By Bob Allen
A nationwide search for a new leader of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention turned back home, tapping a 20-year employee as its next executive director, and capping an 18-month nationwide search with 60 applicants.
Robert Cochran, associate executive director of the 150-church body aligned with multiple national entities in a united Baptist presence in the nation’s capital, was elected at a specially called meeting of the DCBC board of directors, convention officials announced Jan. 28. He is expected to take office in February.
Cochran began working at the D.C. convention two decades ago as director of missions and evangelism under appointment of the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention. He also worked in areas including discipleship, congregational health and church and community ministries.
He has worked with numerous D.C. churches — including immigrant congregations — and denominational partners and community groups. He has also helped to revitalize declining churches and obtain grants to assist new churches and existing programs.
“Dr. Cochran has not only served the convention faithfully for years but he will also bring an abundance of knowledge and experience to the executive director/minister position,” convention President Larry Hentz, pastor of True Gospel Baptist Church in Washington, said in a news release. “I am looking forward to working with him in this new role as the convention continues to move forward under his leadership.”
Search committee chair James Tiefel said a search process after the resignation of former Executive Director Ricky Creech in April 2014 eventually led the group back to one of its own.
“Having worked with this convention for 20 years, Dr. Cochran brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of our churches and our challenges,” said Tiefel, pastor of First Baptist Church of Camp Springs, Md. “We are looking forward to what God has in store for DCBC through Dr. Cochran’s leadership.”
A native of Baytown, Texas, Cochran is a graduate of Howard Payne University with both the master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
In the past Cochran has worked as a catalytic missionary and church planter strategist in West Palm Beach, Fla., and as a missionary for the SBC Foreign (now International) Mission Board in Europe. He has been pastor or interim pastor of churches in Indiana, Maryland and Belgium.
He has taught as an adjunct professor for a number of schools, including New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Va.
He has been active in the Baptist World Alliance and currently is treasurer of the North American Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional fellowships comprising the worldwide fellowship uniting 40 million Baptists in 121 countries all over the world.
Creech, who previously worked as executive director of the Birmingham (Ala.) Baptist Association and as a NAMB church and community minister, served three years as executive director of the D.C. convention, overseeing a major governance change.
He now serves as president and CEO of Buckhorn Children and Family Services, a nonprofit organization providing mental health, foster care and adoption services in eastern Kentucky.
Haggray, the first African-American to become an executive of a state convention affiliated with the SBC, currently serves as interim pastor at Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Roswell, Ga. In addition to Southern Baptists, who voted in 2013 to give it less representation on convention boards, the DCBC is aligned with the American Baptist Churches USA and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Recognized partners include the BWA, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.