Paynter will lead CBF into fresh chapter filled with cooperation and exploration
By George Mason
Chair, CBF Executive Coordinator Search Committee
Pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas
We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot ‒ Little Gidding (from The Waste Land)
The poet Eliot captures for me what was at the heart of our search committee’s journey to find the next executive coordinator for CBF. We know the blessed tension that lives in the soul of our movement: deep appreciation for the place of grace we have known with one another, and a holy restlessness to see what God might yet do among us. At the end of our exploring, we have arrived at a decision that affirms both who we have always been and the spirit of adventure that animates our life together.
Suzii Paynter has been with us since the beginning. She is a lifelong Baptist. She is married to Roger, one of our most emblematic pastors. She has worked in a strategic denominational post with distinction. She co-chaired the second General Assembly meeting in Fort Worth and instituted the thoughtful pattern of business deliberations that we have followed since. She knows the “place” that is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
While it was important to our committee to honor the history and culture that has marked us as a peculiar people, we also knew that innovation is part of our makeup. We did not believe our duty was to recommend a caretaker for CBF’s legacy, but rather to write a fresh chapter of our history that will be marked by the same spirit of exploration found in our founders. Suzii’s vision for our future and her ability to speak it with grace and fervor, quickened our hopes.
The 2012 Task Force Report was ever in our mind. The recommendations of that visionary body shaped our thinking. The chair of the committee, David Hull, has well summarized our movement’s distinctive phases under the leadership of our first two executive coordinators. The themes are present in our name ‒ Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Cecil Sherman’s tenacious tenure solidified our Baptist identity as we moved away from past allegiances that no longer represented our take on following Christ and advancing his mission in the world. Daniel Vestal built the Fellowship. His irenic spirit brought people together, enriched our sense of community and replenished our joy. The task force recommended what amounts to a new focus for our way forward. Cooperative Baptists will cooperate seamlessly in all we do. Our mission and our missions will be Baptist; they will be conducted as a fellowship of Baptists; and they will also be self-consciously devoted to cooperation as our way of being. Our committee believes Suzii Paynter is prepared and poised to lead us in just this way.
Suzii’s organizational skills are well honed. She is a people person who stays on task ‒ on multitasks even. She knows who she is in Christ and what she believes about Christ. Her heart breaks over the pain of the world, and she lives to apply the balm of Christ to it. Suzii looks for ways to include, not exclude. She looks for what is good in others and seeks ways to work together, even when differences seem insurmountable. Her track record in political and social advocacy adds another layer of justice to our evangelistic mission.
Over the course of the past year, our committee has heard from all quarters of the CBF world and beyond it. We have received recommendations from many, solicited counsel widely and prayed fervently. Along the way we discovered how much our own committee was a microcosm of CBF’s unity in diversity. I thank my colleagues on the committee for being extraordinary partners and friends in this effort. We pledge to do more than nominate Suzii; we also pledge our ongoing support for her leadership. Should the Coordinating Council affirm our nomination, we invite the whole CBF constituency to share in that pledge.
The last sentence of CBF’s new statement of identity reads: The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a community of Baptist Christians who cooperate together to engage people in missions and equip people for ministry. Suzii Paynter will magnify this truth in the years ahead by her service.
We are nominating Suzii Paynter because we believe she is the right person for the job. Period. Two bonus delights, though: Suzii is a woman and a layperson. CBF has held high the value of women and laypersons in leading our churches and our cooperative work. That these should come together in one person beautifully personifies who we have been, who we are, and who we want to be.
We have indeed arrived where we started, but we know it as if for the first time.
CBF Executive Coordinator Search Committee Members:
• Jack Glasgow, senior pastor of Zebulon Baptist Church, Zebulon, N.C.
• Wendell Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Ark.
• LeAnn Gunter Johns, Macon, Ga.; steering committee member of Baptist Women in Ministry
• Cynthia Holmes, attorney in private practice in St. Louis, Mo.; member of CBF Coordinating Council
• Kyle Reese, senior pastor of Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.
• Artemia Tamayo, church administrator at Memorial Baptist Church, Arlington, Va.
• Tony Vincent, minister of Christian education at Trinity Baptist Church, Seneca, S.C.
• Joy Yee, pastor of Nineteenth Avenue Baptist Church, San Francisco, Calif.