Dr. Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, America's largest Baptist church which welcomed its 70,000th new member in 2016, is grieving the loss of his wife, Jo Beth, who was a bedrock of support for 58 years. She passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 80.
"Jo Beth was the model 'pastor's wife,' always supporting Dr. Young's ministry and encouraging him. She was indeed that 'great woman' behind the 'great man.' She never wanted to be up front. Instead, she made an impact behind the scenes, extending the arms of our pastor and church to the membership and surrounding community. Jo Beth was described recently as a woman of substance and of service. Her family would be the first to agree and to tell you she modeled the love of 1 Corinthians 13 and the 'blessed woman' of Proverbs 31," Second Baptist Church said in a statement Sunday.
The church said she died at 3:50 a.m. on Sunday and praised her as the "consummate Christian woman," in addition to being the "model 'pastor's wife.'"
"Jo Beth was the consummate Christian woman, whose gifts of teaching, hospitality, and encouragement so blessed this church family. A genuine lover of people, Jo Beth knew no strangers. From her smile, her laugh, and her wink to her expressions of concern or empathy, to speak with Jo Beth was to connect to a woman who always had time to listen," the church said. "... Jo Beth modeled grace, dignity, and faithfulness in all things."
Melanie Theiss, who attended Second Baptist Church for more than a decade before moving from the area of the church, agreed.
"She was one of the finest people I've ever known. She was always down to earth and led by example," Theiss told the Houston Chronicle. "She was friendly to everyone, and she was always approachable."
Theiss further explained how important Jo Beth's faith was to the woman who worked hard to mentor the wives of newly ordained deacons and pastors.
"Her Christian faith was the most important thing in her life. She was fiercely loyal to Dr. Young and his ministry," Theiss said. "I've never known her to have a cross word with anybody."
Jo Beth was also big on family. She raised three sons — Ed, Ben, and Cliff — with her husband and all three are currently in ministry.
Ed Young is the popular senior pastor of the multi-campus Fellowship Church headquartered in Texas. In 2015, his church was ranked as the second largest Baptist church in America. He asked for prayers for his family Sunday in announcing her death on social media.
"Today Mom went to be with Jesus. She was one of the greatest Christian women I have ever known! Please be in prayer for our family," he wrote in a tweet with a picture of him and his mother together.
Jo Beth was described as a proud mom who was the joy of her husband, who she met in the "church nursery."
"She was the beloved 'Joby' of her husband, our pastor, Dr. Ed Young. 'Edwin,' as she called him," the church noted. "Whenever asked how they first met, they would answer with a smile on their faces, 'We met in the church nursery.'"
Jo Beth and her husband were both born in Laurel, Mississippi, and attended First Baptist Church with their families. They dated through high school and college before finally getting married.
"Our love, prayers, and expressions of gratitude go to our pastor and all the Young family. We love you and thank you for leading us in such a selfless way to make a difference in this world for Jesus Christ and to stand up for Him at all times," the church said.
A memorial service is expected to take place for Jo Beth on Thursday, Sept. 21, at 1:00 p.m. in the Woodway Worship Center.