Born into a family of “God loving” parents on September 14, 1952, Otis E. Burnell, Jr. fulfilled the prophecy, “and she shall bring forth a son.” This bumbling bundle of life was his dad’s pride and joy. However, in his ninth month of life, Otis Jr. lost his father to a horrific car accident within miles from their home while returning from vacation.
Before leaving on his vacation with other family members Otis Sr. intuitively said to his wife, Mrs. Johnnie B. Burnell, that Otis Jr. would grow up to be a “piano player” and to purchase him a piano. As Timothy was nurtured in the ways of the Lord by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, so was young Otis Jr. by his mother and grandmother thus beginning his spiritual journey. His mother purchased his first Wurlitzer Spinet Piano as was instructed and young Otis began playing by ear and later went on to take piano classes. His foundation at Bethel Baptist Church in Rockford, IL would lead to one of the most profound spiritual experiences that would change his life forever. During the time he was at the Bethel Baptist Church, (a historical landmark in the city and the first black Baptist church to exist in that city) Mrs. Lottie Campbell the church pianist greatly influenced this upcoming musician and groomed him as he watched and learned everything that was taught to him. At the age of 13, Otis went to a tent meeting and there is where the Lord saved and sanctified him. Eager to tell everyone about this great “new birth”, opposition was met and West Side Church of God in Christ became the new haven of rest for this sanctified soldier.
Upon graduating from high school, education became an imperative quest for Otis. He attended Spencerian College in Milwaukee, WI. However, maintaining a schedule of studying, traveling, singing and doing church work (which was his “everything") became too exhausting for him to continue his pursuit for education. There was another spiritual responsibility laid to his charge and that was to preach the Gospel. He was ordained as an Elder at the Prayer Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Chicago, IL (which later became Prayer Tabernacle Church of Faith). There he served as Minister of Music, Church Administrator, Sunday School Teacher, YPSTU President (Young People Spiritual Training Union), Missionary Instructor and Evangelist. Otis blossomed in this ministry and God used him mightily among the young as well as the “matured” saints.
On Christmas day of 1995, this young man lost his best friend, his mother, who transitioned to be with the Lord. The year 1999 found this preacher like Elijah, hiding in a cave. Not knowing what to do nor where to go but God had a divine plan that he knew not of.
At the Holy Family Spiritual Church of Christ, Bishop-Elect Burnell was consecrated to the Office of the Bishopric by Bishop Robert J. Hutchins and Archbishop Juanita Rice Williams who was his spiritual mother and mentor. Another step was taken in August of 2008 when Bishop Burnell was consecrated to the Office of Archbishop by Archbishop Jakie F. Roberts, Presiding Prelate Emeritus of the United Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ and Archbishop William “June” Wilson, Presiding Prelate of the Israelite Divine Spiritual Churches headquartered in New Orleans, LA. This consecration took place in Los Angeles California at the Universal Tabernacle of Deliverance where there was standing room only. Archbishop Burnell has planted ministries, empowered leaders, preach and prayed for the lost, and have seen many miracles worked by his hand being connected to the omniscient power of God.
"It’s not by might nor by power but by my Spirit saith the Lord of host."
In the year of 2000, Elder Burnell called a meeting of ministers from various cities to converge in Atlanta, GA, at the home of Bishop Martin Nunn and Elder Marcus Bell. It was around a dining room table where the Holy Way Spiritual Fellowship was birthed. The glory of the Lord overshadowed them just as on the day of Pentecost and set His approval upon this great work. There are only three charter members that remain: Queen Pastor Hazel Freeman, Overseer Juanita Gillis and Bishop Robert J. Hutchins.