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Gilbert Patterson, 67; led Church of God in Christ

MEMPHIS -- Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson, the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ and a minister for almost 50 years, died of heart failure yesterday at Memphis University Hospital. He was 67.

The predominantly black Protestant denomination, based in Memphis, reports 6 million members worldwide and traces its origins to the 1870s.

"It was a direct result of his work, such as his TV ministries, that allowed people to see COGIC as it should have been projected," said jurisdictional Bishop Jerry Maynard, the chief operating officer of the national church, who had worked with Bishop Patterson since 1992.

"Under his leadership we've seen tremendous strides toward true spirituality," said San Diego jurisdictional Bishop George D. McKinney, a member of the church's General Board.

In 2005, Bishop Patterson told the church's annual convention that believers should overcome differences of race and culture to spread their faith. "I don't know why we ever got stuck on that thing that we're only supposed to witness to black folks," he said.