By Bob Allen
Members of the First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., voted Dec. 6 to call Julie Pennington-Russell as senior pastor.
Pennington-Russell, long active in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, is the 19th senior pastor in the church’s 213-year history and the first woman chosen for that role.
“I am humbled and honored to accept the call to serve this historic church,” she said in a press release. “We have exciting years ahead together.”
Pennington-Russell most recently served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., from 2007 to 2015.
A native of Orlando, Fla., and a 1985 graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Pennington-Russell was ordained while in seminary by Nineteenth Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, where she served first as associate pastor and as senior pastor from 1992 to 1998.
In 1998 she was called to Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, and became the first woman to serve as pastor of a Texas Baptist church.
She was also the first woman to serve as pastor of First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga. The Georgia Baptist Convention responded by terminating its 148-year relationship with the congregation located next door to the CBF national headquarters in the Atlanta suburb.
She and her husband, Tim, a minister of media and communications, have been married 27 years. They have two children, Taylor and Lucy, both in their 20s. Her ministry at First Baptist begins officially in January.
Founded in 1802 as a spiritual home for Baptists in the nation’s capital, First Baptist Church in Washington is the oldest Protestant church in the nation’s capital. Former attendees at the church located six blocks from the White House include presidents Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman.
Luther Rice, a Baptist minister who after a failed attempt as a missionary to India turned to fundraising and advocating for formation of the so-called Triennial Convention in 1814, was a church member. The congregation also supported Rice in the 1821 founding of Columbian College, renamed in 1904 as George Washington University.