Charles Stanley, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, Atlanta preacher and longtime presence as a religious broadcaster, died Tuesday at age 90, his ministry announced.
“We are saddened to share that our beloved pastor, Dr. Charles Stanley, has passed away,” reads a statement on the website of In Touch Ministries. “We are forever indebted to him for his godly example, biblical teaching, and devotion to the gospel. Please join us in prayer for the Stanley family.”
The Dry Fork, Virginia, native felt called to ministry as a teenager and, after pastorates in North Carolina, Ohio and Florida, led First Baptist Atlanta as its senior pastor starting in 1971. The next year, he began his broadcast ministry with “The Chapel Hour,” a 30-minute program on two Atlanta television stations.
It was renamed “In Touch With Dr. Charles Stanley” and became a nationwide broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network in 1978.
By the 1980s, “In Touch” reached more than 1 million households, his website said. At the time of Stanley’s death, his messages were heard in more than 127 languages on TV and radio, making him one of the longest-serving pastors with a continuous weekly broadcast program.
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“Dr. Stanley leaves behind a lasting legacy as a torch-bearer and trailblazer of Gospel ministry and Christian broadcasting,” said Troy A. Miller, president of National Religious Broadcasters, in a statement. “We were blessed to have such a faithful servant of the Lord as a veteran NRB member and a faithful supporter and encourager of the work of NRB. Our condolences and prayers are with Dr. Stanley’s family. Although we mourn his loss in this life, it is a joy to know that he is with his Lord and Savior.”
Stanley was inducted into the NRB Hall of Fame in 1988.
A couple of years before that, he served two consecutive one-year terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, presiding over its largest meetings and helping to lead the so-called conservative resurgence, when conservative leaders took control of the denomination from moderates.
Current Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber tweeted about Stanley’s longtime influence.
“Condolences to the family of Charles Stanley, former SBC President, Conservative Resurgence leader, nationally-known preacher, and successful author,” Barber wrote. “As a teenaged preacher, I was reading Charles Stanley resources.”
Added evangelist Greg Laurie in a tweet: “Charles Stanley went to Heaven today. He made his mark on this world for the Gospel and his incredible teaching of God’s Word. I like so many others was blessed by hearing his messages on the radio and TV and he was a trusted voice we have all been encouraged by.”
Younger and older Christian leaders weighed in about Stanley’s prominence, with apologetics speaker Alycia Wood hailing his “life lived in service to Kingdom” and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson calling his ministry contemporary “an effective evangelist.”
However, prominent Baptist abuse survivor advocate, Christa Brown, criticized Stanley for allegedly ignoring sexual abuse—now known to be a widespread problem within the SBC. “No matter how much good a ministry may do or how many dollars it may rake in, when it turns a blind eye to child sex abuse, then praise for it is malodorous and brings pain to the victims,” Brown said.
Brown explained that, 15 years ago, she urged Stanley and other church leaders to notify the congregation about their former longtime children’s minister, Tommy Gilmore, who Brown says repeatedly raped her as a church girl in Texas. “My report was corroborated. Nevertheless, Stanley and FBC-Atlanta repeatedly ignored me and turned a blind eye,” Brown said. “I wanted them to reach out to other possible victims. They didn’t.”
Rise to prominence from difficult upbringing
Stanley’s rise in influence came after a difficult young life. When he was 9 months old, his father died. Young Stanley’s mother remarried when he was 9, but he said her new husband spurned him.
“And if somebody would have said, ‘Well, that didn’t bother you did it?’ I probably would have said ‘no,’” he said in a 2014 interview about his book “Emotions: Confront the Lies. Conquer With Truth.”
“But years later, I realized that those years of rejection as a kid really sunk deep into me. Finally, after a lot of praying and having some friends of mine speak with me about it, I was able to get over that rejection.”
In 2015, Stanley, whose views criticizing homosexuality and same-sex marriage mirrored that of many Southern Baptists, declined an award he had planned to accept from the Jewish National Fund in Atlanta. After many Jews opposed him receiving the honor, Stanley chose to turn down the award, citing his love for Israel and the strife the award was causing in the Jewish community, according to the JNF.
As recently as 2010, Stanley ranked among the most influential preachers, behind evangelist Billy Graham and pastor and author Charles Swindoll. He and Rick Warren, then pastor of Saddleback Church, were each listed third in a Lifeway Research survey.
In 2000, Stanley and his first wife, Anna, divorced after 44 years of marriage. Chuck Colson, then chairman of Prison Fellowship, decried the acceptance of Stanley’s “moral failure,” but the Rev. Gearl Spicer, administrative pastor for First Baptist Atlanta at the time, said, “It is my biblical, spiritual, and personal conviction that God has positioned Dr. Stanley in a place where his personal pain has validated his ability to minister to all of us.”
Stanley, known as a spokesman for conservative family values, at one time had told his congregation he would resign if he divorced, but later he determined he’d continue to be its leader.
“The love you have shown me and the love I have for you have encouraged me to remain faithful to God’s call on my life,” Stanley told his congregants.
Among his survivors is his son, Andy Stanley, founding and senior pastor of North Point Ministries, who like his father has been a popular Christian author and an influential pastor in the Atlanta area.
Charles Stanley became First Baptist Atlanta’s pastor emeritus in 2020, after serving the megachurch for 50 years in its top role.
“As much as I love being your pastor, I know in my heart this season has come to an end,” the senior Stanley said at the time.
“I’ll continue to preach the gospel as long as God allows, and 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.”
When he spoke in an interview in 2014, Stanley, who was known for his photography as well as his preaching, said he did not fear death.
“No, I don’t, for the simple reason that God makes it clear in his Word: ‘Absent from the body, present with the Lord,’ for those of us who know Christ as Savior,” he said, citing a verse from the New Testament Book of 2 Corinthians. “And the fact that Jesus died at Calvary, and his blood shed for us paid our sin debt in full, there is no reason to fear death. So I don’t.”
Josh Shepherd contributed to this report.
Adelle Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at Religion News Service.
13 thoughts on “Charles Stanley, TV Preacher & Southern Baptist Leader, Dies at 90”
A true hero in the faith, that blessed so many lives. His reward shall be great. 🙏
I don’t know what to say if a man that condones and endorses a son Andy Stanley that clearly teaches falsehoods , damnable doctrines and worse ??
I don’t know what to say if a man especially a preacher that endorses a den of wolves noted on TBN leading many to false teachers straight to hell and shipwrecking their faith and testimony at best ?
I don’t know what to say if a man more interested in the praises of men over the praises of God?
I just don’t know?
Nice white-wash. Charles Stanley was a segregationist with a fake doctorate. He posed as a prophet, endlessly called a new Moses as he worked to turn Evangelicalism into a Republican voting machine. He was put in power at the SBC by pedophile gay rapist Paul Pressler, and had to have known. Everyone else around Pressler knew. Stanley tortured his wife Anna after she threatened his job by wanting to get away from him.
I first started hearing Charles Stanley while still a member of a church (later recognized to have been a cult) that believed and taught that only members who had been baptized in that church, followed then by the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, could actually have God’s Holy Spirit. It was Charles Stanley’s preaching that caused me to say, “Either other people can have God’s Spirit too or this man is preaching like this with his own human ability.” Going with the former possibility helped open my eyes to many other errors that even the church itself (Worldwide Church of God) would eventually recognize and endeavor to correct. I’ve always appreciated Charles Stanley for opening my mind to that possibility.
I acknowledge that divorce, tolerance of Andy Stanley’s motivational preaching, and inaction over a child rapist should disqualify him.
However, his preaching helped me persevere and overcome a intense season of backsliding, series of disastrous decisions, terrible situations at home, church, and office 14 years ago. I could read his articles, listen to his sermons, and watch his videos for free. I praise God for my ‘14,551 km-away’ Pastor Stanley’s life.
I do not condone any acts in sin. I hold myself to the standard laid in God’s word.
“Stanley, known as a spokesman for conservative family values, at one time had told his congregation he would resign if he divorced, but later he determined he’d continue to be its leader.”
“It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it” Upton Sinclair
Yes, Barney we can accurately say the Stanley lied about resigning if he got divorced? I wonder why he changed his mind? What other lies did he tell?
It’s amazing how many voices can do nothing but destroy with their words even after a man is gone. Just know that we all will give an account of not only our actions but our words whether they truly were truthful and brought Glory to God or whether they didn’t. That is unless a person falls into the category of those mentioned in Matt. 7 then all a person will here is “ depart from me i never knew you!” I once heard a man once say “ the mighty army armed with the Sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, the helmet of Salvation, the breastplate of righteousness and having their shod the with the preparation of the Gospel and their loins gird around with truth. spends most of its time shining its armor and fighting amongst themselves “.
Most of us won’t receive the heavenly awards guaranteed to this imperfect man of God!
Dr Stanley’s son Andy is a Kook. His father tolerated him but strongly disagreed with his Apostate style ministry.
His wife was wayward and chose to divorce him on her own account.
If you know you know!!
De mortuis, nil nisi bonum.
It’s disappointing to read these comments – not because I’m afraid of truth. I’m all for truth. But there’s also grace, compassion, and tact. As I read the comments on this article and so many others on this site it becomes more and more obvious that the latter are foreign to many!
100%. Same thing I was thinking.
First, I loved me some Dr. Charles F. Stanley, “warts and all!” While he had some difficult days and years, what I most admired about him is that he lived a very godly life! He lived a clean and pure life before his family and Church family and the broader Christian community. He didn’t get re-married as some would have, but stayed focused on his calling and mission: to Preach and Teach the Word of God with simplicity and practically. A young College student once approached his Pastor and said to him: “Pastor, all I want you to do is to tell me what the Scriptures say, explain what they mean, and show me how to live it!” I can think of no Pastor that did what that young College student requested any better than Dr. Charles F. Stanley!
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