Johnson to leave as Bright Hope Baptist pastor

The Rev. Kevin R. Johnson came to Phila. in 2007, will step down at the end of October.
The Rev. Kevin R. Johnson came to Phila. in 2007, will step down at the end of October.
Posted: July 22, 2014

The Rev. Kevin R. Johnson, pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church, told his congregation Sunday that he will leave the historic North Philadelphia church, formerly led by U.S. Rep. William H. Gray 3d, in October.

Johnson made the announcement during Sunday services at the church at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Barbara Grant, a spokeswoman for Johnson, said Monday. He said he would leave the church Oct. 31.

Johnson, who declined through Grant to be interviewed for this article, wrote in a letter to the congregation Monday that "it has become clear that there is a difference within the church around leadership and direction and, after careful reflection and meditation, my family and I feel it is time to move on."

Grant said Johnson had come under criticism within the church in recent months and had been questioned about church finances.

About a month ago, church officials asked for an audit, Grant said. Johnson agreed, and the church is searching for an audit firm, she said.

She said no audits were conducted at the church during Gray's more than 30 years as pastor.

Johnson, 40, faced criticism within the church when he announced in January that he was considering running for mayor as a political outsider with a fresh perspective on city politics, Grant said.

A month later, Johnson said he had decided not to run.

Johnson came to Philadelphia in 2007 from Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City's Harlem section, where he was an assistant pastor to the Rev. Calvin O. Butts.

Bright Hope, established in 1910, is one of the city's best-known African American churches. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the church several times.

Before Johnson, Gray and Gray's father and grandfather were pastors of the church.

In 2005, the Rev. Cean James, then 31, stepped down after a brief tenure as pastor when it was learned that he falsely claimed he had earned college and graduate degrees.


vclark@phillynews.com

215-854-5717

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