The new executive director of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists — a network of more than 100 congregations that fully include members regardless of sexual orientation — hopes to lead the 23-year-old organization to be “a catalyst for building and strengthening church communities in welcoming and affirming practices.”
Catherine (Katie) Chapman, a philanthropic and charitable consultant living in Louisville, Ky., introduced as AWAB’s new leader on Facebook Sept. 27, said in the October 2016 Welcoming Spirit newsletter she was greatly influenced while growing up by a gay uncle but wasn’t always vocal in her beliefs about LGBT inclusion around other family members, at one point causing hurt feelings.
Chapman, said while her church, Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, has always welcomed her uncle, “I know that he and other LGBTQ individuals have often struggled especially in regards to finding Baptists that are open and accepting.”
With more than 15 years of sustaining and managing nonprofit programs and a master’s degree in philanthropic studies, Chapman said she hopes “to use my gifts of nonprofit management and fundraising to increase those welcoming opportunities and change the perception of Baptists.”
Chapman is CEO and founder of Fullanthropy, a philanthropic and nonprofit consultancy firm based in Louisville, where she will continue to be based while working with board members scattered across the map.
Because AWAB has been without staff since Robin Lunn, its third employed leader, resigned in June 2015, Chapman said her first priority will be strengthening the organizational infrastructure. That includes solidifying 501(c)3 status from the IRS, enlarging the board and creating organizational accountability systems.
Chapman said her second priority “is caring for our member churches by providing them with compelling reasons beyond it being the right thing to do to be a welcoming and affirming church.”
“I want us to add value and meaningful benefits to being an AWAB member,” Chapman said.
A third priority is to identify and secure additional resources.
“My goal is to enhance AWAB’s natural strengths which include a dedicated constituency, commitment to traditional Baptist values and advocacy while simultaneously strengthening the organization’s weaknesses which in the past have included financial instability and a lack of nonprofit best practices,” Chapman said.
The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists began with a meeting of people representing about 10 American Baptist congregations during the American Baptist Churches USA biennial in San Jose, Calif., in 1993. Today the association includes members from variety of denominational subgroups including the Alliance of Baptists and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.