By Bob Allen
A two-year search for a new pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., ended Nov. 22 with the unanimous election of Benjamin Boswell.
Boswell, 35, is the youngest senior pastor ever to serve at the Alliance of Baptists congregation with a reputation for progressive social activism including the legacy of Carlyle Marney, one of the best Southern Baptist preachers of his day, who served at Myers Park from 1958 to 1967.
Boswell, currently senior pastor of Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary, N.C., succeeds Stephen Shoemaker, who resigned in 2013 after treatment for depression and self-medication with alcohol. Recently Shoemaker has been lecturing as theologian in residence at Queens University of Charlotte and visiting assistant professor of religion at Johnson C. Smith University.
Boswell is a graduate of Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., with the master of divinity degree from Duke Divinity School. He completed coursework for a Ph.D. in moral theology at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and served as the adjunct professor of political theology and ethics at the John Leland Center for Theological Studies, a Baptist seminary in Arlington, Va.
He serves on the board of the Alliance of Baptists and is affiliated with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Churches. During his tenure Greenwood Forest Baptist Church voted to become welcoming and affirming of the LGBT community. So did his previous church, Commonwealth Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., where he started as associate pastor and was elevated to the senior pastor role.
Myers Park Baptist Church got kicked out of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina for welcoming gays and lesbians in 2007.
While in college Boswell served as second lieutenant and platoon leader of an Army National Guard Unit in Lumberton, N.C. He entered seminary planning to become an Army chaplain but shifted his focus to academia at the urging of his mentor, Duke Divinity School professor and noted author Stanley Hauerwas.
A search committee of five women and four men looked at 172 applications from three continents. After more than 4,000 hours of discussion with input from 419 member surveys and nine listening sessions, the committee chose Boswell from a short list of 10 finalists — five women and five men.
Search committee chair Skip Gribble said once they met him, Boswell “became the benchmark by which we measured all other candidates.”
“His commitment to ecumenism, inclusivity and beautiful liturgical worship align very well with the tradition of Myers Park Baptist,” Gribble said. “His passion for social justice will lead our church to become an even stronger voice for the oppressed, the poor and the marginalized in our community, our state and our nation.”