RICHMOND, Va. – Julian H. Pentecost, editor of the Religious Herald during one of the most tumultuous periods of Baptist history in the American South, died May 31. He was 88.
Pentecost was editor of the Herald in 1980s, a decade of theological conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention. He acquired a reputation as a fierce defender of freedom to interpret Scripture during a time when SBC conservatives were increasingly narrowing the range of permissible theological viewpoints.
Born in Lawrenceville, Va., in 1924, Pentecost grew up at Lawrenceville Baptist Church, entering the University of Richmond in 1942 as a ministerial student. After graduation he began studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he met and married Mary Holbrook.
He earned both master’s and doctor’s degrees from Southern Seminary and became pastor of Buena Vista (Va.) Baptist Church – the first in a string of Virginia pastorates that included West End Baptist Church in Suffolk (1953-57), First Baptist Church in Waynesboro (1957-66) and Grace Baptist Church in Richmond (1966-70).
He became editor of the Herald in 1970, retiring in 1992.
Pentecost was active in denominational life for most of his career, serving as president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia in 1968 and as a trustee of the University of Richmond, Virginia Baptist Homes, the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, Southern Seminary and both the Home (now North American) and Foreign (now International) mission boards.
He was a former president of the Southern Baptist Press Association and was a founding director of Associated Baptist Press.
At the time of his death, he was a member of River Road Church, Baptist, in Richmond.
Pentecost’s wife, Mary, preceded him in death earlier this year. He is survived by a son, Julian Pentecost Jr.; two daughters, Anne Considine and Nancy Siska; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held 11 a.m. on June 4 at River Road Church.