Baptists rank high in a dozen faith leaders to watch in 2017 identified by the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization founded in 2003 as an alternative to conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute.
Baptists on the watch list include Susan Chorley, an ordained American Baptist minister who works as associate director and minister of programs at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry.
Co-founder and board member of the pro-choice advocacy group Exhale, Chorley gained national attention in October with a Daily Beast column breaking her silence about a decision 12 years earlier to have an abortion.
The Rev. Cedric Harmon, an African-American Baptist minister, made the watch list as the executive director of Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay & Transgender Justice.
According to its website, Many Voices “envisions a Black church and community that embrace the diversity of the human family and ensures that all are treated with love, compassion, and justice.”
The center is also watching Allyson Robinson, believed to be the first openly transgender Baptist minister whose ordination was reaffirmed in 2014 by Calvary Baptist Church in Washington.
The former executive director of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Robinson now works as a consultant, advising organizations on unconscious bias, social change, cultural competency, diversity and inclusion.
Robinson spoke last year at the Alliance of Baptists annual gathering in St. Louis and is scheduled as a panelist at a “Why Baptist?” conference preceding this year’s Alliance meeting in Raleigh, N.C.
Pastors for Texas Children is a network of about 2,000 church leaders across the state to support public education and oppose school vouchers, and is led by Charles Foster Johnson, a former longtime pastor of Baptist congregations including Trinity Baptist Church of San Antonio.
Another group on the watch list is North Carolina clergy advocating for transgender rights after passage last March of HB 2, rescinding LGBT non-discrimination policies in Charlotte and other cities. Baptists were among the many clergy protesting and writing seeking the law’s repeal.
In April leaders of the Alliance of Baptists invited input about whether the group should join other groups boycotting North Carolina by moving its previously announced meeting place for 2017 to another state.
In short order the board of directors deemed it preferable to honor the host-church invitation from Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., to show solidarity with a founding Alliance congregation involved in opposition to HB 2.
The Center’s 2016 watch list included the New Baptist Covenant, a movement founded by former President Jimmy Carter to unite Baptists across racial and other divides in projects serving the poor.