JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (ABP)—Veteran Baptist communicator David Wilkinson has been named executive director for Associated Baptist Press.
Wilkinson, who currently serves as development director for the Baylor University School of Social Work, will replace current ABP Executive Editor Greg Warner, who is in the process of going on permanent disability due to a chronic back condition.
The independent news service’s directors unanimously approved Wilkinson for the position Sept. 8. On Oct. 1 he will assume the post, created as ABP’s board revamped the agency’s structure. It has operated with five full-time staffers, including Warner. However, one of the editorial positions was already vacant when Warner announced plans to step down.
In addition to editorial duties, Warner also was ABP’s chief administrative officer. The new structure divides news responsibilities from administration and development.
“Our personnel committee spent early summer thinking about our stewardship of ABP’s human resources in a time of transition,” noted Marv Knox, who chaired the board’s committee for the position, in a prepared statement. “We asked: Can we change our structure so we can do a better job of reporting Baptist news?
“We decided we need our leader to focus on setting the tone of our work and strengthening our overall operations. And then the rest of the organization can focus on doing journalism, which is our calling,” added Knox, editor of the Baptist Standard.
“For 17 years, we asked Greg Warner to be our lead journalist and also to manage the business. That was tremendously difficult, because journalism’s urgent deadlines worked against ongoing operations, like building organizational structure and raising money. He did a fine job, but we felt we could help his successor by focusing the job and building an even stronger supporting staff.
“So, now we’re freeing the new executive director from day-to-day journalism deadlines. And we’re asking him to focus on strengthening ABP’s vision, function and financial stability,” Knox said.
Warner said he believes Wilkinson is perfectly suited for the new position. “What a great move for ABP! I have long admired David’s exceptional talent as a writer and creativity as an organizational leader,” he wrote in an e-mail.
“He’s also a beloved colleague and one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. It’s flattering to think someone of David’s caliber and reputation will succeed me. I’ve long wished for a chance to work with him. While that won’t be possible, this is the next-best thing. He’s a perfect fit in the new structure of ABP,” Warner continued.
“We are certainly delighted to have someone with David’s experience and expertise to lead ABP into the future,” said Dan Lattimore, ABP’s board chair.
“He is well-thought-of throughout Baptist life, and we feel he has the leadership ability to take ABP to the next level and to enhance the role of ABP in partnership with New Voice Media,” he said. Lattimore is an administrator and journalism professor at the University of Memphis.
New Voice Media Group is a strategic collaboration for creating a new, multimedia platform for historic and progressive Baptists and other Christians. The 2-year-old partnership includes ABP; the Baptist Standard; the Religious Herald, which serves the Baptist General Association of Virginia; and Word & Way, the historic Baptist newspaper in Missouri.
Wilkinson wants to focus on the future. “I believe ABP’s mission has never been more important for the global Baptist movement,” he said. “I think the convergence and frequent clash of national and global trends present an unprecedented opportunity to re-envision the nature and role of an independent religious news service.”
Despite his excitement about the new position, Wilkinson acknowledged that it comes at a cost to a close friend. “No one would have wished for this painful situation for Greg that has created this opportunity,” Wilkinson said. “Greg Warner personifies the best in journalistic excellence and integrity, and it is a deeply humbling honor to follow his lead.”
Wilkinson’s 30-year career includes a broad base of denominational service and communications experience, encompassing journalism, marketing, media relations and development. He served the Southern Baptist Convention as a communications specialist for the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) and two stints in communications for the SBC Christian Life Commission (now the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission).
The Oklahoma native earned a bachelor of arts degree from Oklahoma Baptist University and master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He worked for the seminary as director of communications and later as vice president for seminary relations.
From 1997 to 2003, Wilkinson was the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s coordinator of communications and marketing. He then became minister of education and discipleship for Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. He assumed the Baylor post in May 2007.
“I respected him as a journalist and as someone with broad experience,” noted Keith Parks, who was CBF’s missions coordinator during Wilkinson’s tenure with the organization. “More importantly, as [someone] of integrity who would report accurately…. I have great respect for David and for his work.”
Wilkinson has been honored with several journalism and public-relations awards, including the Frank Burkhalter Award, the Baptist Communicators Association’s highest award for outstanding achievement in journalism.