LeDayne McLeese Polaski, a 20-year employee of the Baptist Peace Fellowship in North America, is stepping down as executive director at the end of May 2019.
Polaski, who recently turned 50, said she has “had a growing sense” her departure was nearing for several years.
“Nothing is wrong,” Polaski said in a statement released May 10. “In fact, I am as excited as I have ever been about what we’re doing together and what the future holds.”
Despite that, Polaski, an employee of the 95-church network for more than half its history, said it is time for her to step away and explore new opportunities.
“It is my strong sense that, especially for a group of our size with a relatively small staff, it is important that no one person become synonymous with the organization itself,” she said.
Polaski, a 1993 graduate of Duke Divinity School, was ordained to the ministry by Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. She served five years as a youth minister at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., before moving to BPFNA in July 1998.
She held several job descriptions over the years, including program coordinator beginning in 2006, before her promotion to executive director in 2015. One of her first accomplishments in the role was leading the organization to change its name to BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz to highlight peacemaking work done by Baptist churches in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
“LeDayne has worked incessantly to help us grow in our understanding and commitment to peacemaking, and more recently she has worked tirelessly to help us become a much more inclusive and diverse community that is less centered around power and privilege,” said Mayra Picos-Lee, president of the BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz board.
Picos-Lee, a native of Mexico who teaches in the areas of pastoral counseling and practice of ministry at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., said board members decided at their spring meeting to seek an interim executive director to lead the organization for the next two years. She said an open search will be conducted over the next year.
A graduate of Furman University in Greenville, Polaski was 2016 recipient of the university’s Richard Furman Baptist Heritage Award honoring graduates who reflect Baptist ideals regarding faith and learning.
She is married to Tom Polaski, a professor of mathematics at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. They are active members of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.
Polaski’s announcement comes as BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz prepares for its 2018 summer conference. Scheduled July 2-7 at Keuka College in New York state’s Finger Lakes Region, the theme for this year’s gathering is “Decentering Power & Privilege: Becoming a Peculiar People.”
BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz announced in February it will co-sponsor the sixth Global Baptist Peace Conference in Cali, Colombia, in July 2019.