The powerful Southern Baptist Convention has rejected a hard right candidate as its new president.
Ed Litton, a moderate pastor from Alabama, secured 52 per cent of the vote to defeat his ultraconservative rival Mike Stone in a run-off election.
Mr Litton, 62, was nominated by Fred Luter, the only Black pastor to serve as president of the United States’ largest Protestant denomination.
A new group called the Conservative Baptist Network had backed Mr Stone, a Georgia pastor who supported a motion to renounce critical race theory.
“We’re a family, and at times it seems like an incredibly dysfunctional family,” said Mr Litton after his win was announced.
“But we love each other.”
Mr Litton lost his wife of 25 years in a 2007 car accident, and two years later her married Kathy Ferguson, whose husband was an SBC pastor who died in a 2002 crash.
“He will do a good job because he has character and integrity, he operates in humility, he trusts and lifts up Jesus, he has suffered and experienced the love of God in the midst of great grief,” said Alan Cross, an SBC pastor from California.
Mr Litton is known for having built strong relationships with Black pastors and has urged them to remain within the SBC.
“My answer: because we want you and need you” Mr Litton has said when asked by some Black church leaders why they should stay.
And he has promoted the diversification of the church, as its white membership has decreased.
“I want to continue broadening ethnic diversity on our boards to reflect who we actually are and who we’re becoming,” he said.
“I want to build bridges. Where necessary, we have to repair burned bridges.”
The Associated press contributed to this story