Joe Phelps

Joe Phelps

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Joe was installed as pastor in March 1997. After earning a Master of Divinity degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Joe earned a Doctor of Ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He first served as an associate pastor at Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin, TX; then founded Church of the Savior, an American Baptist Church where he served for twelve years. Then Joe made his way back to Louisville to minister with us.

Joe authored More Light, Less Heat: How Dialogue Can Transform Conflict into Growth in 1998, published by Jossey-Bass. He continues to lead conferences and workshops on this significant global issue.

He was founder of “No Murders Metro,” an inter-denominational, inter-racial group that held prayer vigils at murder sites throughout Louisville for a number of years.

In 2006 Joe appeared in a national television ad campaign for “Wake Up Wal-Mart,” which pointed out the company’s record on child labor issues, gender discrimination, and poor health care plans. The ad drew national attention, which resulted in Rush Limbaugh calling him a “wacko.”  

In February 2012 Louisville Magazine featured Joe in an article entitled, “The Heretic,” which you can read here. Now he is an occasional guest columnist in our local The Courier-Journal.

Currently, in addition to pastoring Highland, Joe co-chairs EmpowerWest, a black and white church collaboration committed to recognizing and addressing white privilege, as well as working to empower West Louisville businesses to build capital in a part of the city that has struggled for lack of resources. He has also served on the boards ofKentucky Refugee Ministries and

Essentially, Joe wants to be a bridge-builder because he takes seriously the Gospel as social witness. This takes good community networking and lots of creativity—two of Joe’s strengths.

He is married to Terri Phelps, and they are the proud parents of daughter Kara and son-in-law Luch, the parents of Joe and Terri’s grandchildren Max and Kathryn; daughter Carly and son, Steven. Joe has essentially memorized the entire hymnal and runs a few miles at the start of every day.