gospel Christian community. Gospel artists and leaders continued to shape the world by sharing messages of faith, love, and inspiration. It was a year of reunions and hope for the future. However, 2023 was also a year of tragedy and division that unsettled the faith-based community.
Here’s a look back at the Top 10 Most Memorable Moments of 2023.
10- Sarah Jakes Roberts's Woman Evolve Conference Shatter Records
The WOMAN EVOLVE conference took place on September 14-16. Over the course of three days, attendees were led through several areas of enrichment, including courage, loving your body, mental health struggles, finances, and ministry.
More than 40,000 reportedly gathered for the global conference. The conference. Presented by Wells Fargo, WOMAN EVOLVE became the fastest selling women’s conference in the history of Texas’s Globe Life Field, solidifying Sarah Jakes Roberts as a force in global ministry.
9- The Year of Engagements
In April, Grammy nominated gospel artist DOE (aka Dominique Jones) revealed on social media that she's engaged to musician Orlando "IAMSON" Palmer!
Then, in an exclusive to Essence magazine, 25-year old Louisiana native Koryn Hawthorne revealed that her 27-year old fiance, Hunter Register, had proposed. The two have known each other since they were kids!(Photo: Rayann Guyton/Essence)
In September, Dr. Tony Evans, the 74-year old Senior Pastor of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas made the announcement during worship church that he was engaged to Dr. Carla Crummie. He was previously married for over 40 years until his wife Lois passed away from cancer.
Other notable weddings engagements in 2023 include Yvette Nicole Brown who announced her engagement to her boyfriend Anthony Davis on "The View." Actress Kimberly Elise got married to her fiance George McCrary. Veteran White House correspondent, April Ryan tied the knot to her fiance James Ewing in October. On August 5th, Stellar Awards Founder/CEO Don Jackson wed Gospel Today magazine Founder, Teresa Hairston.
8- The tragic passing of Rickey Smiley's son Brandon
In January, radio personality and comedian, Rickey Smiley, announced the passing of his son Brandon. Brandon was only 32. The death shocked the nation and helped to ignite a conversation about the perils of drugs and the importance of adult children listening to parents.
7- The Passing Of Dr. Charles Stanley
In April, influential pastor and teacher, Dr. Charles Stanley passed away at the age of 90. He was the senior pastor at First Baptist Church Atlanta and the founder of In Touch Ministries has died. Dr. Charles Stanley was a constant on television known as teacher/preacher. He will be missed.
6- Stellar Awards in Vegas
They call it the biggest night in gospel music for a reason. Hosted by Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Jonathan McReynolds, the 38th Stellar Awards took place in Las Vegas and aired on BET in August. The show opened with an electrifying performance of "Miracles" and "Impossible" by Kierra Sheard Kelly and Pastor Mike Jr., who continued his impressive winning streak, bringing is overall Stellar wins to 11!
5- Kirk Franklin Finds his Biological Father
Kirk Franklin kicked off the release tour of his highly anticipated new album, FATHER’S DAY, on Monday October 9th at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The 53-year old gospel icon was candid about serendipitously finding his biological father Rick Hubbard after years of thinking another man was his father. His touching story proved that even gospel icons deal with real life issues.
4- The Brutal Assault of First Lady Loretta Jones
On Sunday August 13th, First Lady Loretta Jones was attacked during worship service. First Lady Loretta Jones is the wife of Bishop Noel Jones, the senior pastor of City of Refuge Church in California. Since the incident, a woman by the name of Regina Adams has confessed to assaulting First Lady Loretta Jones. The incident caused a national conversation about safety in the pulpit.
3- A Dynasty Continues- Kierra Sheard-Kelly Gives Birth
In one of the most highly anticipated deliveries in gospel music history, Kierra Sheard-Kelly gave birth to a new baby girl named Khloe Drew. This is the first child for Stellar-Award winning gospel artist and her husband Jordan Kelly. Kierra is the daughter of COGIC Presiding Bishop J. Drew Sheard and gospel music legend, Karen Clark Sheard from the iconic singing group, The Clark Sisters.
2- Kirk Franklin’s Reunion Tour
The 2023 Reunion Tour was one of the most highly anticipated gospel music tours in history! It assembled some of the most talented and iconic names in gospel music: Kirk Franklin, David and Tamela Mann, The Clark Sisters, Tye Tribbett, and Israel Houghton. Each artist was a headliner in his or her own right. In unprecedented fashion for a gospel music event, the Reunion Tour sold out several arenas across the country, including the 30,000 seat Capitol One Arena in Washington, DC and the 17,000 seat State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA.
1- The Passing of Carlton Pearson
In November, it was revealed that controversial but beloved Bishop Carlton Pearson was battling stage 4 cancer that had been deemed “inoperable and fatal." The diagnosis sent shockwaves across the Christian community. For many years, Bishop Pearson was one of the most sought after preachers. He regularly appeared on television and had the unique ability to ability to appeal to a broad range of races and ethnicities. However, his empire began to crumble when he declared that Hell did not exist. He was ostracized, which had an impact on him financially and emotionally. After his passing, he was honored a number of ceremonies in Tulsa, OK and beyond.
So that was 2023 at a glance.
As we enter 2024, let’s move forward with a renewed spirit of optimism and resilience. Let’s foster a sense of unity and strive to uplift and inspire others around the world.