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Messengers elect James Merritt to SBC president’s position

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–James Merritt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention June 13 at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla.

Merritt was unopposed for the position. Registration Secretary Lee Porter cast the ballot for Merritt on behalf of 11,349 messengers registered at the time.

Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, nominated Merritt, who he praised as a “consensus” candidate. Merritt should be elected, Graham said, “because he is connected to the power of God. 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 been pastor of the 12,000-member Atlanta-area church since October 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 a graduate of Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and has served churches in Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Merritt was a member of the SBC Executive Committee from 1991-99 and served as that body’s chairman the last two years of his tenure.

He has held positions in the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association and Georgia Baptist Convention and on SBC tellers and resolutions committees. He preached at the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 1992 and 1994 and was elected president of that group in 1995.

Among the books he has penned: “God’s Prescription for a Healthy Christian” (1990) and “Friends, Foes & Fools” (1997).

He and his wife, the former Teresa York of Cornelia, Ga., have three children.

Merritt succeeds Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., who completed his second one-year term in office.

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  • Mark Kelly