Brett Younger, associate professor of preaching at Mercer’s University McAfee School of Theology, has been named senior pastor of the historic Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Younger, 55, takes over June 1 as pastor of the Congregational church founded in 1847 by transplanted New Englanders. Its first pastor, Henry Ward Beecher, was a well-known abolitionist preacher with connections to the Underground Railroad who during his ministry shared his pulpit with luminaries including Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass.
Martin Luther King Jr. preached his “I Have a Dream” sermon at Plymouth Church before preaching it in Washington. The church’s historic emphasis on human rights lives on today in its “We are the New Abolitionists” ministry to stop trafficking ministry.
“We strongly feel Dr. Younger is a good spiritual and cultural fit with Plymouth,” the pastor search committee said in a unanimous recommendation. “We believe he has the strength and skills to take the church to its next level of growth and depth, and we wholeheartedly recommend him.”
Preaching in view of a call April 17, Younger said one of the many things he discussed during an intensive search committee process was “what kind of Baptist I am.”
“I’m the kind you like,” Younger said with trademark wit known among moderate Baptists from humor columns he writes for publications including Baptist News Global and Baptists Today. “And, like you, I don’t care much for the other kind.”
Rob Nash, interim dean of the Atlanta-based theology school connected to Mercer University in Macon, Ga., announced Younger’s departure “with many mixed emotions.”
“This is sad news for all of us at McAfee,” Nash said. “For the last eight years, he has devoted his considerable creative intellect and his passion for preaching and worship to the classroom while at the same time enhancing McAfee’s reputation as a center for ministry education through his numerous books, articles and published sermons.”
At the same time, Nash said his is glad Younger and his wife, Carol, “are going to a church where their many gifts can have a powerful impact.”
Before coming to McAfee, Younger served as a pastor for 22 years in Texas, Kansas and Indiana.
During his time in the classroom Younger has kept busy as a supply preacher and interim pastor, including the last year as interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C.
A graduate of Baylor University, Younger earned both the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Carol Younger, also a Southern Seminary graduate, has taught several courses in the area of spiritual formation and theological thinking and writing while in Atlanta, and assisted with the Center for Teaching Churches. They have two sons: one a lawyer and the other studying at Georgetown University.
The roots of the Congregationalist Church reach back to the pilgrims who moved from England in the early 1600s in search of religious freedom. It’s one of several traditions combined in today’s United Church of Christ, but Plymouth Church is part of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, a smaller group that didn’t support the 1957 merger of the Congregational Christian Church with the Evangelical and Reformed Church forming the UCC, concerned about the potential loss of local church autonomy.