Phoenix bishop Alexis Thomas dies at 50

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(Source: Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church) (Source: Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church)

A prominent church leader in the Phoenix area has passed away. 

Bishop Alexis Thomas died at the age of 50, a church source confirmed the news to Arizona's Family Friday morning. 

Pastor Benjamin Thomas, with the Tanner Chapel AME Church, describes Bishop Thomas as a visionary, who was instrumental in joining forces with other churches and city leaders, to better serve the community.

"He was very charismatic," said Benjamin Thomas. "You saw it in his walk and his talk.  He had a way of relating to people in a down to earth way ."

The Phoenix native was the senior pastor of the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. It was a position he held since he was 16 years old. 

At the age of 7, Thomas was licensed to become a gospel preacher.  

Under Thomas' leadership, the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church grew from 250 to over 4,000 members, according to the church's website

In addition to the church, Thomas was also the general chairman of the African American Christian Clergy Coalition and the co-founder of the African American Strategic Alliance Coalition. 

"His legacy and purpose and influence stretches across the nation," said Wilbert Nelson, who has seen Bishop Thomas' impact. "We were blessed to have him here because he was ours, but the world and nation knew him as a person committed to the service he was committed to."

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton released a statement Friday saying “Bishop Thomas was one of the greatest men I ever knew, and in so many ways he was the soul of our city." Mayor Stanton added that he was devastated by the news of his passing.  

Officials with Pilgrim Rest said they will be releasing more information about the memorial service and the future of the church in the coming days. 

Thomas leaves behind his wife and five children. 

"A loss of his magnitude is felt throughout this community," said Benjamin Thomas. "We probably won't know the full impact until days later ."

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