Southern Baptists on Tuesday, June 10, elected a Georgia pastor, the Rev. Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, as president after the most wide-open leadership race in three decades.

Hunt, 55, a megachurch pastor known for his encouragement of young pastors, won 53 percent of the votes of more than 5,800 delegates, known as messengers, who are meeting in Indianapolis.

"One of my plans is to work diligently to bring … the younger generation into more involvement in our denomination," Hunt said in an interview shortly after his election. "It's my goal and hope that we'll be able to inspire and instill hope within that generation to come and join us."

Hunt said he'd also encourage all Southern Baptists to be more energized about evangelism, after the denomination reported that baptisms — an indicator of successful evangelism — hit their lowest point in a decade in 2007.

"We may just be dealing with a whole spirit of lethargy and apathy that just needs to be challenged," said Hunt, whose church has been a leader in baptisms. "That just needs to be challenged. That's going to be my passion, my heart."

The nation's largest Protestant body also essentially killed a proposed database that would track Baptist clergy who have been convicted or accused of sexual abuse, in part because of the autonomy of local churches.

Morris Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, told delegates that the denomination's role "is to encourage, empower, and educate local churches as to how to best do their local work to protect our precious children."

After spending the last year investigating whether to create a database, the Executive Committee instead offered new resources to local churches ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.