The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty voted Sept. 26 to name Amanda R. Tyler, a former BJC intern and staff member, as its next executive director.
Tyler, who currently works as Ways and Means counsel for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), will succeed Brent Walker, who is retiring after 27 years with the BJC and 18 years as top executive of the religious liberty watchdog organization which serves 15 Baptist bodies in the United States, in January.
“We believe Amanda Tyler is the right person to lead the BJC forward with grace and tenacity to defend and extend religious liberty in an ever-changing world,” said Daniel E. Glaze, chair of the BJC board of directors who led an 11-month search process.
Tyler, 38, will be the sixth director of the Washington-based education and advocacy organization founded in 1946, and the first woman to hold the position.
“With so many challenges and opportunities, I truly believe that the world has never needed the Baptist Joint Committee and its work more than it does right now,” Tyler said in a video on the BJC website.
“Brent Walker inherited a strong organization from James Dunn, and he’s leaving it even stronger, with excellent staff, beautiful facilities and a solid financial footing, so that the BJC can expand its reach even more in the future,” she said.
Tyler, a native of Austin, Texas, who grew up attending Highland Park Baptist Church, was introduced to the BJC as an undergraduate at Georgetown University. She volunteered in the office and later served on staff as assistant to the general counsel during the last major leadership change, when Walker inherited the executive director post from James Dunn, the feisty and quotable Texan who led the BJC from 1981 until his retirement in 1999.
Glaze, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ahoskie, N.C., said the search committee believes Tyler is “the right person to lead the BJC forward with grace and tenacity to defend and extend religious liberty in an ever-changing world.”
After graduating from Georgetown, Tyler attended the University of Texas School of Law. She worked in private practice and served as a law clerk for a U.S. district court judge in Dallas before joining the congressman’s staff in 2008.
In Austin Tyler served as the congressman’s district director before moving to Washington in 2012. A member of First Baptist Church of Washington, she lives in the city with her husband, Robert Behrendt, and their son, Phelps.
Tyler has served on the BJC board since 2010 as representative to the Religious Liberty Council, the BJC’s individual membership organization. As a staff member she coordinated the broad coalition in support of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000.
— With reporting by BJC director of communications Cherilyn Crowe.