Can people from various backgrounds work together constructively rather than negatively ... learning to serve together rather than argue? Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, says that it’s not only possible, it’s necessary.
During Dr. Hunter’s tenure, which began in 1985, Northland has grown from 200 faithful souls to a congregation of 20,000 that worships at three sites around Metro Orlando and around the world via interactive Webcast. Congregants take leadership of nearly every ministry effort inside the church, out in the community and around the world. Elders, pastors and paid staff don’t try to control the initiatives of congregants or the connections they make, and they don’t watch over their shoulders unnecessarily. Dr. Hunter encourages Northlanders: “Do what you can, where you are, with what you’ve got.”
Before bringing his family to Northland, Dr. Hunter served as a United Methodist pastor for 15 years in Indiana. He and his wife, Becky, have been partners in the ministry since their marriage in 1972. Becky is the former president of the Global Pastors Wives Network and is the author of Being Good to Your Husband On Purpose (Creation House) and Why Her? You, Your Daughter-in-Law and the Big Picture. The Hunters are parents to three sons: Joshua, CEO of Hunter Vision; Joel, an ophthalmic surgeon who specializes in 3D LASIK and cataracts; and Isaac, a former pastor (1977-2013). The Hunters have seven grandchildren: Noah, Jada, Ella, Lincoln, Luke, Lena and Ava (2004-2010).
A longtime bridge-builder who seeks common ground for the common good, Dr. Hunter approaches today’s issues in a biblical and balanced manner. He has become an internationally known spokesperson for “compassion issues” outlined in Scripture: sanctity of life, creation care, justice, poverty, and marriage and the family, and has been featured in national publications including Time, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Washington Post. A three-time consecutive recipient of Central Florida’s “50 Most Powerful” citizens by Orlando magazine, he has been interviewed on NPR and featured on programs such as “The Early Show,” CNN’s “American Morning,” PBS’ “Religion and Ethics,” and “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Cooperation and partnership are hallmarks of Dr. Hunter’s ministry. Together, he believes, we can accomplish more because of our differences than we would on our own—without giving up our unique identities. A respected leader in the Evangelical community, he serves on the board of the World Evangelical Alliance (600 million constituents) and the National Association of Evangelicals (30 million members).
Dr. Hunter is partnering with diverse groups to accomplish common goals. He is working with respected members of the scientific community to call attention to human-caused threats to the environment. Grist magazine named him among the top 15 religious environmental leaders in the world, along with the Pope and the Dalai Lama. Additionally, as a delegate to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum held in Doha, Qatar, he is seeking to build a dialogue between Muslim and Christian communities.
Dr. Hunter served in the inaugural year on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which advised President Barack Obama on substantive policy issues, including interfaith relations, strengthening the role of fathers in society and reducing the number of abortions. He continues as a spiritual advisor to the President.
Dr. Hunter is the author of several books, including A New Kind of Conservative (Regal Books), which outlines a non-partisan approach to political involvement.
The church at large is missing a way to benefit from differences without compromising our beliefs, Dr. Hunter concludes. “Fear and suspicion of differences limit the church’s spiritual maturity. Both spiritual and intellectual maturity grow from differences. A distributed church uses contrasts to accomplish kingdom purposes.”
White House Appointments:
• President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (2009-2010)
Appointments and Awards:
• Peace and Dialogue Award, Nile Foundation (2013)
• National Honorary Chairman, National Weekend of Prayer to End Slavery and Trafficking (2014)
• Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (2011- )
Boards of directors:
• World Evangelical Alliance (North American Council)
• National Association of Evangelicals
• The Global Pastors’ Network
• Central Florida Commission on Homelessness
• First Green Bank
• Participant in the Alliance of Civilizations (United Nations)
• Participant in the Global Christian Forum
• Participant in the U.S./Islamic World Forum
• Participant in the Parliament of the World’s Religions
• Belhaven College
• The Biologos Foundation
• Children’s Environmental Health Network
• Christian HELP
• The John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics
• Florida’s Faith-based and Community-based Advisory Council (2008-2012)
• Interfaith Council of Central Florida
• Man in the Mirror Ministries
• National Latino Evangelical Coalition
• The Telos Group
• U.S. Center for Citizens Diplomacy
* Vernon C Grounds Institute of Public Ethics (Denver Seminary)
• Vision Orlando
• Bachelor of Science in History and Government, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, 1970
• Master of Divinity, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1973
• Doctor of Ministry, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1974
• Doctor of Humanities, Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, 2006
• Doctor of Divinity, Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary, Nyack, New York, 2011
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