By Ircel Harrison
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has a nominee as third executive coordinator of the organization. Once again, the nominee is from Texas, but this nominee is female and a layperson — Suzii Paynter. Prior coordinators Cecil Sherman and Daniel Vestal were from Texas, but they were men and pastors.
Paynter, the first woman to serve as director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Christian Life Commission, has been introduced as the nominee to head the roughly 20-year old Baptist organization. The CBF Coordinating Council is scheduled to vote on her nomination at the group’s upcoming meeting Feb. 21-22.
As executive coordinator, Paynter would bring a lifetime of experience and expertise to the organization, but she could be especially effective in guiding CBF to develop a culture that will be open and inviting to a new generation of Baptists.
There are several concerns that a younger generation of Baptists brings to the table that must be addressed. Only four are mentioned here, although there are undoubtedly others.
One is a concern for social issues (including human sexuality).
Another is authentic discipleship. What does it mean to be a follower of Christ in the 21st century?
A third is worship. Although most Baptist young adults come out of churches that continue a traditional or liturgical approach to worship, many are increasingly drawn to more passionate “contemporary” worship.
Finally, many young adults struggle with the doctrine of salvation. If God loves humanity, will God ultimately condemn any person to eternal damnation?
Any one of these concerns taken by itself could split a Baptist church. Can CBF model a way of dealing with these issues and others that will be redemptive and constructive?
Paynter certainly has the background to lead Fellowship Baptists to address concerns related to social issues and discipleship, and her leadership style and the process she implements within the organization may help CBF to deal with the other issues as well.
Fellowship Baptists have the opportunity to face the future with another gifted leader, but the vitality of the organization rests not only on Paynter but on the commitment of the rest of us to embrace both challenge and change.