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Adrian Rogers, SBC’s First Conservative President, Retires

The three-time president and founder of the 'conservative resurgence' in the SBC announced his plans for retirement after three decades of service
( [email protected] ) Sep 14, 2004 10:34 AM EDT

Adrian Rogers, one of the founding leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) conservative movement, announced his retirement from the church he had served for over three decades, on Sept 12, 2004.

Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., made his announcement during his 73rd birthday.

"Now comes a time that we all knew would come when I should announce my retirement as pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church," Rogers said in the statement.

Although the specific date of retirement was not posted, the announcement said Rogers would retire in six months. During the six months, a search committee will seek his successor; Bellevue, with more than 28,000 members, is one of the largest Southern Baptist congregations in the country and has been the site of many pro-family and conservative-value rallies.

In his statement, Rogers also clarified that his reason for retirement was not related to “health” problems; Rogers had triple bypass heart surgery in March.

"I thank God for my recovery and growing vitality and hope for many good years ahead," Rogers said.

Rather, Rogers said he plans “to spend more quality time with my family” as well as continue attending Bellevue Baptist. Additionally, Rogers said he will continue working with the Love Worth Finding radio and television ministry, serving the newly established Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute, and teaching at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary – which he helped found.

"I will not retire from the ministry until I draw my last breath,” Rogers said. "These and other opportunities will keep me challenged and busy.”

Rogers was first in a succession of conservative leadership to enter the SBC’s highest ranks since the 1970s. Elected president in 1979 with the help of grassroots conservative movements, Rogers helped spark what is known as the conservative resurgence in the SBC - a period, as explained by the Southern Baptists’ newspaper, “in which the denomination returned to its historical, orthodox roots and a commitment to biblical inerrancy.”

It was not until Rogers was elected that the SBC claimed its current identity as the vanguard of the evangelical conservative Christian faith; every president following Rogers were also of the “conservative” line of Southern Baptists.

Rogers himself was re-elected president in 1986 and 1987, during which he helped further solidify the conservative hold on the convention and its trustee system.

In 1999-2000, Rogers served as chairman of the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee, which revised the Southern Baptists’ statement of belief by clarifying the denomination’s core doctrines.

The SBC is the largest non-catholic denomination in the U.S., with 16 million members.

The following is the text of Adrian Rogers’ letter to his congregation:

Dear Beloved Bellevue Congregation:

The grace and goodness of God brought us to serve the Bellevue Church 32 years ago. At that time I could have never dreamed or envisioned what God would do in these more than three decades.

As pastor and people we have prayed together, wept together, and laughed together–all in the bond of love. When we first came to this beloved church, you opened your hearts to us and received us immediately. Your gift of love and support has sustained us through these years.

I have frequently said that when I came to Bellevue, I found in you three of the greatest qualities that any pastor could hope for in a congregation. First, you believed the Bible and loved our Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, you loved one another with a spirit of unity found in few churches. Lastly, you believed that the pastor was God’s anointed and appointed leader of the church.

Never have I asked you to do anything in the name of Jesus that you did not endeavor to do. Never did I have a need that you did not endeavor to meet.

The history of our time together has been recorded in heaven. This brief letter could not begin to describe the blessings and miracles that we have experienced together. For 32 years God has heaped blessing upon blessing and victory upon victory.

God has graced Bellevue with a strong, well-trained and gifted staff. Through the years I have leaned upon them for support, and I offer them my profound gratitude.

Our deacons and lay leadership have been beyond compare. Their unselfish service and wisdom have helped to make Bellevue the mighty church that she is. Standing in the wings is a new generation ready to take on the challenge.

Our children and grandchildren have been nurtured and loved by you. Correspondingly, they all love Bellevue and each of you.

Now comes a time that we all knew would come when I should announce my retirement as pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church. Nevertheless, I will not retire from the ministry until I draw my last breath.

Health is not a factor in this decision. I thank God for my recovery and growing vitality and hope for many good years ahead.

Joyce and I plan to stay in Memphis and in Bellevue. We plan to continue our service to Jesus under the leadership of the new pastor. I plan to minister through the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute, which has already been set in progress. I plan to teach preaching as an adjunct professor at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. I want to continue the radio and television ministry of Love Worth Finding. Of course, Bellevue Baptist Church, under the leadership of the new pastor, will continue to broadcast its services locally. These and other opportunities will keep me challenged and busy. I also plan to spend more quality time with my family.

Therefore, with your blessing, I offer my retirement in the spring of 2005. It is my hope that during this period a Pastor Search Committee would be put to work. I would be thrilled to have the new pastor ready to move onto the field before or at my last days as pastor. I would love to place the baton in his hand and bless his ministry with you.

We face the future with a bright expectation of blessings upon our lives and upon this dear church.

Joyce joins me in expressing our deepest love and thankfulness for these unforgettable years. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Devotedly, your pastor,

Adrian Rogers