CBF honors Paynter, hears missions and ministry reports

Addressing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly, Suzii Paynter offered her gratitude for the gifts of the Fellowship and her time as CBF executive coordinator. (CBF Photo)

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Attendees at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly honored retired Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter and heard reports and updates on CBF missions and ministries during a “Fellowship at Work” business session.

“When faithful servants of God say ‘yes’ to serving, there is no limit to the mountains God can move through us,” said Shauw Chin Capps, who served as CBF moderator for 2017-18. She presented the report of the CBF Governing Board, offering thanks to the search committee that selected Paul Baxley in February to serve as the Fellowship’s fourth executive coordinator.

Even in a time of leadership transition, CBF continues its “cutting edge and courageous work here and around the world,” she insisted.

That includes continuing work in the areas of racial justice and reconciliation, Capps said. It also includes projects of the Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force, a joint effort of CBF and Baptist Women in Ministry that was “formed even before the #MeToo movement took center stage in 2017,” Capps said.

“Since then, this task force has developed robust safe church resources,” she noted.

Suzii Youngblood Paynter Advocacy Fellowship established

The work that flourished under Paynter’s leadership will go on, and her legacy also will continue into the future, Capps said.

“We sought a way to honor Suzii’s passion for ministry,” said CBF Moderator Gary Dollar. “Combining Suzii’s passion for advocacy and public policy with an emphasis on young Baptists and CBF congregations, we have created an endowed fellowship program.”

Gary Dollar, moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, expresses thanks to retired Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter and announces the creation of the Suzii Youngblood Paynter Advocacy Fellowship. (CBF Photo)

This new fellowship program, the Suzii Youngblood Paynter Advocacy Fellowship, focuses on Cooperative Baptists who are pursuing careers in public policy or public service. It provides advocacy experience for college or seminary students and/or recent graduates of academic programs in social work, law or similar areas.

“The essential quality that fellowship recipients would demonstrate is that each plans to put his or her faith to action through a career in public service or public policy,” Dollar said.

Paynter offered her deep gratitude for the gifts of the Fellowship and her time as CBF executive coordinator.

“I am awash in gratitude,” she said. “I am so grateful for so much in this moment—primarily for the surprising call of God. I am so grateful for God’s imagination that beckoned me out of small places to large dreams. I’m so grateful for God’s imagination for the churches that formed me, that gave me freedom and beauty and calm and community. I am so grateful for our Fellowship of churches in community here and around the world. I am grateful for field personnel…these amazing ambassadors for Christ.

“I am so grateful for adventurous obedience to my Lord Jesus Christ. All I’ve really wanted to do is be like Him, and I found a community that allowed me in all my imperfections to live out my vision of His call. Thank you for each opportunity, for these gifts today, for this beautiful opportunity to serve and to leave with delight and with energy and with love.”

Transitions at CBF

Transition was the theme of the morning’s Fellowship at Work session, as outgoing CBF Moderator Gary Dollar offered his reflections of the past year, and incoming CBF Moderator Kyle Reese presented his dreams for the coming year.

“The past year has not disappointed me in the effort to define Baptist at its best,” Dollar said. “All across the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I have watched entire churches, groups of churches and individuals step up to serve the least of these—our brothers and sisters on the border, to demonstrate and testify to stop predatory lending practices that financially enslave its victims, to respond to disasters large and small, to redefine Baptists as a loving, caring, accepting group of people serious about loving Jesus and actively loving the people and creation Jesus loves.”

Reese shared that his hopes for the coming year echo that Cooperative Baptists will continue to be “Baptist at its best” and continue to expand on this good work and tell the stories of the good work that churches are doing in their communities.

“My hope for CBF is that we will exist, resource and, in some cases, be a catalyst for community involvement by our congregations,” Reese said. “Churches across the Fellowship are making incredible amounts of difference in the communities they serve. We must tell their stories while continually learning from their best practices.

“My hope for CBF is that we will hear more and more stories of congregations impacting their communities and walk alongside others in various stages of mission and community involvement.”

The 2019 Missions Council Awards went to Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo in Fort Worth for work through the Ruth Project, a church-based center that provides low-cost immigration services; First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., for a commitment to holistic transformation in its community and work to eliminate payday loan debt alongside Together for Hope; and Monte Vista Baptist Church in Maryville, Tenn., for innovative commitment to encouraging direct engagement in local and global ministry in a variety of ways.

Attendees also heard reports on the Encourager Church initiative, updates on CBF field personnel serving across the globe and disaster response efforts in the United States and around the world.

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