SBC leaders, former presidents react to death of Charles Stanley

Following the April 18 death of Charles Stanley, former Southern Baptist Convention president and one of the nation’s foremost television and radio preachers, at age 90, several Southern Baptist leaders shared their memories and thoughts on his passing.

The loss of Stanley, who presided over the two largest annual meetings in SBC history — 45,531 messengers in 1985 in Dallas and 40,987 in 1986 in Atlanta — is being mourned by friends, family and viewers around the world. Many Southern Baptist leaders, both past and present, shared their thoughts and memories of Stanley with Baptist Press:

“Charles Stanley made an impact on my life from the time I was a child. My mother would watch him every Sunday morning as we got ready for church. Later God raised him up at a critical time in the life of our Convention and the Conservative Resurgence. We are debtors to this servant of Christ.”—Danny Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“With Dr. Charles Stanley’s passing Southern Baptists have lost one our leading figures of the past half century. Dr. Stanley stepped forward as a candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention at a most pivotal time in the life and history of our denomination. His election to that post in 1984 was a decisive turning point, moving the SBC further down the road of theological recovery. More broadly, he continued to serve Southern Baptists from the pulpit of First Baptist Church of Atlanta and through his In Touch ministries, whose viewership spanned the globe. For these reasons and more, multitudes of Southern Baptists mourn Dr. Stanley’s passing.”—Jason K. Allen, president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“When cable TV came to Lake City, Arkansas, Charles Stanley entered my home. When I started to collect books as a teenaged preacher, he entered my library. I saw him lead our Convention as SBC president. I heard him preach in chapel at Southwestern Seminary. Is there any part of the SBC that does not bear the mark of his influence? On behalf of Southern Baptists, I extend our gratitude to God for Charles Stanley, and I offer our condolences to his family, his friends, and the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.”—Bart Barber, SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a godly man and I loved him for his godliness and kindness. He was an anointed preacher whose love for the unsaved was unparalleled. He sought to reach the world for Christ and prayed often for a spiritual awakening to come to America. To join him in his prayer room next to his study at the First Baptist Church, Atlanta, and hear him pray and praise the Lord was a deeply spiritual experience. He will be missed, but we can all rejoice that he has gone home to be with Jesus about whom he preached ‘the Crucified and risen Christ.’ May our thoughts about him lead us to renew our faith until we, too, go to be with Jesus.”—Morris Chapman, former SBC president

“God used the ministry of Charles Stanley to call forth numerous ministers, missionaries, and resources for Kingdom advance in the United States and around the world. He was unwavering in his work to push back lostness so others could hear the gospel. We thank God for Dr. Stanley’s example as we continue this most important work, and we look forward to the day when we will join him in worshiping before the Lord’s throne.”—Paul Chitwood, president, International Mission Board

“For the past seven decades, Dr. Charles Stanley led faithfully in both his church and broadcast ministry, influencing countless lives through Scriptural exposition. His life provided an essential bridge from the generation of Dr. Criswell, inspiring other expositors to hold Scripture in the highest regard. May all those in Christian leadership emulate his model of fidelity and integrity.”—Barry Creamer, president, Criswell College

“Charles Stanley was one of the first preachers I listened to as a young Christian. Like many others, I was shaped by his love for the Bible and deep devotion to Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for his constant example of service and humility.”—Jamie K. Dew, president, New Orleans Baptist Seminary

“Charles Stanley exemplified resilience throughout his ministry, serving his people well with a deep commitment to God’s Word. I am grateful for his ministry.”—Hance Dilbeck, president, GuideStone Financial Resources

“Charles Stanley was an exemplary preacher and teacher of God’s Word. We are indeed grateful for the influence of his faithful ministry, which extended around the globe. While we mourn his loss, we celebrate the significant life and legacy of this Southwesterner, even as we give thanks for the hope of the resurrection.”—David S. Dockery, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“There are few places in the world where Charles Stanley cannot be heard and seen through In Touch ministries. He was truly the world’s pastor. It was my privilege to serve with him, preach for him and walk through some crucial times with him. He was a consistent proclaimer of God’s Word and touched millions of lives.”—Jimmy Draper, former SBC president

“Much will be written and spoken about the incredible, global and timeless impact of Charles Stanley’s life and ministry. My thoughts today are filled with gratitude for the impact of Charles’ warm, personable and welcoming spirit. Thank God for unleashing His powerful truth through Charles Stanley.”—Tom Elliff, former SBC president

“I will always be grateful to him for what he did to anchor Southern Baptists solidly on the truth of God’s Word. That’s a legacy that can’t be fully measured. Dr. Stanley was a master communicator in a communications age. God gave him a gift for connecting with people—even over a television screen. And he used that gift to tell as many people as possible about how they can have a relationship with Christ.”—Kevin Ezell, president, North American Mission Board

“As a passionate prayer warrior and powerful preacher, God raised up Charles Stanley to spread the Word of God across the globe. As a mighty prayer warrior and courageous leader, God chose him to serve as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in one of the most pivotal seasons in the Conservative Resurgence. I am so grateful for his indelible influence in my life and ministry.”—Ronnie Floyd, former SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a pioneer in Christian broadcasting. For decades his television ministry, In Touch, reached millions of people with the Gospel of Christ. He was a great man of God and he will be missed.”—Steve Gaines, former SBC president

“Charles Stanley’s legacy as a preacher of the Gospel and teacher of God’s Word will live for generations. Loved and beloved by millions he is now in the presence of Jesus and rewarded for a life and ministry done well to God’s glory.”—Jack Graham, former SBC president

“I grew up being discipled by listening to the preaching of Dr. Charles Stanley as I rode around town in the backseat of my parents’ car. Dr. Stanley set an example of preaching that was expository, faithful, evangelistic, and Spirit-filled. His effect on a whole generation of preachers and preaching is incalculable.”—J.D. Greear, former SBC president

“Dr. Stanley’s unwavering devotion to preach God’s Word without compromise had a tremendous impact on my life during my most formative years. His commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture fortified the resolve of many during one of the most pivotal seasons of the Southern Baptist Convention. Charles Stanley was truly America’s pastor for nearly five decades.”—Thomas Hammond, executive director-treasurer, Georgia Baptist Mission Board

“Charles Stanley had a remarkable ability to make the Bible accessible to everyday believers. His practice of preaching profound truths with simple clarity was a gift to the church and an example to preachers today.”—Jeff Iorg, president, Gateway Seminary

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Charles Stanley, whose ministry in Atlanta reached millions of people across the globe—including my own family. His leadership helped usher in a new era for the Southern Baptist Convention that would prioritize commitment to Scripture and a renewed emphasis on cooperation to share the Good News with a lost world. We lift up the entire Stanley family and First Baptist Atlanta community in prayer in this moment.”—Brent Leatherwood, president, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

“I first met Dr. Stanley at the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. The joy of meeting him was that when as a seminary student doing mission work in Ohio, people wanted to know what church I was from. They had little knowledge of Southern Baptists, so the simplest thing to say was I was the same kind of Baptist as Charles Stanley. They knew him from his In Touch television program. It often led to a fruitful Gospel conversation. He rose to leadership in the SBC at a critical time, and I am grateful for his life and ministry. Kathy and I are praying for the Stanley family in this time of grief.”—Ed Litton, former SBC president

“Dr. Charles Stanley was a hero for so many of us in the Southern Baptist Convention. The way he represented God, the Word of God through his preaching and teaching, First Baptist Atlanta, and the SBC will never be forgotten! He was a legend for all who knew him and knew of him. His legacy will be remembered for years and years to come. I have no doubt he has already heard the voice of God saying, ‘Servant of God, well done!!!’”—Fred Luter Jr., former SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a giant in my life, showing me how to take Scripture and apply it to my everyday life. His sermons, books and Bible studies have touched countless lives, including mine. Lifeway sends our deepest sympathies to the Stanley family and the team at In Touch as they mourn the loss of Dr. Stanley.”—Ben Mandrell, president, Lifeway Christian Resources

“Dr. Stanley was the first SBC president I had the honor of working with as convention parliamentarian. Two things remain vivid memories from the annual meeting in 1986. First, it was an highly-charged atmosphere as 40,000 messengers struggled over the direction of the denomination, with many tension-filled moments. The second vivid memory was of Dr. Stanley’s calm demeanor, which I quickly learned came from an incredible prayer life. He taught me as much about prayer as I taught him about parliamentary procedure. I shall always be thankful for his friendship.”—C. Barry McCarty, former SBC chief parliamentarian

“I join with others from across the country in praying for the Stanley family as they celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Stanley. God’s faithful servant has finished his earthly task and has now transitioned from labor to reward.”—Willie D. McLaurin, interim president, SBC Executive Committee

“Dr. Stanley will always be known as a preacher of the Word of God whose major emphasis was finding and doing the will of God. His legacy is worldwide, and I am grateful for his impact for Christ.”—James Merritt, former SBC president

“History will record that the election of Charles Stanley as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1984 constituted a major turning point in our denominational history. His re-election at the largest SBC annual meeting of all time in 1985 was the most decisive convention vote in more than a generation. He had not been particularly active in denominational affairs until that time, but his vast television platform gave him unparalleled influence with messengers. That convention was decisive for the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC. Given his life and ministry circumstances, Charles Stanley was the least conventional of the Conservative Resurgence presidents, and In Touch ministries was his main life investment, along with the First Baptist Church of Atlanta. He will be remembered as one of the most recognized Christian leaders of his age.”—R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Charles Stanley was a reluctant president of the SBC. He responded to the need of the hour and the requests of God’s people. Characterized by his gracious actions toward all, Dr. Stanley modeled the life of Christ. His fervency in prayer, alone with his Lord was profoundly experienced by all who knew him well. Who will take the place of my friend Charles on his prayer rug before God?”—Paige Patterson, former SBC president

“Charles Stanley was a giant among us. Faithful pastor. Courageous SBC leader. Minister to the world. Well done, good and faithful servant.”— Jerry Vines, former SBC president

“I don’t know of any Southern Baptist pastor whose sermons have helped to build up believers and reach people for Christ more than Charles Stanley.”—Bryant Wright, former SBC president

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

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