David Wilkinson, executive director and publisher at Baptist News Global since 2008, has announced he will retire effective June 30.
“I am profoundly grateful for the gift of doing work each day that I love dearly and to which I have felt called,” Wilkinson said. “The abiding friendships with colleagues and with donors and advocates who have sustained our ministry of independent, faith-based journalism have enriched my life in countless ways.”
Wilkinson, 65, has been responsible for overseeing all aspects of BNG’s work, including administration and fundraising. He also is the editor for all opinion content published at baptistnews.com.
He was elected in 2008 to the newly created position of executive director of Associated Baptist Press – BNG’s predecessor – founded as an independent news service in 1990. He followed Greg Warner, executive editor for 17 years.
Current and former board members praised Wilkinson for his leadership in leading the organization through significant changes.
Longtime board member Dan Lattimore, retired administrator and journalism professor at the University of Memphis, said Wilkinson “oversaw the transition of ABP from a subscription-based news service for Baptist state papers to a philanthropic model of online religious news reporting and opinion available to Christians throughout the world.”
Other board members credited Wilkinson for deftly steering the organization through a merger with the Virginia Baptist Religious Herald in 2013, followed by staff and board reorganizations, a new mission statement, business plan and rebranding to Baptist News Global in 2014.
Through it all he displayed vision, integrity and adherence to tried-and-true Baptist and journalistic principles, said Marv Knox, field coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Fellowship Southwest and a veteran Baptist journalist who was editor of the Texas Baptist Standard for nearly 20 years. He also was a member of ABP’s founding board of directors.
“He believes in the old Baptist adage, ‘tell the truth and trust the people,’” Knox said. “Across the years, he modeled faithful truth-telling and people trusting.”
It was Wilkinson’s way of living out his calling, Knox added.
“David helped Baptist people understand how to be the presence of Christ in community through our daily lives,” he said. “The Baptist movement is more vibrant because of his exceptional work.”
Board chair Janice Anderson, a retired business executive in Houston, Texas, praised Wilkinson for keeping BNG and its staff focused during turbulent seasons of change for nonprofit journalism.
“David helped BNG stay true to its mission and deliver quality content for our readers,” she said. “His integrity and leadership have positioned BNG for a bright future.”
The news organization achieved numerous milestones during Wilkinson’s tenure.
Its website has seen a nearly four-fold increase in audience engagement over the last decade, surpassing 4.3 million pageviews in 2019. BNG’s endowment has grown from approximately $339,000 in 2008 to $6.4 million last year.
Regularly scheduled opinion content was added in 2009 to supplement ABP’s daily news production. Last year, 370 original opinion articles from a total of 85 columnists and other contributing writers were published at baptistnews.com.
In 2017, Wilkinson secured seed-money grants from two foundations to underwrite a collection of “Storytelling Journalism Projects” featuring in-depth reporting and analysis, photography and video segments. The two-year series explored topics such as racial and economic justice, immigration, rural poverty, innovative congregational ministry and the power of sacred music.
Wilkinson directed BNG’s growth with sensitivity and vision, said current CBF moderator and former BNG board chair Kyle Reese. Reese also is deputy director of OneJax, an interfaith nonprofit in Jacksonville, Florida, where he previously served as senior pastor of Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church.
Those traits were plainly evident during the merger with the Religious Herald, Reese said.
“Not only did David have a vision of what a combined entity might look like, he also was pastoral in what the former Religious Herald readers were experiencing,” he said.
And with his guidance readers of the new BNG benefited greatly, Reese said.
“With the creation of Baptist News Global, our multiple platforms reached more readers, while a strong number of diverse voices were also added into the conversation,” he said.
Wilkinson honed his penchant for organizational leadership and communications management during more than four decades of professional experience in Baptist life.
He served as the chief communications officer for CBF and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, associate editor of a missions magazine and communications director for the former Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission.
He also served as minister of education and discipleship at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
He earned doctor of ministry and master of divinity degrees from Southern Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Oklahoma Baptist University.
Wilkinson said retirement will not dampen his commitment to the Baptist and journalistic ideals that have motivated him throughout his career.
“Today, with its 30th anniversary on the horizon, BNG’s mission as a trusted source of fact-based, fair-minded news and opinion for people of faith has never been more important,” he said. “I will always be a champion for a free and robust religious press and its essential role for the integrity and vitality of the Gospel witness.
“I’m confident that BNG’s work will continue to flourish in the years ahead.”
Wilkinson and his wife, Melanie, have been married for 42 years. They have two adult children, a daughter-in-law and two granddaughters. The couple plans to continue to reside in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where they are members of Knollwood Baptist Church.