Pregnancy Help Servants are mourning the loss and celebrating the legacy of Pastor Andy Merritt
Rev. Andy Merritt, 68, senior pastor of Edgewood Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., passed into eternal life in the early hours of Sunday, October 11, following complications from the coronavirus.
He had served his congregation for 43 years and was a pioneer in church-based pregnancy help since he started the nation’s first church-sponsored pregnancy center in 1981, assisting in the establishment of more than 500 pregnancy centers nationwide.
Merritt had been hospitalized for more than 20 days due to the virus, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports.
He and his wife Kathy were married for 46 years. They have 10 children and 25 grandchildren.
A brief message sent to the Edgewood congregation early Sunday announced his death with, “utmost sadness,” according to local CBS affiliate WRBL.
“But we rejoice that he is now in the arms of his Savior,” it said. “Please be in prayer for his wife, Kathy, children, grandchildren, sister, brother and his entire family.”
A brief service was held during the traditional morning worship at the church.
The Heartbeat International family had been praying for Merritt’s recovery from virus in the weeks leading up to his death.
Heartbeat President Jor-El Godsey was among a group of pregnancy help leaders to whom Kathy Merritt reached out following her husband’s passing, receiving the simple message, “In His Presence, 12:25 a.m.”
“Pastor Andy has been an ardent champion of life, specifically manifesting in the pregnancy help movement, for some 40 years,” Godsey said.
Regarding Merritt’s early pregnancy help efforts through his church, Godsey said, “He learned, first-hand, to reach and counsel women at-risk for abortion.”
Godsey said further that even as Merritt stepped into the senior pastor role in his church, he gave a bi-annual spiritual retreat weekend to pregnancy help personnel.
Heartbeat has been blessed by Merritt’s ministry at many of its conferences, and Merritt received Heartbeat’s Servant-Leader award in 2016.
Most recently, Godsey said Merritt joined him in a “Fear to Faith” webinar drawing parallels of faith-filled heroes from Scripture who provide encouragement today for pregnancy help workers to fight the good fight in the face of fears fostered by the pandemic and persistent attacks from Big Abortion and its political allies.
“Pastor Andy told many stories that he lived which highlight the compassion and practical and spiritual importance of our work in pregnancy help,” said Godsey.
Tweet This: Pastor Andy told many stories that he lived which highlight the compassion, practical and spiritual importance of our work in pregnancy help
Merritt’s ministry was never more evident than during his keynote address at the 2016 Heartbeat conference, Godsey said.
“In relating individual poignant stories to our conference, he was able reveal a powerful truth about the spiritual reality of pregnancy help work,” Godsey told Pregnancy Help News, “and also reveal the beauty of his heart for the work and for all of us in the pregnancy help movement.”
“One quote struck me,” Godsey recalled: "You'll face innumerable opportunities that are brilliantly disguised by God as impossible situations... so that God, alone, gets the glory."
“We will miss our friend greatly,” he said. “But we will carry the same heart and hope in the power of the Gospel of Life into the future.”
Peggy Hartshorn, longtime president and chairman of the Board for Heartbeat International, recalled Merritt with fondness as “100% authentic" and “truly selfless.”
“He was "all out" for the Lord and for the dignity of each person made in the image and likeness of God,” Hartshorn said.
Tweet This: Pastor Andy Merritt was "all out" for the Lord and for the dignity of each person made in the image and likeness of God
"One of my most vivid memories is having the honor of conferring Heartbeat International's Servant Leader Award on our dear friend and colleague Pastor Merritt in 2016,” said Hartshorn. “One meeting with Pastor Andy and you would be touched by his true servant heart and would feel the strength of his leadership, so clearly 'powered by' Jesus Christ. We have lost a true Shepherd for pregnancy help."
Kirk Walden, Advancement specialist for Heartbeat International, praised Merritt’s legacy as well.
"If we ever wanted to see--right here on this Earth--how Jesus would approach any situation in the pregnancy help community, all we needed to do was look at how Andy lived his life,” Walden said. “He was humble, funny, kind, gentle--a perfect reflection of his savior.”
Tweet This: If we ever wanted to see how Jesus would approach any pregnancy help situation all we needed to do was look @ how Pastor Andy lived his life
“Andy will not be forgotten,” Walden said. “We will carry Andy's legacy forward, because so many of us have a piece of his heart in our lives."
Association For Life of Africa (AFLA) released a statement expressing condolences and offering prayer upon Merritt’s passing.
“The pain of losing a co-worker in the Lord’s vineyard like Pastor Andy Merritt is profound,” the statement said. “The loss is not just to the family and relatives but also to the entire Pro-Life world.”
“Pastor Andy Merritt was a gallant soldier lifting the banner of Prince Emmanuel and fearlessly stood for life,” the AFLA statement said.
There was an outpouring of condolences and love with Heartbeat’s sharing news of Merritt’s passing on social media.
Arnold Culbreath, director of Ministry Engagement for the Douglass Leadership Institute, said:
My friend and brother, Pastor Andy Merritt has gone home to be with The Lord. He was scheduled to be one of the conference pastors along with me at One More Child’s annual Sound the Call conference in Florida this coming Thursday.
Pastor Andy and his wife had 10 children, 25 grandchildren, and he helped establish over 500 pregnancy centers across the country. Pastor Andy Merritt didn't just say he was prolife, he lived it.
While we know where he is, our human hearts still hurt. I will truly miss our one-on-one talks about Jesus, ministry and the great commission!
Please join me in praying for his family and his congregation. What a giant in the Kingdom of God, and in the Pro-Life Movement!
The Pregnancy Care Center of North Florida posted:
Our local Pregnancy Care Center’s staff and volunteers are so sad to hear the news of Bro. Andy’s passing. One of the greatest supporters of LIFE we have ever known. We will miss him greatly. Our prayers are with his family and church in Columbus, Georgia. What a glorious day for Bro. Andy. In the presence of the King! Until we meet again.
Alliance for Life in Missouri posted:
The Alliance for Life joins all our pro-life family in mourning the loss of a great champion for the unborn. Pastor Andy Merritt’s life has impacted thousands.
We extend our prayers to Pastor Andy’s family and his church family for comfort from above.
He will be greatly missed.
Pro-life advocate Leah Wray said:
The pro-life community lost a great advocate for the unborn. But what rejoicing in Heaven!
Heartbeat International requested prayers for Merritt’s family.
The Heartbeat post with the news stated:
He was the epitome of a servant leader and his passion for the unborn and the pregnancy help community was tremendous.
We are comforted by words Pastor Andy spoke often, “When you can’t trace His Hand, trust His Heart.”
Tweet This: “When you can’t trace His Hand, trust His Heart.”
Visitation for Pastor Andy Merritt will be from 6-8 p.m., Thursday, October 15, at Edgewood Baptist Church in Columbus. Merritt’s funeral will be held at the church on Friday, October 16, at 2 p.m.
To view the full keynote address given by Pastor Andy Merritt at Heartbeat International's 2016 Annual Conference, click HERE.