Pastor of church that expelled hundreds of members during power struggle resigns as pastor of historic First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
The pastor who led First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to expel hundreds of members for challenging his leadership of the church resigned this week. The news broke today in a statement posted by the Trustee Board and Deacon Body.
According to the statement, “We’re writing today to let you know that James Welch resigned as lead pastor this week to pursue other interests. We wish James, Amy, and his family only the best as they continue to faithfully live out God’s plan for their lives.”
The resignation came in the third week of a four-week sermon series. The announcement says more details about how the church will handle the pastor search will be revealed Sunday.
According to the statement, “This Sunday, we’ll share more and announce our plan of action to search for a new lead pastor, along with some of the guest speakers who will be filling the pulpit in the weeks to come including some that are near and dear to the FBFTL family.”
The church is still in pending arbitration with many of the members it expelled. So far, no announcement about the status of this arbitration or if there could be a potential for reconciliation with dissident members.
“An immediate move should be made to reinstate all those people who either resigned or were removed during his reign. The justification for that request would be that the trustee board acted illegally and contrary to the proper interpretation of the bylaws,” said Brian Keno, a former member of FBC Ft. Lauderdale who was expelled from the church over his efforts to force accountability on church leadership.
Keno wondered why the resignation happened now. He wondered if there was a connection to the recent news that First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale was suspended by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
Or, perhaps it could be related to a secretive land deal involving the church and a future multi-store development in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, Keno wondered.
Also, raising questions about the timing is the fact that real estate records show that James Welch purchased a home in Ft. Lauderdale on February 15, 2023—less than a month before this resignation. Why buy a $659,000 home just before leaving your job as pastor of a major church?
Other ousted church members wondered why James Welch did not release a statement or make a personal announcement on Sunday while preaching? Why a statement from the trustees and deacons? This was especially perplexing given that Sunday he was preaching as usual to about 160 people in the huge 2,500-seat sanctuary.
At this point, they have no answers and no idea if the remaining church leaders will attempt reconciliation and restoration.
However, the dwindling church attendance and the ECFA development will cause a new pastor search greater difficulty if there is not restoration that welcomes back many of the most active and involved church members.