By Bob Allen
David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, begins a one-year term in January as theologian-in-residence for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
“My task will be to help CBF staff and the Fellowship as a whole to think deeply about theological and ethical issues, especially those most relevant to our advocacy work,” Gushee said. “This Fellowship of congregations and believers, like any other one, needs clarity about who we are in Christ, what it means to be Christ’s faithful people and how and why such faithful Christian people engage culture, society and public life.”
Gushee will continue teaching duties at Mercer while consulting, speaking and writing in support of CBF advocacy work led by Stephen Reeves, who joined the CBF national staff in Decatur, Ga., in October as associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy.
While CBF lacks a process for resolutions employed by Baptist groups like the Southern Baptist Convention to speak collectively to current events, CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter says the Fellowship’s advocacy will focus on consensus related to issues already being addressed through the organization’s missions and ministries.
At the New Baptist Covenant Summit held Nov. 21-22 in Atlanta, Reeves defined advocacy as “just speaking out for others, for someone else, putting their needs equal to your needs.”
Reeves comes to the post from a similar assignment with the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, where he worked with Catholics and other faith groups against predatory lending practices such as payday loans.
“For me the issue of predatory lending has been an incredibly good issue to take on,” he said. “It’s one that can unite folks that are very different. It’s not a partisan issue completely. There’s a lot of agreement. There’s some real biblical foundations and real Christian, ethical and moral considerations for how you treat the least of those among you and real matters of justice and fairness that when you work together on something like that reconciliation happens.”
Gushee, a Christian ethicist, teacher, activist and churchman, has worked in the past on advocacy issues including the treatment of detainees in the U.S. war on terrorism and the environment. He has written 15 books, including the 2003 Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context that he co-wrote with his mentor Glen Stassen, and his most recent work, The Sacredness of Human Life, published by Eerdmans in January 2013.
Gushee was educated at the College of William and Mary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he earned his Ph.D. in Christian ethics in 1993.
He taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 1993-1996 and at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., from 1996 until 2007.