The Alliance of Baptists has called Elijah Zehyoue as co-director, following the retirement of Paula Clayton Dempsey, director of partnership relations.
The Washington, D.C., pastor and former BNG columnist will begin work Oct. 15, upon Dempsey’s retirement. In the Alliance’s new structure, Zehyoue and Carole Collins, director of operations and finance, will provide joint leadership.
A graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Chicago, he is currently writing a Ph.D. dissertation in African history at Howard University. His focus is on the transatlantic slave trade and the origins of the Liberian civil war. He is an immigrant to the United States from Liberia, traveling with his family to escape that civil war.
Zehyoue has served as associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., since 2014. He brings to the leadership role experience as a pastor, preacher, scholar and teacher.
“I am of the belief that to be in the liberating tradition of Jesus means to struggle against oppression whenever and wherever it is present,” he said in explaining his philosophy. “This work puts me in solidarity with marginal people all over the world — whether students in Palestine, migrants in Central America, exploited workers in Southern Africa, or LGBTQIA+ people globally.
“My position as an oppressed Black immigrant is my lens for understanding the suffering of so many other people around the world. I believe the call of the church is to work to end suffering in the world and that much of how we do that is to stand in solidarity with those people struggling for justice wherever they are.”
His philosophy aligns with the Alliance’s own commitment to antiracism, he added.
“I preach based off the belief that through particular modes of analysis, especially applied to our spiritual lives, we can truly make our world a better place. I believe this will benefit the Alliance of Baptists because I can collaborate with and empower our many talented preachers and ministers to continue the good work they are doing preaching a liberating message. I can offer more resources to them out of my own tradition, knowledge and connections so that they feel equipped to go even further in their antiracist ministries and commitments.”
Alliance President Michael-Ray Mathews described Zehyoue as bringing together “the care of a pastor, the rigor of a scholar, and the passion of a prophet.”
Founded in 1987, the Alliance of Baptists was the first of two groups to emerge from the late-20th-century schism within the Southern Baptist Convention. Over time, the Alliance has gathered both Baptists and other Christians who share values related to social justice on a global scale.
Zehyoue was recommended by a search committee made up of April Baker, Nashville, Tenn.; Christine Wiley, Fort Washington, Md.; GJ Tarazi, McLean, Va.; Erica Saunders, Oberlin, Ohio; Cristina Garcia-Alfonso, Raleigh, N.C.; and Ben Boswell, Charlotte, N.C.