Cooperative Baptist Fellowship leaders released statements Aug. 25 affirming the leadership of Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter in light of her pending divorce.
Paynter, the CBF’s top executive since 2013 and the first woman to hold the post, recently initiated divorce proceedings against her husband of 44 years, Roger Paynter, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
After discussing circumstances leading to her decision in July, the CBF Governing Board issued a statement acknowledging “while divorce is regrettable, unexpected and painful, the Bible does identify circumstances under which such a step is permissible.”
That statement said CBF leaders determined nothing has occurred that “would adversely affect her ability to fulfill her responsibilities as Executive Coordinator.”
Doug Dortch, CBF moderator and senior minister of Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., added a personal statement: “While I hurt for Suzii and her family in this most difficult season in their lives, I am absolutely confident in her ability to lead our organization into the good future God has for us all. In fact, seeing how she has already had to balance the hard and painful aspects of this matter with the pressing demands of her position only has strengthened my appreciation for her leadership.”
Leaders of the 18 CBF state and regional organizations unanimously affirmed a statement to “affirm and express confidence in the leadership of our Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter.”
All three statements were released Thursday, Aug. 25, on the CBF blog.
Jeff Huett, associate coordinator of communications and advancement, said Paynter is taking off the last two weeks of August “for rest and renewal before launching into a busy September schedule of visiting churches and working with and for Cooperative Baptists.”
The Governing Board statement said after receiving the news, officers spoke with Paynter at length and “determined that she has met the highest standard of biblical conduct.”
The officers reported to the full Governing Board, which also spoke with Paynter before finding “full agreement” with the officers’ recommendation and “unanimously pledging their full endorsement of Suzii and her handling of this painful personal matter.”
The statement affirming Paynter’s leadership said the Governing Board “unequivocally supports her in her continued role as leader of the daily operations and mission of CBF” and “asks for prayer for Suzii and her family.”
It urges “those affiliated with the Fellowship to continue to support and encourage Suzii in her work on the Fellowship’s behalf.”