The number of persons vying for the top position of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, has expanded to five this week, with Johnny M. Hunt announced as the latest to join the race.
Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., will be nominated for SBC president during the denomination's annual meeting in June. His church has grown an average worship attendance of 6,180 over the last 21 years and church membership increased from 1,027 to 16,495.
The Woodstock congregation has also sent out more than 135 missionaries and started more than 78 churches.
Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., announced Tuesday that he will nominate Hunt for the leadership position, commenting that he has a deep concern about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"I believe Southern Baptists are looking for a future that is marked by unity, not division," Traylor said, according to Baptist Press. "Johnny Hunt has one fight in him and that is the good fight of faith. He is a leader who can forge a hopeful future that is centered around the Gospel and connected to the local church."
Also on Tuesday, John Marshall, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church Springfield, Mo., announced that he intends to nominate former missionary Avery Willis for SBC president.
Willis has served as an International Mission Board missionary to Indonesia, worked as an evangelist and church developer for six years, was president of Indonesian Baptist Theological Seminary in Semarang, Indonesia, and led the adult discipleship department at LifeWay Christian Resources.
He developed the "MasterLife" discipleship materials, which has been translated into more than 50 languages and used in more than 100 countries.
Willis and Hunt join three other Southern Baptists vying for the top leadership spot. They include Dr. William L. (Bill) Wagner, president of Olivet University International in San Francisco and a former missionary; Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga; and Wiley Drake, a California pastor and former SBC second vice president.
In February, the Rev. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., one of the country's pre-eminent conservative evangelicals, dropped his bid to become president after a tumor was found during a routine colonoscopy.
The annual SBC meeting opens June 11 in Indianapolis.