ATLANTA – Suzii Paynter of Austin, Texas, has been named candidate for the position of executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a Baptist organization that serves Christians and churches in ministry and mission.
Paynter currently serves as the director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission and director of the Advocacy Care Center of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), one of the Convention’s three major divisions. Paynter directs all public policy initiatives for state and federal issues and builds relationships with other religious bodies. In addition, she oversees church outreach, the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, community care ministries of restorative justice, anti-human trafficking, hunger and poverty, healthcare ministries, the Texas Baptist chaplaincy program and Texas Baptist counseling services.
Paynter was selected as the candidate for the CBF executive coordinator position by a 10-member executive coordinator search committee. The committee has worked for the past year to identify the Fellowship’s next leader.
“My heart is full. I feel privileged and energized as the candidate for the Fellowship’s executive coordinator position,” said Paynter. “The Fellowship is blessed with leaders of all generations, robust state organizations and vital mission partnerships that are changing the world. I look forward to traveling towards a bright future, linking arms with this beloved community and sharing God’s transforming love.”
On Thursday, Jan. 17, the search committee presented Paynter to the Fellowship’s Coordinating Council. Next, Paynter will be voted on by the Council at its regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 21-22. If approved, she is expected to begin work in March at the CBF Resource Center in Atlanta.
“Sometimes things come together in a way that makes you believe something bigger is happening than you realized,” said George Mason, chair of the search committee and pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. “When a diverse search committee finds itself well-aligned with the wishes of a diverse CBF constituency, and when a candidate emerges who embodies without compromise all those hopes, you can't help but celebrate the power and presence of the Spirit. Suzii Paynter's life and work have unwittingly prepared her for such a time as this to lead Cooperative Baptists.”
As a leader at the BGCT since 2001, Paynter has envisioned, created and managed large-scale programs and projects that focus on ministering alongside and advocating for the least of these. Her experience and accomplishments reflect her commitment to the missional and cooperative work of Baptists at all levels – local, state, national, regional and international, as well as ecumenical and interfaith ministry.
Over the past decade, Paynter has gained a national reputation for her advocacy on important ethical issues such as religious liberty, hunger and poverty, environmental justice, human trafficking and immigration reform. She has been recognized by religious and secular organizations nationwide ‒ North American Association of Christians in Social Work, Baptist Center for Ethics, Sierra Club, Samaritan Counseling Centers, American Association of Retired Persons, Criminal Justice Coalition. Paynter’s work has been highlighted on television programs, including Moyers on America,
and in print publications, such as the Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker
During Paynter’s tenure at the Christian Life Commission, gifts to the organization’s world hunger offering have risen to record levels, including funding for CBF missions projects. Prior to her work at the BGCT, Paynter served as a national literacy professional, professor and consultant for 25 years.
“Suzii Paynter is one of us. She was present in our earliest gatherings and was deeply involved in helping create the ethos of the Fellowship movement even before the name Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was attached to it,” said Keith Herron, CBF Moderator and pastor of Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo. “Suzii has made a name for herself as someone who’s inclusive and fair. She’s collaborative and imaginative. She’s ready to nurture mutual partnerships that build CBF’s reputation as a forward-thinking organization. She will bring creativity and energy to our work.”
A former member of the CBF Coordinating Council and former chair of the General Assembly Planning Committee, Paynter says she would look to both continue and build on the mission and ministry strengths of the Fellowship in her first months as executive coordinator. This includes leading the implementation of the 2012 Task Force Report, which focuses on restructuring the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship movement in a manner that fosters increased collaboration and effectiveness.
“Suzii Paynter brings to CBF a long list of qualities that equip her to lead us with great competence,” said Pat Anderson, CBF’s interim executive coordinator. “Her work in the Texas Christian Life Commission has been stellar. Her predecessors include Foy Valentine, Jimmy Allen, James Dunn, and Phil Strickland ... all of whom have said that Suzii was the best of them all. She is committed to social justice, devoted to Baptist history, and has exemplary leadership skills. In addition, Suzii has a most engaging personality, is humble, courageous, and possesses a wonderful sense of humor. I look forward to great things in CBF under her leadership.”
An ordained deacon at First Baptist Church, Austin Texas and Sunday School teacher of more than 40 years, Paynter, who grew up at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, has consistently held positions of leadership at the Fellowship churches in Texas, Kentucky and Mississippi where she has been a member. She has served congregations alongside her husband, Roger Paynter, who currently pastors First Baptist Austin and teaches at the Seminary of the Southwest.
“Throughout my ministry, I have been the recipient of many gifts from the generous hands of Fellowship churches, friends and co-workers and therefore, I count it a true and joyous privilege to offer my best efforts and commitment to the future of the Fellowship,” Paynter said. “The success I have experienced, the sincerest moments of worship and praise, the formation of my spiritual strength have been shaped by Fellowship people who are co-laborers and mentors in God’s kingdom. I can’t wait to see what good gifts God has in store for the Fellowship in these next years.”
If elected in February, Paynter will succeed Daniel Vestal as the Fellowship’s executive coordinator. Vestal retired from the position in June 2012 after 16 years. Cecil Sherman served as the Fellowship’s first executive coordinator, leading the organization from 1992 until his retirement in 1996.
For more information on Paynter, including additional biographical information, video and photos, go to www.thefellowship.info/paynter
CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.