Pastor Finney (or J. R. as he is known) was born to the late Jack and James Ella Reid Finney in Martinsville, Virginia on July 26, 1954. He grew up in the Rock Run Community of Fieldale, Virginia. His favorite sibling since his youth has always been his sister, Lillian C. Wade. He credits his love for the scriptures to his Mother’s devotion to the Word of God.

Pastor Finney comes from a family background that believes strongly that the church must not only meet people’s spiritual need for a relationship with Christ first, but also, when possible, help in the everyday struggles of living for those whom Jesus called in Matthew 25:40, “the least of them.”  Therefore, his ministry emphasizes that Covenant Community Church (CCC) must be a local church with a global outlook. Since coming to Birmingham, Pastor Finney has led CCC’s involvement in missions work with many organizations and groups locally, nationally and internationally. He has been to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua several times on missionary trips.

At the age of 11, Pastor Finney made his profession of faith, accepting Christ as his Savior, and united in membership with the St. James Pentecostal Holiness Church in Fieldale, Virginia. He served faithfully for many of his formative years in various youth leadership roles in that church and denomination until he enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1972. During his years in military service, he united in membership with Northwood Temple Pentecostal Holiness Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

From April 1977 through May 2006, Pastor Finney was a member of Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) where he was ordained, and he served in various denominational, district and local church leadership positions. He was known throughout the District and Fellowship as “The ‘Preachin’ Deacon.”  In 1977, while living in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he united in membership with St. John’s MCC in Raleigh, North Carolina and commuted 140 miles for worship. In 1978, he founded MCC-Fayetteville and served as its first Pastor. From 1979 to 1983, he was a member of MCC-Memphis where he served eleven months as its Interim Pastor. In June 1983, he accepted employment with EPA in Atlanta, Georgia and became a member of First MCC (formerly MCC of the Blessed Redeemer) the same year. During 1997 and 1998, Pastor Finney was chosen to serve as the Interim Pastor, and the church experienced unprecedented growth during his leadership.

In July 2000, with 84% of the congregational vote, Pastor Finney was elected as the Pastor of CCC. In September 2000, Pastor Finney became the Pastor of CCC after a seventeen year membership with First MCC and a seventeen year career with the US EPA, Region IV, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

In January 2006, CCC voted to disaffiliate with MCC and became an independent congregation. After seven years as an independent congregation, Pastor Finney led CCC in a covenantal relationship becoming “A United Church of Christ Congregation” in April 2013.

Pastor Finney has led CCC in much growth during his tenure as Pastor as well as a relocation to the current “Worship Center and Ministry Complex”  in Center Point in March of 2009.

CCC and Pastor J.R. have been the subject of an award-winning documentary entitled The Congregation  and chronicled in a U.S. of Ant episode on the LOGO channel. They also participated in a video documentary, Bulldigger,  by the Victory Fund which tells the story of the campaign and election of Patricia Todd, the first openly gay person elected to the Alabama State Legislature.

Pastor J. R. is a much sought after speaker, lecturer, and panelist on a wide range of issues but especially those affecting the LGBT community. His personal ministry philosophy is “To lead our LGBT and progressive community in a faith that builds healthy, wholesome relationships with God through Jesus Christ that makes a practical difference in the daily living of their lives, proclaiming loudly ‘the inclusive love of God without the guilt of religion.'”

Pastor Finney has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and a Master’s of Divinity degree.