Former First Baptist Church Decatur pastor to become senior pastor in Washington, D.C.

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt December 2, 2015
Julie Pennington-Russell. Source: Facebook

Julie Pennington-Russell. Source: Facebook

This story has been updated. 

The former pastor of Decatur First Baptist Church will become the new senior pastor of The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington D.C.

Julie Pennington-Russell announced in April that she would be leaving Decatur after eight years. Pennington-Russell’s days in Decatur were at times tinged with controversy.


Pennington-Russell joined FBC Decatur in 2007. Her selection as the church’s pastor led to strained relations with the Georgia Baptist Convention, which objected to having a woman lead the church. In March of last year, she entered the debate over gun control when she wrote a letter to state senators concerning the testimony of Mike Griffin, a spokesman for the Georgia Baptist Convention. She said that Griffin’s remarks weren’t reflective of the views of all the state’s Baptists.

The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington D.C. sees Pennington-Russell as someone who will be a relevant leader in a new era.

The church’s Pastor Search Committee wrote, “Humbled by your trust, we sought a minister who could challenge our membership, engage our neighborhood, and align our mission to the challenges of urban ministry today.”

After a search that began in April of 2014 and a review of numerous resumes, Pennington-Russell rose to the top of the list.

The Committee said, “Julie is a visionary willing to engage challenging issues and seek God’s will above all else. She is a pioneer for Baptist women in ministry as the first woman to serve as a Baptist pastor in Texas. She is committed to spreading the Gospel and showing love to all people—especially those on the margins of society and, as she puts it, ‘those off the page altogether.'”

In her letter to her new congregation, Pennington-Russell said she was looking forward to getting to know them.

“My experience of God’s call through the years rarely has come with trumpets and bright lights. Usually it’s crept up on me by inches and hunches and best guesses,” she wrote. “God’s call has seemed less for me like barreling down a wide freeway and more like making my way down the hallway in the middle of the night, feeling the walls for a light switch. Over the past five months it has felt as though God has been sending me ‘holy nudges’ about you. We’ll see where God leads.”


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