DECATUR, Ga. (ABP) — A female pastor who broke the “stained-glass ceiling” in Texas Baptist life is expected to move to a historic church near Atlanta, making it by far the largest Southern Baptist church led by a woman.
A search committee of the 2,696-member First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., presented Julie Pennington-Russell’s name May 27 as its recommendation to fill the open office of pastor. Since 1998 Pennington-Russell has been pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.
According to a Decatur church member familiar with the process, the congregation reacted to the announcement with “solid approval.” Pennington-Russell, 46, is scheduled to preach June 17 in anticipation of election the same day.
First Baptist of Decatur — a 141-year-old church in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur — will immediately become a centerpiece in the effort to elevate and celebrate women in pastoral roles. But the congregation is not seeking that notoriety, said one church leader.
“Calling Julie was definitely not about ‘making a statement,'” the longtime member said. “Our committee and the deacon council really felt the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we navigated this decision-making process. And to have our entire congregation — minus five or six folks who are not happy about this — stand at the close of the service yesterday and applaud our committee was overwhelming to us.”
I took care of Julie’s son Taylor at an after-school program during my sophomore year at Baylor. It was shortly after she’d taken over at Calvary. I never went there, but she and her husband were both very nice.