The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) announced Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines as its newly elected president following candidate J.D. Greear’s announcement of his decision to withdraw his candidacy in an effort to preserve denominational unity.

In the runoff between Gaines and Greear of 7,230 registered messengers, Gaines received 2,410 votes (49.96 percent), while Greear received 2,307 votes (47.80 percent). Greear’s announcement came after a runoff failed to result in a clear winner who would need 51 percent of ballots cast to win.

“I spent a good amount of time last night praying, and believe that for the sake of our convention and our mission we need to leave St. Louis united,” Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., announced to the messengers on Tuesday. “One of the candidates leaving the convention with a 51-49 victory on a third ballot is just not going to serve our mission well. So I am respectfully withdrawing my candidacy as president.”

Both Gaines and Greear felt the urge to pull out of the race, according to Baptist Press.

"He and I both were sensing the Holy Spirit moving in the same direction, and we had a good time talking last night," Gaines told reporters at a press conference. "We talked to the Lord, and we talked about the situation, and I really feel like what just happened was really a blessing from God, and I pray God would use it to help us go forward and tell people about Jesus Christ."

Gaines was nominated in March by former SBC President Johnny Hunt “in light of our overwhelming need to get back to evangelism, personal soul-winning in our SBC,” Hunt said, according to Baptist Press.

In a blog post announcing his acceptance of his nomination for SBC president, Gaines outlined his “four biggest passions as president of SBC: to continue and deepen our focus on gospel-centeredness in both theology and mission; to engage our culture with both grace and truth; to call for a new era of engagement in the entities and boards of the SBC; and to platform and equip non-Anglo pastors and members."

Gaines succeeds pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Ark Ronnie Floyd, who has served as president of SBC for two consecutive years.