In a video announcement following Sunday's online worship service at First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Charles Stanley told his congregation he was stepping down as senior pastor after 50 years of ministry.
"Earlier this month, I informed the board that I felt the time had come for me to step down as senior pastor..." Stanley said. "I have many wonderful memories. But as much as I love being your pastor, I know in my heart this season has come to an end."
Stanley explained that while he was resigning from his role as lead pastor, he would not be retiring from ministry. He said he wanted to put more focus on In Touch Ministries, which he founded in 1977.
"As you know, I don't believe in retirement. I'll continue to preach the gospel as long as God allows," Stanley explained. "My goal remains the same — to get the truth of the gospel to as many people as possible as quickly as possible in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God."
Stanley will be replaced by Associate Pastor Dr. Anthony George, who moved to First Baptist Church Atlanta from Aloma Church in Winter Park, Florida, in 2012. George was officially named Stanley's future successor in 2017.
George followed Stanley's statements in the video with a message of his own, thanking the 87-year-old senior pastor for his dedication and commitment to the church.
"Thank you for being strong and of good courage through every battle that you've had to fight, through every trial you've had to overcome," George said. "You have stood tall and confident through all these years while at the same time remaining dependent and prayerful before an almighty God."
Stanley, who is also a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, started at First Baptist Atlanta in 1969 as an associate pastor. He was named senior pastor two years later.