A church consultant and former president of the CBF Foundation who left that role in 2010 to manage a farm in rural North Carolina that grew food to give away to community feeding ministries has died of natural causes at the age of 53.
Don Durham provided strategic leadership to the CBF Foundation in his years as president, expanding the focus of the foundation’s work not only to seek legacy gifts for the ministries of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship but also to serve the financial management needs of congregations.
Across his tenure, Durham grew CBF Foundation’s assets by about $20 million even in the face of two fierce stock market crashes.
CBF Foundation President Shauw Chin Capps said she only knew Durham by name until she began her work at the foundation in March 2020 but that changed quickly.
“Don was one of the first people to reach out to me,” Capps said. “He offered genuine words of welcome and support that lifted and encouraged me during a very challenging pandemic time taking on a new role.
“We instantly connected through our love for our Fellowship and our love for raising needed resources to sustain the mission and ministries of CBF. Don was the kind of fund development professional who understood the importance of relational and mission-focused fundraising and leadership and that led to the foundation’s growth during his tenure.”
Capps said she appreciated Durham’s dry humor, his compassion and his courage to tell the truth.
“He was candidly honest with me about the challenges and offered detailed historic information that was extremely helpful in my transition,” Capps said. “After our communication over the phone and a few emails, I remembered wishing that I knew Don sooner. Yet, I’m so grateful that our paths did cross even though it was brief. I’ve kept up with Don through social media where I got a glimpse of who he is and what he loves. Two things stood out — his bold and unconventional faith and his deep love for his daughters. I’m so saddened by the news of Don’s death and offer my prayers of peace and comfort to be with his daughters, family and friends.”
CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley called Cooperative Baptists to voice prayers of “gratitude for the life, faith and leadership of Don Durham and prayers of intercession for his family as they grieve his death.”
“Don was an essential member of CBF’s leadership for many years, and we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude,” Baxley said. “Don also served congregations as an interim pastor and consultant, and in so doing, directly invested in their health and vitality. We thank God for him and hold his family in prayer and love as they grieve most deeply.”
“Don was an essential member of CBF’s leadership for many years, and we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Former CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal remembered the way Durham was introduced to the foundation board when he was the search committee’s choice in 2002.
“Ed Vick was chair of the foundation board and chair of the search committee that called Don to be the next president after Rubin Swint in 2002. I remember when Ed introduced Don. Someone asked him what he liked to do in his spare time, and he responded, ‘I’m a bull rider in rodeos.’ That suited him well for his work at CBF,” Vestal said.
Vestal continued, “Don worked hard to enlist local Baptist churches and Baptist organizations to place their endowment funds with the CBF Foundation. This not only was a great service to congregations, but it also increased the assets under management for the foundation and moved it closer to becoming self-sustaining. His efforts strengthened the bonds between local churches and CBF as a fellowship of churches. He also formed some genuine friendships with individuals who bequeathed legacy gifts to CBF, which strengthened the bonds between individual Baptist Christians and CBF as a fellowship of individuals.”
Vestal said Durham was a fierce advocate for social and economic justice and a passionate witness to the transforming power of the gospel not only for individuals but for society. Vestal credits Durham with introducing him to a book that changed his life and “a lot of people’s lives.”
The book, Vestal said, was A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and The Business Solution for Ending Poverty.
“Don was passionate about leveraging some of our resources to help the poor and recommended that the foundation invest a portion of its portfolio in micro-finance and micro-enterprise development,” Vestal said. “His love was deep, especially for those on the margins. Don Durham’s life and ministry is a valued part of the CBF story. He will be missed but not forgotten.”
Gary Skeen, who followed Durham as foundation president, called Don a great friend and colleague.
“Don was a bit of a modern-day prophet, living a little outside the norm and speaking for those on the margins,” Skeen said. “In recent years, he gave his time, energy and a voice to those same people through farming, podcasting and ministry. His influence was wider than a small farm in rural North Carolina; he embodied living out his faith.”
It’s time for CBF to have the conversation | Opinion by Don Durham