Detroit pastor Tellis Chapman plans bid to lead National Baptist Convention, USA

Jakkar Aimery
The Detroit News

When the Rev. Tellis Chapman emerged onto the scene of Detroit's religious community, it was to take the helm of a local assembly whose leader had died. Now, he is hoping to take on another leadership role beyond the city's reach.

On Monday, Chapman plans to launch his campaign to serve as the 19th leader of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc.

In 2009 and 2015, Detroit facilitated the group's gathering. Chapman said he hopes to bring them back to the city, which he says will positively affect the economy and generate revenue.

The Rev. Tellis Chapman, pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, plans to run for the leadership of the National Baptist Convention.

"By bringing delegates to the congress and convention (in Detroit), they will eat at our restaurants, lodge in our hotels and will attend local entertainment venues," Chapman said. 

Chapman, 61, has been a member of the reformation since 1977, and has led Galilee Missionary Baptist Church since March 1985, according to the church’s website.

Founded in 1886, the National Baptist Convention boasts nearly 7.5 million members and 21,000 churches worldwide, making it the largest Black denomination in the United States.

Chapman said since attending the convention, he’s gravitated toward affecting the political landscape of social justice at the intersection of religion and righteousness, and that by becoming president, he will affect the Black community in a greater way.

“I believe there should be a combination of discussion with protests, with outcry, that public policy may be affected,” Chapman told The Detroit News. “Otherwise, statements can be made, protests can be engaged, but if public policy does not change, then we’re still suffering."

The campaign kickoff will convene at 6 p.m. Monday at Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle.

Political and faith leaders that have confirmed participation include Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, Bishop J. Drew Sheard and Detroit Branch NAACP president the Rev. Wendell Anthony, according to a release.

If successful in his campaign, Chapman would join other Detroit pastors who have headed a national faith reformation.

From 2010-18, Ellis, who is pastor of Greater Grace Temple, led the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World Inc. as its presiding bishop. Sheard, who is pastor of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church, was elected as presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ in 2021.

Bishop J. Drew Sheard sits in the front pew of the nave at Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ in Detroit, Michigan on March 25, 2021.  Bishop Sheard was recently elected as the new Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the largest Pentecostal denomination in the country.

Sheard, who heads the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States, said leading an international body presents the challenge of bringing awareness to different issues in other parts of the country and around the world. 

“Dr. Chapman has always been a profound preacher and has always been a person who has had his hand on the pulse of social justice,” Sheard said. "If his body elects him, and we pray that they will, he's going to be a blessing to that body."

Chapman is a board member of the convention and is the director of the pastors’ and ministers’ division. In 2020, he was appointed to oversee the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Anthony, who has been pastor of Detroit’s Fellowship Chapel since 1987, said the city has a history of national and international leadership in the faith community.

“The melody that will come out of this presidency will be one of spirituality mixed with our social proclivity to bring justice, and to love mercy and walk humbly with God,” Anthony said. “I think Chap has done that.”

Anthony said Chapman is a leader of faith and works, and he understands the customs and traditions of the Black church in America and throughout the world. 

"He is not one who believes the church and its commitment to social justice should be separate," Anthony said. 

Elected in 2014, the convention’s current president, the Rev. Jerry Young of Jackson, Mississippi, is serving a second five-year-term, which will expire in 2024.

As of now, he has not made an official announcement concerning re-election, according to his church’s administration.

Chapman said four others have declared their candidacy.

Twitter: @wordsbyjakkar