The longtime pastor of a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church has been named next executive director of Baptist History and Heritage Society.
John Finley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., for 23 years, announced May 3 he is stepping down as senior minister June 25 to become executive director of the group formerly known as the Southern Baptist Historical Society.
Finley, who has a Ph.D. in Baptist history from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has been a member of the scholarly organization for Baptist historians for 40 years, said he and his wife will remain in Savannah and plan to continue as members of First Baptist Church.
A founding member of a CBF task force on ecumenism and justice established in 2003, Finley succeeds Bruce Gourley, a historian and online editor for Baptists Today, who recently resigned after seven years to pursue other opportunities.
Finley, a current member of the Commission on Baptist Heritage and Identity of the Baptist World Alliance active in ecumenical affairs in his community, said he didn’t see the job offer coming, but he is “truly excited” about his new role.
“Since the day I filled out a membership card in Walter Shurden’s first-year Introduction to Church History course at Southern Seminary years ago, I have participated in the Society’s life and mission,” Finley said. “I continue to regard the Society as the premier organization of Baptist historians in America and I hope that in years to come it will broaden its appeal and strengthen its relationship with local congregations, professional historians, partner institutions such as Baptist seminaries and divinity schools and other generous supporters.”
Founded in 1938, the society became an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Historical Commission in 1952. After the Southern Baptist Convention dissolved that agency in 1995, the group continued as an independent organization. Charles Deweese, who worked 21 years at the former SBC Historical Commission, led the Baptist History and Heritage Society 10 years before retiring in 2009.
Today the diverse group of more than 600 North American Baptists including American Baptists, Canadian Baptists, Cooperative Baptists, National Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, Southern Baptists and others, will hold its 2017 annual conference at First Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., June 1-3, in partnership with the CBF of Georgia.