By Bob Allen
Welton Gaddy, an ordained Baptist minister and pastor for preaching and worship at Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, La., announced May 8 he will retire as president of the Interfaith Alliance at the end of 2014.
Since 1998, Gaddy, 72, has led the Washington-based organization started in 1994 to counter the Religious Right. Today, the Interfaith Alliance claims 185,000 members from 75 faith traditions.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead Interfaith Alliance over the last 16 years as we have fought back against efforts to redefine religious freedom based on a narrow sectarian view,” Gaddy said in a press release.
“Our work is not done — my work is not done — but it is time for a new leader to take up the mantel and continue to represent the millions of Americans who understand that religious freedom — our first freedom — is a foundation of our democracy that needs protection, but also understand that it is not meant to be an opt-out for any public policy with which one might disagree.”
Born in Paris, Tenn., Gaddy graduated from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., before going to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he received his masters in theology in 1968 and his Ph.D. in 1970.
He served as pastor of several churches from 1959 to 1970 before becoming the minister at Beechwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. He served with the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention 1973-1977.
Gaddy was pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, from 1977 to 1984. He moved to Macon, Ga., to serve as campus minister for Mercer University from 1984 to 1988. He held a brief pastorate with Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, 1988-1990, before becoming senior pastor at Northminster Church.
He joined the board of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and served as its president before leaving to lead the Interfaith Alliance.
Gaddy was active in the Southern Baptist Convention, serving on the denomination’s Executive Committee 1980-1984, before leaving when conservatives took over leadership later in the decade. He was active in forming both the Alliance of Baptists, a small progressive body formed in 1987, and the larger and more centrist Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, formed in 1991.
He is the author of more than 20 books, including Faith and Politics, A Love Affair with God and a three-volume series titled Worship: Symphony for the Senses. He appears regularly on national news programs and is host of a weekly radio show on religion and politics called “State of Belief.”
Gaddy and his wife, Judy, maintain their home in Monroe, while he commutes to Washington to carry out his responsibilities with the Interfaith Alliance. He has two sons and two grandsons.
The Interfaith Alliance’s board of directors has launched a search for his successor.