Bright Hope Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Kevin R. Johnson took to the pulpit Sunday morning to share some big news with church members.
His message was shocking to some members of the North Philadelphia congregation. Johnson announced that he is resigning effective October 31.
Pat Coulter, former head of the Urban League of Philadelphia, was present during the service and said she was saddened by the news.
"It's a great loss to the church. I don't know what they are going to do. He and his family represent what is best in the African American community and black families. It's such a great loss to the church to not go forward with him," said Coulter.
Toward the end of the service, Coulter said tears were shed and people were visibly upset, crying and left in disbelief.
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There has been some contention within the historic congregation, but Johnson gave no reason for his resignation. Assistant Pastor Rev. George F. Taylor also abruptly resigned in March after 48 years.
The church was founded in 1910 by Rev. James H. Cammack. Rev. William H. Gray Sr. took over as pastor in 1925. Upon Gray Sr.'s death, his son William H. Gray Jr. took over the pastorate in 1950. During this time, the church expanded and moved from N. Adler Street to its current home at 12 Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Notably, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the ground breaking ceremonies in 1963. William H. Gray III served as pastor from 1972 to 2007. Gray III became a congressman and head of the United Negro College Fund.
Johnson launched several new ministries since becoming pastor in 2007 -- including the Sole Focus Singles Ministry, The Arc of Safe Haven HIV AIDS Ministry, Seasoned Saints Ministry, Joshua (young adults) Ministry and Sankofa (adults) Ministry and the Business Owners Ministry.
According to the Bright Hope Baptist Church website, Johnson was called "Joshua" by his church members and is the fifth senior pastor of the church. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and earned a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. Earlier this year, Johnson reportedly gave consideration to run for the office of mayor of Philadelphia.