ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Jim Henry will step down as co-pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando March 31, 2006, he has announced in a letter sent to the church members in October subsequently released to the Florida Baptist Witness.
Henry, 67, has been pastor of the Orlando congregation since 1977. He was elected twice as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In May, First Baptist called David Uth as co-pastor, with Henry telling the congregation that the two would serve together and “after a while” Uth would “take the ball and run with it” as senior pastor.
“The Holy Spirit sent Pastor David Uth to walk with us,” Henry wrote in the letter. “He has walked into your warm embrace and our hearts in a magnificent way. The time has come for me to move over and let him take the reins of pastoral leadership.”
Admitting the decision to hand off the leadership has been a “struggle,” Henry said, “This church is about Jesus Christ, not Jim Henry, and I do not desire to do anything to inhibit its progress. Jesus told His disciples that it is ‘expedient’ that He go away. Paul told Timothy and the church leaders at Ephesus to take the ball and run with it. With this in mind, and with swirling emotions of gratitude and joy mixed with the reality that I’m really going to miss this relationship as pastor and preacher, it is expedient that I pass the baton to Pastor David.”
Henry added, “It is time to turn the page and move on. Rearview mirrors have value but make terrible windshields.”
Although Henry plans to remain in the Orlando congregation, he insisted, “I must not be seen as your pastor,” and requested the membership’s assistance in this new designation.
Rather than calling it retirement, Henry said that he considers the transition in his ministry to be a “redeployment.”
Concerning his future plans, Henry wrote, “With continued health and God’s providence, we’re looking at several things, primarily mentoring and cheerleading for younger pastors; also encouraging churches and writing. Several exciting possibilities are in the works and will hopefully be fleshed out in the near future.”
Henry told the membership, “You must join Jeanette and me in welcoming this change. For forty-five years I’ve been a shepherd, twenty-eight plus with you. For all of us, it is a step into the unknown. Someone wrote that when we walk to the edge of all the light we have, and step into the darkness of the unknown, one of two things happen. There will be something to stand on, or we will be taught to fly. On Christ the solid Rock we stand. He is enough.”
James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.