PHOENIX (BP) – Oklahoma pastor Brad Graves has announced the withdrawal of his candidacy for Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference president to clear the way for Florida pastor H.B. Charles Jr. to be nominated as the first African American to hold that office.
Graves told Baptist Press no one pressured him to withdraw and "it's never a loss when you can join God in His work."
Former Pastors' Conference president Ken Whitten announced his intent to nominate Charles May 11, noting he is a "preacher extraordinaire."
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, Whitten told BP. Multiple qualified pastors were discussed, he said, and eventually the group sensed God's leading to Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
"We thought it was time to stop talking about racial unity in positions of leadership within our convention" and "put a president out there at the Pastors' Conference" from among the "African Americans, Hispanics and Asians who are pastoring great churches and are very worthy of being in positions of leadership in our convention," said Whitten, pastor of Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.
Charles' nomination, which will occur June 12 at this year's Pastors' Conference in Phoenix, "was never about trying to find a candidate better than Brad Graves," Whitten said. "Brad Graves is a class-act pastor and is worthy of being a 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.