Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church
5600 Read Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70127
(504) 244-6800 | gssmin.org
New Orleans native Debra B. Morton leads alongside her husband, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr., as the senior pastor of Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans. She also serves as a co-pastor of Changing A Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia — both are internationally-renowned ministries.
But as the pastor of Greater St. Stephen, Morton followed in the footsteps of her husband, Bishop Paul S. Morton, who was the pastor before her.
“Under his leadership, the ministry was extended to New Orleans East and the Westbank,” said Morton. “We became known as ‘One Church in Three Locations.’”
In 1993, Morton was ordained as an elder and earned the distinction as one of the first ordained female elders to preach in a Baptist pulpit. She garnered local and national popularity with her television and radio talk shows, “Morning Coffee,” where she discusses the role of spirituality in everyday life.
Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church was established 82 years ago in the Uptown area of New Orleans by 69 people — one of them was Debra B. Morton’s paternal grandmother.
After two years, the church site was moved twice — first in 1938, to Ladies Providence Hall at Philip and South Liberty Streets, and then again in 1939 to a two-story building at their present New Orleans Uptown location on 2308 South Liberty Street.
In 1969, the church launched an extensive renovation and expansion program with a 12-year plan of the Greater St. Stephen Plaza, which would eventually include an educational center, a nursery, a rent-free senior citizens home and a youth recreational center.
By the late 1980s, the flourishing church comprised a 4,000 seat sanctuary in New Orleans East and a 1,500 seat sanctuary on the Westbank.
When Hurricane Katrina barreled towards New Orleans, Morton and her husband evacuated to Atlanta, Georgia, where their children live. They found safety and a place to worship alongside other congregants who had evacuated from New Orleans.
Hurricane Katrina damaged all three St. Stephen locations, but the Mortons were able to repair the two smaller and less damaged facilities — the one on the Westbank and the other in Uptown.
After the waters receded in New Orleans, the Mortons and their parishioners worked to rebuild the churches, all while helping people who needed food and clothing. The Westbank and Uptown locations were soon restored, but in 2008, the Uptown location was once again destroyed — this time by an electrical fire.
“We were homeless once again,” Morton recalled, adding that Temple Sinai New Orleans and McDonogh #35 Senior High School (Morton’s alma mater) opened their buildings for her parishioners. “We are eternally grateful.”
With help, the Mortons eventually rebuilt their main campus in East New Orleans.
And despite the major misfortunes, they’ve moved forward with their mission.
“Our main mission is to win souls to Jesus Christ and grow them holistically in mind, body and Spirit,” said Morton. “Secondly, we endeavor to go beyond the walls and make a positive impact on our city, state and the world.”
Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church offers several community outreach programs focused on social issues, such as addictive behaviors and re-entry for formerly incarcerated individuals. It also hosts after-school tutorials and a summer camp for youth.
Morton revealed that they plan to rebuild the Uptown location as a Family Life Center and hope to create a parent and child center in New Orleans East.
Greater St. Stephens offers Sunday services at its New Orleans East location, as well as diverse ministries and programs throughout the week that support the community. Additionally, the parishioners of the New Orleans East church contribute to the surrounding community’s economy by frequenting commercial and retail establishment including supermarkets, restaurants, pharmacies, banks and medical institutions, among other establishments. Many of the church’s parishioners are proprietors of businesses in the area.
Greater St. Stephens looks forward to continuing its relationship with the East New Orleans community.