Baptist Briefs: Advocate for women ministers honored

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Pam Durso, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, accepted a lifetime achievement award from Christians for Biblical Equality. The award, established in 2005, recognizes “those who exhibit a lifetime of courage, sacrifice and vision in advancing the biblical basis for gift-based ministry.” Founded in 1983, Baptist Women in Ministry is an advocacy, educational and support organization primarily serving female ministers in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Alliance of Baptists and state Baptist organizations including the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Durso, a former church history professor, has advocated for women in ministry since receiving her Ph.D. from Baylor University in 1992. Her most recent book, co-edited with LeAnn Gunter Johns, is The World is Waiting for You: Celebrating the 50th Ordination Anniversary of Addie Davis. It tells the story of the first woman ordained to the gospel ministry by a Southern Baptist congregation, Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, N.C, in 1964. 

Kentucky Baptist children’s home hires CEO. A Kentucky Baptist child care agency has replaced a CEO who resigned in December 2013 amid controversy prompted when he suggested a policy change to allow the hiring of homosexuals. Directors of Sunrise Children’s Services voted unanimously July 31 to elect Dale Suttles, a 54-year-old veteran nonprofit leader, as president. Suttles, who lives in Danville, Ky., served as interim president since the resignation of former President Bill Smithwick. sunrise logo200Suttles worked for the agency formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children as senior regional advancement director in southeastern Kentucky two-and-a-half years prior to the interim. Before that, he worked at Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bluegrass, including two-and-a-half years as executive director. Smithwick held the CEO post at Sunrise 16 years, a majority of his tenure punctuated by a long-running legal battle over the firing of a lesbian worker in 1998. Smithwick long defended the agency’s ban on hiring gays, but early in 2013, he told his board of trustees given rapid changes in the law and public opinion, the policy could put the agency at risk of losing $23 million a year in state contracts. Messengers to the 2013 Kentucky Baptist Convention annual meeting responded with a symbolic vote of no confidence in Smithwick’s leadership, setting up a potential conflict over whether the agency was surrendering its Baptist identity. Smithwick stepped down a month later, saying he didn’t want debate over his leadership to hurt fund-raising from private donors.


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