Jimmy Carter’s pastor moving

After eight years, Pastor Jeff Summers is leaving Maranatha Baptist Church to lead a CBF church in Florida.

By Bob Allen

The world’s most famous Sunday school teacher is losing a pastor.

Jeff Summers, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., for eight years, has announced his decision to accept a call to New Hope Baptist Church in Port Orange, Fla., effective Nov. 1.

maranatha baptist churchMaranatha Baptist Church is a small congregation that welcomes thousands of visitors each year who come to attend a 45-minute Sunday school class taught by former President Jimmy Carter. The class meets in the sanctuary, which seats about 300, with the fellowship hall serving as an overflow area where Carter comes in to greet visitors personally before they watch the Bible study on a 36-inch television.

After church, depending on their schedule, President and Mrs. Carter remain long enough for each visitor or group to have a photo taken with them. Summers describes Maranatha as the only church he knows that performs worldwide missionary work "without going anywhere."

Summers, 40, is a graduate of McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta and currently pursuing the doctor of ministry degree at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. His wife, Jessica, is also a seminary graduate. They are parents of four children.  

Summers will be fourth pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, founded in 1996. The church is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Florida Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

He follows Bob Mulkey, who served as pastor 2006-2013 before moving to New Covenant Baptist Church in DeLand, Fla., also affiliated with the CBF.

Sybil Carter, deacon chairperson at Maranatha Baptist Church, said the congregation will soon be searching for a new pastor. The previous pastor, Dan Arial, served 23 years and is still an active member.