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James Merritt elected SBC president; Florida, Louisiana pastors in VP slots

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–James G. Merritt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., was elected without opposition to the SBC presidency June 13 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla., was elected first vice president, defeating Brad Hoffman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Tuscawilla, Fla.

Tommy French, pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La., defeated Paul Russell, pastor of Sundridge Baptist Church, Sebring, Fla., for second vice president.

John Yeats of Oklahoma and Lee Porter of Georgia were re-elected as recording secretary and registration secretary, respectively.

“I am humbled and overwhelmed that God has brought me to this responsibility,” said Merritt. “I covet the prayers of my Southern Baptist family that I would lead with the distinction and wisdom of my predecessors.”

Merritt is the third-youngest SBC president and the first baby boomer elected to the SBC presidency.

A Georgia native, Merritt has been pastor of the 12,000-member suburban Atlanta 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. In 1999, the congregation gave approximately $300,000 to the Cooperative Program, about 5 percent of undesignated giving, associate pastor Dan Greer said. CP is the SBC’s unified channel for missions and ministry support.

At Olive Baptist Church where Traylor is pastor, about 3,000 people attend Sunday morning worship. The congregation baptized 309 people in 1999 and gave $600,000 (11 percent of undesignated receipts) to the Cooperative Program. Messengers cast 3,054 ballots for Traylor to 892 for Hoffman.

French’s church, Jefferson Baptist, which he helped to establish in 1958, has helped to start at least four other congregations. About 700 people participate in Sunday morning worship. The congregation contributes 10 percent of undesignated offerings to CP. Messengers cast 1,349 votes for French, with Russell garnering 1,102 votes.

Yeats, elected to his fourth term as recording secretary, is editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger. Earlier, he served as editor of the Indiana Baptist and as a pastor.

Porter, a retired pastor and denominational employee, is in his 24th year as registration secretary, having first been elected to the office in 1977.

— Karen Willoughby, Mark Kelly, James Dotson, Todd Starnes.