As expected, Southern Baptist convention messengers elected
James Merritt, as denominational president last week.
Messengers also chose Louisiana Baptist Convention President
Tommy French to serve as their second vice president.
Merritt was unopposed.
As expected, Southern Baptist convention messengers
elected James Merritt, as denominational president last week.
Messengers also chose Louisiana Baptist Convention
President Tommy French to serve as their second vice president.
Merritt was unopposed. He is pastor at First Baptist
Church of Snellville, Ga.
He was nominated by Texas Baptist pastor Jack Graham,
who characterized Merritt as a “consensus” candidate.
Merritt should be elected because he is connected
to the power of God, Graham said. “I believe that he is anointed and appointed
for this strategic ministry by the sovereign grace and will of God.”
A Georgia native, Merritt has served as pastor of
his 12,000-member Atlanta-area church since 1985. During his tenure, the congregation
has baptized 7,826 people and seen average Sunday School attendance grow from
800 to 3,250.
Merritt is the first baby boomer to be elected to
the denominational post. In a news conference following his selection, he vowed
to stand true to the faith and lift high the banner of truth found in God’s
There never has been a better time to preach the
gospel, Merritt insisted. “There has never been a greater need for the
gospel nor has the gospel ever been more relevant to the world than in the year
2000,” he said.
Merritt stressed that his passions are for Jesus
Christ and the church. “I have basically two agendas as I enter this position,”
he said. “I love preachers and I have a zeal for the local church. It is
my foremost desire to help pastors to lead their churches to become healthy
churches that fulfill the Great Commission and especially in reaching the next
generation for Christ.”
Merritt said it is imperative to bring younger people
into the convention and to involve them. He also emphasized the need for a greater
focus on evangelism.
“We must, as a denomination, never let anything
become a greater passion than evangelism and soul winning,” Merritt said.
“Far too many churches have plateaued and gotten away from their first
Merritt also cited a desire to see more pastors become
personally involved in international missions. “Too many Baptists have
substituted giving for going. Every Baptist pastor and every Baptist layperson
that are physically able should go on at least one mission trip before they
go to heaven.”
When asked about a possible split in the convention,
Merritt said he thought people were “extremely happy” with the denomination.
“If you believe in the Bible, that people need Christ and the gospel, then
the best place to be is in the Southern Baptist Convention. … Never has there
been a better time to be a Baptist than today, to be proud that you are a Southern
In other elections, messengers chose:
• Ted Traylor as first vice president.
Traylor is pastor at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. He was elected
on a vote of 3,054 to 892 against fellow Florida Baptist pastor Brad Hoffman.
• Tommy French as second vice president.
French is pastor at Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. He was elected
on a vote of 1,349 (55 percent) to 1,102 (45 percent against Florida Baptist
pastor Paul Russell. French was nominated by Fred Luter, pastor at Franklin
Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Luter noted that French helped start the
congregation he currently serves and said it would be a great honor to have
French in office as the annual convention meets in New Orleans next year.
• John Yeats as recording secretary. Yeats
is editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger and was re-elected to his fourth
term as recording secretary.
• Lee Porter as registration secretary.
Porter is a retired pastor from Georgia and was re-elected to his 24th term
in the post.