It’s been a stunning rise and fall for Kevin Johnson, the pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church: He started the year preparing to run a campaign for mayor. Those plans were quickly abandoned, but now he’s losing his pulpit, one of the most high-profile in the city.
The Philadelphia Tribune reports Johnson resigned Sunday, and says strife had beset the church for months:
Last month, members of Bright Hope Baptist, at 12th and Cecil B. Moore, reportedly met after Sunday service for a contentious meeting about Johnson.
Church members have also been angry about the recent resignation of an assistant pastor, the Rev. George F. Taylor, who had been at Bright Hope for 48 years.
In March, Taylor abruptly resigned during a meeting with Johnson and three other church leaders, Taylor’s supporters said. Taylor’s supporters said he had been fired for insubordination.
Bright Hope congregants said they were repeatedly rebuffed by Johnson over the years when they tried to get answers about the church’s financial affairs, including his salary.
Several congregants were upset earlier this year when Johnson announced plans to run for mayor next year – plans that he later scrapped.
Sources in the congregation said that when they reminded him of his 2007 pledge to avoid politics, he responded arrogantly: “I changed my mind.”
The church was founded in 1910 by Rev. James H. Cammack. Rev. William H. Gray Sr. took over as pastor in 1925. Upon Gray Sr.'s death, his son William H. Gray Jr. took over the pastorate in 1950. During this time, the church expanded and moved from N. Adler Street to its current home at 12 Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Notably, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the ground breaking ceremonies in 1963. William H. Gray III served as pastor from 1972 to 2007. Gray III became a congressman and head of the United Negro College Fund.