Georgia's J. Robert White announces plans to retire
White, 71, announced his retirement would become effective Dec. 31, 2018, when he has completed 26 years as the mission board's executive director.
Although White grew up in Florida and Alabama, he had served as pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Carrollton, Ga., in the 1970s and early 1980s before serving 11 years as pastor of First Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky.
When the search team from the Georgia Baptist Convention was seeking to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Executive Director James N. Griffith, they recalled White's ministry in Carrollton and expressed an interest in him becoming Griffith's successor.
White's productive ministry in Paducah and the fact that a previous candidate for the Georgia leadership role declined the position on a 66 percent favorable vote didn't provide inspiration for the Kentucky pastor to seriously consider the position.
However, God's providence eventually overruled the challenging circumstances and White allowed his name to be submitted to the GBMB executive committee, which gave him a unanimous vote.
"Preliminary to our decision to accept your invitation," White recounted in his letter, "I experienced a great struggle. I never imagined that God would call me out of the pastorate to enter ministry through a denominational position, but the call could not have been more clear. I knew that this was God's will and that assurance has been multiplied time and time again through these years."
During the past 25 years under White's leadership, Georgia Baptist churches have baptized 783,740 new believers and given more than $2.276 billion to missions.
Over the years, White has faced some formidable situations including the SBC's Conservative Resurgence, conflict over the convention's relationship with Mercer University, the near-theft by then-trustees of Shorter University and a devastating economic recession necessitating critical staff reductions.
During White's tenure the convention passed a historic resolution on racial reconciliation; developed and adopted the mission of "Serving Christ by Strengthening Churches"; established the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation with a corpus of $130 million to create a "Hospital Without Walls"; and relocated the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center from Flowers Road in Atlanta to a five-story 150,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building on 43.8 acres of real estate in Gwinnett County. The debt on the building was paid in full in March 2015 when White received a check of $25,631,330.13 from the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation.
White is known for his passionate preaching; his zeal as a soul winner; his leadership and concern for his staff and ministers across Georgia; his advocacy and promotion of the Cooperative Program; his love and devotion for his wife Janice and their family; a quick wit and engaging sense of humor; and his Christian statesmanship that has won him the respect of peers and Christian leaders across the SBC.
GBMB executive committee chairman Andy Childs is expected to appoint a search committee to seek White's successor.