Dr. Michael Ellis Sr. received a unanimous vote to lead the 140-year-old convention.
Tennessee Baptist Convention elects its first African-American president
by Wiley Henry
A spirit of humility swept over Dr. Michael Ellis Sr. after he was elected the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s first African-American president in its 140-year history. He’d also served as the convention’s first African-American vice-president three years ago.
“I am grateful and blessed all at the same time and humbled that we have a Tennessee Baptist Convention that is inclusive,” said Dr. Ellis, pastor of Impact Baptist Church at 835 Whitney Ave., a church plant of the Bellevue Baptist congregation, which he organized in 2006.
The unanimous vote of more than 940 “messengers” representing hundreds of Southern Baptist churches from across the state was a turning point that catapulted the convention into the 21st century as an inclusive body of believers.
The annual meeting – or Summit – was held Nov. 10-12 in Brentwood, Tenn., at Brentwood Baptist Church. The convention rotates each year around the state. The vote drew a standing ovation for Dr. Ellis, who believes he was chosen to lead the convention based on his qualifications. He will serve a one-year term.
Two years earlier, the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, elected its first African-American president, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
Dr. Ellis succeeds Dr. Fred Shackelford, senior pastor of Ellendale Baptist Church in Bartlett, as president. He was quoted as saying Dr. Ellis’ election was “long overdue” and that he has what it takes to lead the convention.
Dr. Ellis said the conventioneers were looking for the best-qualified person, “and God put me in the path to receive the nomination.”
The newly elected president said he would love to be a connector “to connect our convention with others who believe what we believe.” He also intends to move expeditiously to implement the vision of Dr. Randy C. Davis, the convention’s executive director-treasurer.
“I’m going to stay focus on his vision for the convention, such as planting churches and reaching the lost for Christ,” said Dr. Ellis, 54, a U.S. Navy veteran and the father of six children. He and his wife, Angela Ellis, are uniquely positioned in ministry.
“We are in a unique situation,” Dr. Ellis said. “My wife has been elected president of the Baptist Ministers’ Wives Guild of Memphis and Vicinity Inc. She will serve a four-year term. We’re in a unique position to create a spirit of unity in the body of Christ.”
He said he wants the city of Memphis and the state of Tennessee to “shine” across the country.
- Written by Wiley Henry