The Rev. Russell “Rusty” Benton is the new pastor at Philadelphia Presbyterian Church in Mint Hill.
The historic church has been without a permanent senior pastor since the retirement of former senior minister Chuck Williamson in July 2012.
When he is officially installed Jan. 18, Benton will become the 23rd installed pastor at the church, which was founded in 1770 and is in its 245th year of worship.
To put that in perspective, there have been 44 U.S. presidents since George Washington in 1789.
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Philadelphia Presbyterian is the seventh of the “Seven Sisters,” the seven colonial Scots-Irish Presbyterian church congregations still active in the Mecklenburg Presbytery.
The church has three signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on its rolls, members who have served in all wars since the Revolutionary War, and counts many county and community leaders and elected officials among its ranks.
Affiliated with Presbyterian Church USA, Philadelphia Presbyterian is the 12th-largest church in the Charlotte Presbytery, which includes 107 churches in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union, Stanly, Anson, Richmond and Montgomery counties.
While Benton says he appreciates the long and storied history of the church, he is particularly excited about the church’s future and the effect he thinks it can have in the community.
“We have something more inspirational than ABC, NBC or CNN. We have the good news of God,” Benton said. “The reason I came here is because of the energy, the excitement and the passion that I sense among the congregation. There’s a real expectation of what God is going to do through this congregation, and I want to be a significant part of that.”
Benton is a graduate of UNC Charlotte and Columbia Presbyterian Seminary and is married to Heidi Benton. The couple has one daughter, Allison, 13, and a pet, Daisy, a 115-pound Newfoundland.
Benton most recently served as senior pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Mauldin, S.C.