Steven Porter has announced his resignation as coordinator of Global Missions for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, citing “a stirring toward writing projects and a more direct ministry engagement than the administrative and travel demands of my present role allow.”
Porter, 49, has led CBF Global Missions since 2014. He is the seventh person to lead this most visible expression of CBF’s identity. A passion for global missions was one of the key drivers in CBF’s formation in 1990 as a breakaway group from the Southern Baptist Convention, and funding for global missions accounts for about half of CBF’s annual expenditures.
Porter said that in addition to his own stirring, he has “discerned that Global Missions stands at a crossroads. With the first generation of CBF field personnel retiring after a quarter-century of faithful service, the Fellowship has a unique opportunity to appoint a new generation of field personnel. Such an opportunity demands a leader who can devote his or her full attention and energy to that critical task. I keep returning to Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians: ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.’”
Porter has led CBF Global Missions through nearly a decade of transition, capped by the current global pandemic that has challenged what it means for CBF field personnel to live in community with the people they serve.
CBF’s current $14.6 million annual budget includes support for 60 field personnel who serve in the United States and 19 other countries and regions around the world. Global Missions also has birthed other innovative ministries, such as its Global Service Corps program for young adults and Together for Hope, CBF’s rural poverty coalition.
During Porter’s tenure, he worked with the CBF Missions Council and Governing Board to dramatically realign the way field personnel are supported, seeking to create an equal structure that provides a base salary for all field personnel, supplemented by additional project fundraising they secure. Previously, some personnel were fully funded while others were self-supporting.
Also during Porter’s tenure, as CBF has faced its own budget challenges, the number of appointed field personnel has declined — mirroring trends in all U.S.-based missions agencies. Last month, CBF announced the appointment of its first new field personnel in two years, a pause directly resulting from the pandemic.
Porter said his service as CBF’s mission leader has afforded him “an unparalleled opportunity to see ‘the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’ through the lives of ordinary people transformed by extraordinary love. I am so grateful for all I have learned about faithfulness, creativity and resilience from our field personnel and their neighbors.”
He intends to work over the next few weeks in support of a smooth transition and will continue to represent CBF in some larger Baptist spaces to ensure the continuity of those relationships, he said.
“I am so grateful for all I have learned about faithfulness, creativity and resilience from our field personnel and their neighbors.”
Prior to taking on the Global Missions role, Porter was a lecturer in missions and global Christianity at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary. He worked seven years in urban ministries at Touching Miami with Love, a CBF-affiliated ecumenical ministry serving families and the homeless community in Miami, including five years as executive director.
A native of Carthage, Mo., Porter is a graduate of William Jewell College and earned a master of divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology as well as a doctor of theology degree from Duke University Divinity School.
CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley praised Porter as a gifted theologian deeply committed to Jesus’ mission and unwaveringly committed to the vitality of CBF and CBF Global Missions.
“During his tenure, we have embraced new mission distinctives, developed and implemented a new funding model for CBF Global Missions that has positioned us for a sustainable and thriving future, envisioned new synergies between field personnel and congregations, and begun implementation of new ways of celebrating the impact of ministries around the world,” Baxley said. “At the same time, we have seen an increase in collaboration between Global Missions and other areas of CBF ministry and mission. No doubt Steven will remain a leading voice in Christian mission and Baptist life, not only as a Cooperative Baptist but also as a participant and leader in the global Baptist community.”
The Decatur, Ga.-based CBF does not intend to name an immediate successor to Porter, Baxley said, but will enter a transitional phase beginning with reassessment, what Baxley called “a season of dreaming and discovering.”
For now, Baxley will take more active leadership of CBF Global Missions in partnership with field personnel, the Global Missions field ministries team and Global Missions administrative team, he said. Then a strategic engagement process will be launched.
“After the initial stages of the assessment, we will identify what formal interim leadership is required, if necessary. We intend for the initial engagements to inform the proper timeline for the launch of a search for a new coordinator of Global Missions. Along the way, I will provide updates on our progress and our process,” he said.