By Bob Allen
A missions strategist with experience in urban ministry has been named global missions coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Steven Porter, 41, a lecturer in missions and global Christianity at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, begins work at the Fellowship’s Decatur, Ga., office on Sept. 1.
Ordained in the National Baptist Convention, USA, and commissioned by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Porter presently teaches graduate courses in Christian mission, world Christianity and Muslim-Christian relations.
He worked seven years in urban ministries at Touching Miami with Love, a CBF-affiliated ecumenical ministry serving families and the homeless community in Miami, including five years as executive director.
His work and studies have connected him to CBF state and regional organizations including CBF of Florida, the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, CBF Heartland, CBF of Texas and CBF of North Carolina. He currently is the chair-elect of the CBF Missions Council.
“Steven is the right person to lead CBF’s global mission efforts into the future,” said CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter. “His commitment to collaborative mission efforts, to recognizing and replicating best practices and to investing in long-term mission engagement has me excited about where we’ll go and what impact we will make together as a Fellowship and with our mission partners.”
Porter, hired by Paynter at the recommendation of an advisory search committee, said he looks forward to building on the organization’s strengths, while focusing on greater collaboration with local churches and the congregational ministries side of CBF.
“There are incredible people giving their lives away every day in some of the most difficult contexts imaginable through CBF global missions,” Porter said. “But the same can be said of Christians in CBF congregations.”
“We must do a better job of learning from each other within and beyond the Fellowship to leverage that wisdom and wise practices to advance God’s reign in the world,” he said.
Porter will be the seventh person to lead the global missions enterprise of the moderate Baptist group formed in 1990.
The Fellowship appointed its first missionary couple in 1992. Keith Parks retired early as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board to direct the CBF’s fledgling missionary enterprise in 1993.
Parks retired at age 71 in 1999, and Gary Baldridge, a 20-year veteran of Baptist missions, was named interim coordinator for global missions. Baldridge initially declined to be considered for the permanent post, but during a search process agreed to be co-coordinator with his wife, Barbara. Barbara Baldridge was the first woman to fill a top administrative position for the CBF.
Gary Baldridge, who worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming a missionary resigned in 2004 to return to a career in writing. Barbara Baldridge was elected global missions coordinator on Feb. 17, 2005. Ten weeks later she announced her resignation, citing unspecified personal reasons, effective May 31.
Jack Snell, active in CBF missions both as a pastor and Coordinating Council member and then as appointed field personnel, assumed interim leadership while a search committee set out to find a permanent successor.
A year later the search landed on Rob Nash, who grew up the child of missionaries in the Philippines and served as dean and associate professor of religion and international studies at Shorter College in Rome, Ga.
Elected June 21, 2006, Nash served six years before returning to the classroom as professor of missions and world religions and associate dean at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in the summer of 2012.
Already in transition with the pending retirement of CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal, the search for Nash’s successor was put on hold until the naming of a new coordinator. Jim Smith, a veteran missionary serving as director of field ministries, took over as interim coordinator July 1, 2012.
After her election as executive coordinator on Feb. 21, 2013, Suzii Paynter gave immediate attention to implementing a massive restructuring of the organization approved following a two-year efficiency study adopted in 2012 and relocating the Fellowship’s offices from Mercer University to downtown Decatur, Ga.
Last October the CBF announced formation of a 12-member search committee, led by chair Linda Jones, missions coordinator for CBF of North Carolina, to locate a permanent global missions coordinator.
Jones said Porter is precisely what CBF global missions needs at this time.
“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship needs a shared vision for mission engagement for the future,” she said. “This, the committee knew, requires someone with strategic vision that understands CBF and the local church and that understands our field personnel — their passion, commitment and the difficulties they face on the mission field. It requires an understanding of our culture and what we need as an organization to lead us forward to effective, strategic, innovative and holistic ministry. In the end, the committee believed Porter was the right person at the right time to lead CBF global missions into the future.”
A native of Carthage, Mo., Porter is a graduate of William Jewell College and Candler School of Theology. He is currently in the process of finishing a doctorate from Duke University Divinity School. He and his wife, Jodi, are parents of a daughter, Ruth, about to turn 3.
— With reporting by Jeff Huett of CBF communications.
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