Dr. Charles Stanley announced his decision to step down as senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta on Sunday, Sept. 13, during a livestream service. With a succession plan in place, the 87-year-old passed leadership on to Dr. Anthony George, who has assisted Stanley for the past eight years.
"We are forever indebted to this man of God—not only our faithful pastor, but also a pastor to millions around the world," the church relayed on its Facebook page.
Today during our live stream, Dr. Charles Stanley announced his transition to Pastor Emeritus. We are forever indebted...Posted by First Baptist Church Atlanta on Sunday, September 13, 2020
Followers continue to post their well wishes to the page, thanking Stanley for the impact his ministry made on their lives.
"I never heard the Gospel until I heard you on the radio, even though I grew up in church," posted Marlene Smith, noting that she appreciates how Stanley "made it simple" and allowed her to be released from working hard to be "good."
Stanley served at First Baptist Atlanta for 51 years. In 1992, he founded In Touch Ministries, which publishes In Touch Magazine and a variety of Bible study and devotional materials. While stepping back from church leadership, he will continue to be active with In Touch Ministries.
George thanked Stanley for "being strong and of good courage through every battle that you've had to fight, through every trial you've had to overcome," according to Baptist Press. "You have stood tall and confident through all these years while at the same time remaining dependent and prayerful before Almighty God," he said.
During his pastorate, Stanley spoke freely of the Holy Spirit's "unlimited power, guidance and wisdom." In March of this year, he referred to the Holy Spirit in an article titled "The Holy Spirit: An Absolute" as critical in Christians maintaining passion and growth as a part of the abundant life Jesus promised.
George has served the Atlanta congregation as senior associate pastor since 2012. He was named to succeed Stanley in 2017. Prior to this, he served as senior pastor for 15 years at Aloma Baptist Church in Winter Park, Florida. Having preached often on Sundays and at Wednesday services, George is well known by the congregation.
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