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HB Charles

Phoenix | Florida pastor H.B. Charles will be nominated to lead the 2018 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Dallas. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., preached at the 2016 Illinois Baptist Pastors’ Conference.

Oklahoma pastor Brad Graves had previously been announced as a candidate for Pastors’ Conference president, but he withdrew his candidacy to clear the way for Charles. Graves told Baptist Press “it’s never a loss when you can join God in his work.”

The decision to nominate Charles stemmed from an informal gathering of past Pastors’ Conference presidents May 2 at which the group expressed a desire to nominate someone representing the numerous qualified pastors from ethnic minority groups, said former Pastors’ Conference President Ken Whitten. Charles would be the first African American to serve as Pastors’ Conference president.

Graves, whose candidacy was announced April 17, told BP the decision to withdraw from the election was “a big God moment,” adding no one pressured him to withdraw—except the Holy Spirit after a season of prayer. “I don’t want to be anything divisive” in the SBC, said Graves, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ada, Okla. “I think it’s time to show the culture that there is something that unites [Southern Baptists] more than just a Cooperative Program or a mission statement, but that we really do care for one another.”

Graves added, “Our convention is very diverse,” and Charles’ nomination “will help show how diverse we really are.”

Charles has served as pastor of Shiloh since 2008. The church, formerly a vastly African American congregation, became more racially diverse when it merged in 2015 with the predominantly white Ridgewood Baptist Church in Orange Park, Fla. While the Jacksonville campus remains predominantly African American, as much as 40% of Shiloh’s campus in Orange Park is Anglo, with a smattering of other ethnicities.

– From Baptist Press