Nation's largest Protestant group chooses Durham megachurch pastor as president

Joel Brown Image
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Nation's largest protestant group chooses Durham megachurch pastor as president
Nation's largest protestant group chooses Durham megachurch pastor as president

At it's sprawling campus in Brier Creek, The Summit Church is a large congregation getting larger - Tuesday's big vote in Dallas is seen by many as a charge for Summit's pastor to do for Southern Baptists, what he's done for his church in Durham.

With nearly 70 percent of the vote, Summit Pastor J.D. Greear was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention - tasked with forging a path to the future for the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

"I think he's the youngest president the Southern Baptists have ever had," said Greear's friend and Duke theology professor Curtis Freeman.

The Southern Baptist Convention counts 15 million members nationwide. But over the last decade that number decreased by more than a million.

Meanwhile back in Durham, Greear's church, formerly known as Homestead Heights Baptist, has grown from 300 members to 10,000 since 2001 when the then 25-year old pastor took over.

"J.D.'s really more of a guy who wants to change some things. You may have to change structures," Freeman said.

Pastor Greear lobbied for the post on his widely followed Facebook page - positioning himself as someone who could lead the Southern Baptists past its "Me Too" moment.

The conference in Dallas began in an anxious mood as the denomination's all-male leadership grappled with the fallout of recent sexual misconduct cases.

"I think one of the things J.D. is gonna be challenged with, is how can he lead Southern Baptists to say that the church can be a safe place for women," Freeman said.

That may require some unconventional thinking. But, there was a time when it was unconventional for a Southern Baptist pastor to have a 10,000 member church with eleven satellite churches.

Time will tell if what worked here in the Triangle can succeed at a national scale.