Joel Hunter

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Joel Carl Hunter (born April 18, 1948 in Shelby, Ohio), is the senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, a congregation of 20,000 that worships at three sites in Central Florida and at more than 1,000 sites worldwide via interactive webcast, iPhone, and Facebook. He is the author of A New Kind of Conservative (Regal 2008), Church Distributed (Distributed Press 2008) and Inner State 80: Your Journey on the High Way (Higher Life 2009). Hunter accepted the presidency of the Christian Coalition in 2006, and then resigned before formally acting in that role because the CC board felt that a broadening of agenda to include topics like poverty, justice and other compassion issues would alienate its base.[1]

He delivered the closing benediction on the final day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention,[2] prayed with Senator Obama on the day of the 2008 presidential election[2] and offered a blessing for President-elect Obama at the Pre-Inaugural Worship Service at St. John's Church on January 22, 2009.[3] On February 5, 2009, he was appointed to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.[4] In April 2011, he was named a member of the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations.[5]


Hunter was born April 18, 1948 in Shelby, Ohio. His parents were Wilbur Hunter, a decorated World War II veteran, and Jean Hunter, a homemaker. When his father died in 1952, he spent much of his time with his maternal grandparents, Lena and Carl Bashore. He graduated from Shelby High School in 1966 the president of his class and captain of the football team.

He then attended Ohio University. While there, he became involved in the civil rights movement In April 1968, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, he had a crisis of faith and felt called into ministry.[6] He graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Science degree in education.

He then attended Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1970, and received his Master of Divinity in 1973. After starting towards his Doctor of Ministry degree, he took his first church appointment as a youth minister at Bradley United Methodist Church in Greenfield, Indiana. There he met his wife, Becky. He stayed at Bradley for one year, and then became a minister at Southport United Methodist and remained there until obtaining his Doctor of Ministry degree in 1974. His thesis, in the field of culture and personality, was about equipping people for ministry. After graduation he became pastor at Mount Auburn United Methodist Church in Greenwood.

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).

Northland Church[edit]

In 1985, he moved to Northland Community Church in Longwood, just north of Orlando, Florida, that was looking for a senior pastor. He flew to Orlando to interview at Northland.[7]

Northland Community Church had been started in 1972 by 11 people in the "north land" of Orlando.[8] By 1985, the church had a weekly attendance of 200 people. Over the next two decades the church grew to an average weekly attendance of more than 10,000 people. Eventually transformed from a “community church” into to a “church distributed”,[8] Northland has been consistently named among Outreach magazine's 100 Largest and Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches.[9] Ministry Today magazine highlighted Northland's facilities as one of the "most innovative church buildings in America."[10]

The Distributed Church[edit]

The increasing numbers of worshipers after September 11, 2001, that forced Northland to create its first fully interactive multisite location at a nearby High School . Through fiber-optic cable, Northland was able to have a worship service at both locations. Duets were sung between singers half a mile apart, and Scripture read by either congregation was able to be heard in real time at both sites.

Northland replicated the multisite worship service in several different locations, and now holds concurrent worship services with more than a thousand congregants in Mount Dora, West Oaks, and Oviedo, Florida. The same technology has allowed the church to hold concurrent interactive services with partner churches in Windhoek, Namibia; Kiev, Ukraine; and Cairo, Egypt.

To more fully realize the potential of a truly distributed church, Northland opened a new facility in August 2007. The $43 million, 3,100-seat building features technology that enables it to be a hub capable of transmitting enormous amounts of data each weekend to sites around the world. Today, a growing segment of Northland’s congregation has never set foot inside the church building. Up to 4,000 worldwide now participate in Northland’s worship services online every weekend. Online worshipers participate in services via live webcast and have many ways to interact with the church and with one another, including instant online access to a pastor and the ability to chat with other worshipers. In 2009 this live worship tool also became accessible via iPhone and 2010 Northland worship services went live on Facebook.

Creation Care[edit]

Hunter was asked in February 2006 to sign the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a document recognizing global warming based on the findings of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Fellow signatories included Rick Warren, the presidents of 39 Christian colleges, and the president of the Salvation Army. In the spring of 2006, he was asked to host a TV advertisement by the group .[11] In the summer of 2006 and 2008, Hunter was invited to symposiums on creation care at Windsor Castle where he heard from, among others: theologian N. T. Wright; former chairman of the IPCC, Sir John Houghton; and Prince Charles. He has since been named by Grist Magazine as one of the top 15 religious leaders in creation care, along with Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama.[12]

Hunter and the Christian Coalition[edit]

Hunter was asked in July 2006 to become the next president of the Christian Coalition. The group was started in 1988 by Pat Robertson and grew in influence throughout the early 1990s to a base of 1.2 million members and a revenue of $26.5 million in 1996. Hunter accepted the position of president-elect of the organization. Before assuming the presidency in January 2007, he declined the post, saying the group resisted his efforts to broaden its agenda beyond gay marriage and abortion into creation care and the alleviation of poverty.

The Democratic National Convention and President Obama[edit]

Hunter provided the closing benediction to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.[13]

On January 20, 2009, Hunter offered a blessing over President-Elect Obama during an intimate, pre-inauguration service held at St. John's Episcopal Church, located on Lafayette Square across from the White House. The service is a tradition for those about to become President.

At the service at St. John’s, Hunter prayed the following blessing over the nation’s 44th President.[3][14]

President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships[edit]

Dr. Hunter served in the inaugural year on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which advises 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.[4]

The advisory council was introduced February 5, 2009, to coincide with the National Prayer Breakfast and the appointment of Pastor Joshua DuBois as head of the council.

Appointments and Awards[edit]

Advisory Boards[edit]

Boards of Directors[edit]

Academic degrees[edit]

  • Bachelor of Science in History, 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


  1. ^ Fitzgerald, Francis (30 June 2008), "The New Evangelicals," The New Yorker
  2. ^ a b Van Biema, David (6 November 2008), "Who Is Joel Hunter, and Why Is Obama Praying with Him?," Time
  3. ^ a b Branigin, William (20 January 2009), "Obama Sworn in as 44th President of U.S.," The Washington Post
  4. ^ a b The White House: Office of the Press Secretary (5 February 2009). "Obama Announces White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships." Press release. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  5. ^ Members Named to Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations
  6. ^ Hunter, Joel (2008), A New Kind of Conservative, Ventura: Regal. p. 17, ISBN 978-0-8307-4533-3
  7. ^ Hunter, Joel (2007), Church Distributed, Longwood: Distributed Church Publishers, p. 27, ISBN 978-1-60402-615-3
  8. ^ a b Northland History, retrieved 30 October 2009
  9. ^ Outreach 100 Tracks Top U.S. Churches, retrieved 30 October 2009
  10. ^ Building for Tomorrow, retrieved 30 October 2009
  11. ^ TV Spot: Evangelicals and Global Warming
  12. ^
  13. ^ Christianity Today: Joel Hunter's Benediction
  14. ^ Northland Church (22 January 2009). "Florida Pastor Offers Blessing at Inauguration-Day Church Service Attended by President Barack Obama." Press release. Retrieved 30 October 2009.

External links[edit]