South Carolina Baptist Convention Elects Pastor Josh Powell as First Black President

South Carolina Baptist Convention 2019 officers include: Bryant Sims, outgoing president; Alex Sands, president elect; and Josh Powell, president.

The 759 registered messengers to the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s 199th Annual Meeting made history Nov. 12 by electing a Simpsonville pastor as the first African American to serve as president.

Meeting at the Church at the Mill in Moore, under the theme “Engage,” South Carolina Baptists were challenged by keynote speakers — Brentwood, Tenn., pastor Mike Glenn; Chattanooga, Tenn., pastor Micah Fries; Jacksonville, Fla., pastor H.B. Charles Jr.; and Edgar Aponte of Lutz, Fla., — to actively engage the culture, the lost, the nations and the future.

Messengers formalized a missions partnership with East Asia, elected officers, approved an “Advance Plan” operating budget, adopted resolutions, and heard about ongoing work of the convention’s ministry partners, which include three colleges, two senior care facilities, a children’s home, a foundation, and the state Baptist magazine. They also heard reports from South Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union leaders, SCBC Executive Board ministries, and a Racial Reconciliation Task Force.


Josh Powell, pastor of Lake Murray Baptist Church in Lexington, will lead the South Carolina Baptist Convention in 2020. Powell has served the past 12 months as president-elect. He officially assumed the office of president at the conclusion of this year’s meeting.

In this year’s balloting, Alex Sands, pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Simpsonville, was elected by acclamation as president-elect. The president-elect automatically becomes president following a year of service.

Following Sands’ election, current SCBC President Bryant Sims said, “After slavery ended, virtually every African American left the balconies of our churches to form their own churches and conventions. Our track record on the race issue over the next 100 or so years was not great, to say the least, but today … today, we’ve elected my brother, Alex Sands, and I could not be more thrilled.

“Folks, I don’t want it to be lost on us today, that on our 200th anniversary — the oldest state convention in the Southern Baptist Convention — our first African American will preside as president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention,” Sims said.

Sands was nominated as president-elect by Charleston First Baptist pastor Marshall Blalock, a past president of the state convention. Sands has been serving as first vice president. His church, which was planted in 2003, joined the SCBC in 2005. He has served on the SCBC Executive Board and was vice chairman of the executive-director search committee.

“Everyone who knows him, knows him to be a man who’s faithful to his Savior and lives that faith every day,” Blalock said of Sands. “He’s also the kind of leader I know who will serve well in this office because he’ll represent us with distinction and wisdom,” Blalock added. “He shares the passion of our state convention to see every life saturated and transformed by the hope of the gospel.”

Other officers, all elected without opposition, include:

— First vice president Brad Vassey, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in York, nominated by Beau Bradberry, pastor of Willow Ridge Church, West Columbia.

— Second vice president Seth Buckle, student minister at Spartanburg First Baptist Church, nominated by David Wike, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Florence.

— Recording secretary Kathy Hall, member of Camden First Baptist Church, nominated by Francis Miller, member of Hulon Baptist Church in Batesburg.

— Registration secretary David Dinkins, pastor of Cedar Creek Baptist Church, Bishopville, nominated by outgoing registration secretary Larry Zaky, pastor of Hemingway First Baptist Church.


Messengers approved a Cooperative Program operating budget of $28 million, unchanged from last year. The budget commits 41 percent of receipts, or $11,480,000 to the Southern Baptist Convention and an additional 4.5 percent, or $1,260,000, to the International Mission Board. When combined with the IMB’s allocation from the SBC Cooperative Program portion, South Carolina Baptists are projected to send $7 million for international missions efforts.

The percentages allocations to the SCBC’s seven ministry partners remain unchanged.

New Missions Partnership

SEND Team Leader Ken Owens challenged messengers to be engaged in sharing the Gospel in East Asia. SCBC executive director-treasurer Gary Hollingsworth ceremonially signed a five-year partnership agreement with International Mission Board personnel, committing convention resources, prayer and volunteers to the effort.

Race Relations

A Racial Reconciliation Task Force was appointed at last year’s annual meeting. Chairman Josh Powell reminded messengers of the committee’s purpose of enhancing SCBC efforts involving partnership with the state’s African American Baptist congregations and of the state convention’s goal to saturate every life in the state with the gospel.

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Source: Baptist Press