(RNS) — Rev. Timothy Stewart, the first international president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, has died, his denomination announced. The Bahamas pastor served three years of his four-year term and presided over the virtual annual session of the historically Black religious group in August. He died on Sept. 17 at the age of 64.
“Dr. Stewart faithfully served the Progressive National Baptist Convention for over 3 decades, making history in 2018,” the denomination said in a statement. “He was the first President from the International Region in Progressive’s 60 year history.”
He was the 21st president of the denomination, which was home to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“As we mourn, we remember and celebrate a great Shepherd, Pastor of the Historic Bethel Baptist Church in Nassau, Bahamas, husband, father, family man, visionary leader, counselor and friend,” the statement continued. “We grieve not in despair but with hope that we shall meet again.”
Stewart served as the Nassau church’s pastor since he was 25, according to a bio provided by the PNBC. He also was known for his role as a civic leader in the Bahamas and beyond. He was a board member of the Bahamas Development Bank, a member of the Bahamas Juvenile Panel, and a chaplain to the country’s House of Assembly.
When Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas in 2019, the Nassau native led the PNBC in raising money for supplies for his country’s devastated islands. The PNBC had started its ministry year on Sept. 1, the day Dorian hit his home country with Category 5 force, killing dozens of people. Stewart told Religion News Service at the time that his denomination’s new focus, “In Pursuit of Wholeness,” proved to be timely.
“We’re looking at the revitalization of the community,” he said. “I think it seems as though God knew something even before I did.”
Leaders of other Baptist groups mourned the death of Stewart, posting comments on Twitter.
“My heart is with my brothers and sister @PNBCINC as we grieve the passing of President Dr. Timothy Stewart,” tweeted Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. “Prayers of peace and comfort.”
Elijah M. Brown, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, made a plea on Twitter that Stewart’s Christian work would be continued by others.
Added the Rev. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins, leader of New Baptist Covenant, an organization convened by former President Jimmy Carter: “We grieve the passing of Dr. Timothy Stewart, President of @PNBCINC. Our prayers and condolences are extended to his family and to our sisters and brothers in churches and organizations shaped by the spirit of his work.”“Dr. Stewart was a long time friend of the @BaptistWorld and a faithful servant of the Lord,” Brown tweeted. “Would you pray for his family, the PNBC, and that we would allow his legacy of Kingdom service to continue to impact us all?”
In the aftermath of Dorian, as he faced helping churches and Bahamians recover, Stewart said he did not feel his faith was being tested.
“I believe that this tragedy gives me an opportunity to affirm my faith and to apply my faith,” he told RNS. “In spite and in light of what has been a very tragic, very horrendous situation, we are forced to still see the grace of God.”
Note: Word&Way President Brian Kaylor interviewed Stewart in 2019 during a Baptist World Alliance meeting in the Bahamas. You can hear that podcast conversation in episode 85 of Baptist Without An Adjective.