The Rev. Mark Harris, who'd like to be North Carolina's next U.S. senator, isn't the only Baptist pastor from Charlotte running for office these days.
But the two other preacher candidates have their eyes on national denominational offices.
The Rev. Clifford Jones Sr. of Friendship Missionary Baptist has been campaigning since last year for the presidency of the National Baptist Convention. America’s oldest and largest black Baptist organization, with 7 million members, it will hold its 134th annual session – and presidential election – Sept. 1-5 in New Orleans.
The Southern Baptist Convention, still the country’s largest Protestant denomination, with 15.9 million members, will convene its annual gathering June 10-11 in Baltimore. And, for now, the only person expected to be nominated as the SBC’s first vice president is the Rev. Clint Pressley of Hickory Grove Baptist.
Pressley said it was not his idea to run, he’s not campaigned a lick and he’d happily withdraw if “somebody else wants it so bad.”
But he did agree to be nominated. And, if elected, Pressley will do the job for a year. Mostly, he said, the first vice president gives speeches at seminaries and mission boards round the country and, at the SBC’s 2015 national gathering, will moderate business meetings.
For those wondering whether Pressley will use the veep job as a stepping-stone to the presidency of the SBC: “Nah, I’m not old enough yet.”
For now, the 45-year-old Pressley is busy preaching five services at two locations every weekend, looking out for the church’s school and pastoring the 5,000 people who worship at Hickory Grove Baptist.
At the National Baptist Convention, open campaigning – at least for the top spot – is expected.
So I didn’t get to talk to Jones this week because, you guessed it, he was out-of-town -- Nashville, to be exact -- looking for votes.
Jones, one of five candidates for the presidency, has also campaigned in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, New York and Washington, D.C.
He has a campaign office and a state-of-the-art campaign website.
And all the expenses are paid for with campaign contributions, not church funds, said Carolyn Mints, his campaign coordinator.