In 172 years, the Southern Baptists Convention has never had a Black president of its leader’s conference. In 2017, that changes. Shiloh Baptist’s H.B. Charles makes history by becoming the first African-American to hold the position.
The Southern Baptist Conference is the largest Baptist organization in the world, but it has an acknowledged history of virulent racism. In these divisive times, it’s truly and accomplishment.
Charles, described as a “preacher extraordinaire” by former conference president Ken Whitten of the Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa Bay, is expected to be elected at the SBC’s meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, next month as he is currently the only nominee for the position.
Oklahoma pastor Brad Graves withdrew his candidacy after Whitten announced last Thursday his intention to nominate Charles to lead the 2018 conference. Graves’ withdrawal all but ensures the history making move will be formalized, according to the Baptist Press.
Reacting to the news Monday, Charles said in a statement on his website that it would be a “privilege” to serve the SBC in the position.
“It has been my joy to preach the pastors’ conference on several occasions. It would be a privilege to lead it in 2018. I am grateful and honored that Ken Whitten of the Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa Bay has agreed to nominate me at the upcoming SBC meeting in Phoenix. I am also grateful for Brad Graves of the First Baptist Church in Ada (OK),” he said.
“Graves announced his nomination a month ago. Upon hearing of my nomination, however, he graciously and humbly withdrew his nomination to clear the way for my nomination. It was a sacrificial act of Christian unity, for which I thank my brother in Christ and give glory to God,” he added.
Whitten told the Baptist Press that the decision to nominate Charles was an intentional nod to racial reconciliation that came out of an informal gathering of past Pastors’ Conference presidents on May 2.
“We thought it was time to stop talking about racial unity in positions of leadership within our convention” and “put a president out there at the Pastors’ Conference” from among the “African Americans, Hispanics and Asians who are pastoring great churches and are very worthy of being in positions of leadership in our convention,” Whitten said.
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