Joe Phelps

Joe Phelps

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Joe Phelps has been Pastor of Louisville’s Highland Baptist Church since March 1997. Over the past 15 years Highland has become more committed to sharing its progressive view of the Christian message, to mission action and to work for for social justice in the community and beyond.

In February 2012, Joe was featured in the Louisville Magazine in an article entitled “The Heretic.” Read the article here. He was also a featured conversationalist about church growth and evangelism with ChurchNext in June 2013. Watch the interview here.

Phelps also serves as the Partnership Pastor of Highland’s “partner congregation,” Ridgewood Baptist Church in Southwest Louisville, a congregation supported and renewed through a collaboration with Highland.

Phelps is an occasional guest columnist in the Courier-Journal and LEO, Louisville’s weekly alternative newspaper; a columnist for, where he serves as a board member. He was the 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. He is a board member of Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

In 2006, Phelps 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 Phelps appearing on CNN Headline News, twice on FOX News (Your World with Neil Cavuto), on radio shows around the country, and to be referred to as a “wacko” by Rush Limbaugh.

Phelps is the author of More Light, Less Heat: How Dialogue Can Transform Conflict into Growth, published by Jossey-Bass in 1998. He continues to lead workshops and conferences on this topic, which he considers a key issue in our world today.

Prior to coming to Highland, Phelps was the founding pastor of Church of the Savior, an American Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, where he served for twelve years.

Phelps completed his Doctor of Ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Phelps was Associate Pastor at Austin’s Highland Park Baptist Church from 1979 to 1985. He was founding president of the Capital Area Food Bank– a new concept at the time – which was a collaborative effort of private and government organizations. The Food Bank is now a major nonprofit agency in Central Texas.

Joe is married to Terri. They are the proud parents of daughter Kara, who lives in Jacksonville Beach with her husband, Luch, and Joe’s grandchildren Max and Kathryn; daughter Carly, a student at the University of Louisville; and son Steven, a student at Western Kentucky University.

Read Joe’s 2013 Sabbatical Study proposal here.