Ten weeks after her election as Global Missions coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Barbara Baldridge announced her resignation on Friday.

Baldridge, elected to the post Feb. 17 by the CBF Coordinating Council, previously served five years as co-coordinator of the CBF mission program with her husband, Gary. She took over as acting coordinator when he retired at the end of 2004 to become a free-lance writer.

Barbara Baldridge, 54, cited unspecified personal reasons for her decision to step down, effective May 31.

“While I am immensely grateful for the trust placed in me by our Council, I simply must devote my time to my family for the foreseeable future,” she said in a CBF news release.

In a letter to the Coordinating Council announcing Baldridge’s resignation, CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal requested that members “honor her discernment process and give her the space she has requested in this very personal decision.”

Baldridge was the first woman to fill a top administrative position in the Fellowship when she and her husband were elected co-coordinators for Global Missions in 1999. The group has since hired two women as coordinators in charge of day-to-day administration of the CBF Resource Center in Atlanta.

The Baldridges succeeded Keith Parks, the first CBF Global Missions coordinator, who was elected in 1992 after retiring from the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board. Parks left the FMB three years sooner than he had planned, citing disagreement with the board’s conservative majority, to join the then-2-year-old CBF, which formed in reaction to conservative takeover of the SBC.

When Barbara Baldridge took over sole leadership of the missions program in February, CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal called it the beginning of a “new chapter” in Global Missions.

On Friday Vestal said he was “grieved at her leaving” but “thankful to God for the time we had to serve together.”

“Barbara Baldridge is a person of impeccable Christian character and spiritual maturity,” Vestal said in a press release. “She has been an effective leader for CBF Global Missions, and we will miss her. She is one of the finest missiologists I know as well as a consensus builder and team builder.”

Vestal appointed Jack Snell, CBF Global Missions associate coordinator for field ministries, as acting coordinator and said he will recommend Snell as interim coordinator to the Coordinating Council in June.

CBF moderator Bob Setzer said he would appoint a committee to search for Baldridge’s permanent successor, in consultation with other officers, “in the near future.”

Setzer, pastor of First Baptist Church in Macon, Ga., credited Baldridge with putting a “world-class missions organization into place.” He predicted CBF Global Missions will continue to be effective after her departure, a fact he said is in itself “a credit to her vision and the quality of her work.”

Prior to coming to the CBF, the Baldridges worked 17 years as Southern Baptist missionaries in Zambia, the French island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean and in Europe. They resigned from the SBC Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) in 1994.

They lived two years in their native Houston, where Gary managed a bookstore. He joined the CBF Global Missions staff in 1996 as associate coordinator for personnel and was interim coordinator of the department after Parks retired in June 1999.

Barbara Baldridge worked as operations director for Duluth Cooperative Ministries, a church-based ministry to disadvantaged people in Atlanta, in 1998-1999 and as coordinator of Love INC (in the Name of Christ) of Gwinnett County, 1997-1998.

According to a profile on the CBF Web site, Gary and Barbara Baldridge have been married since 1973 and have three children: Lydia, Erin Ruth and Micah

Gary Baldridge, a one-time daily newspaper reporter in Texas and New Mexico, in 1999 wrote a biography titled, Keith Parks: Breaking Barriers & Opening Frontiers, and is now seeking a literary agent for his completed novel, described on a literature Web site as “a next-generation sequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Recently the CBF announced it had received a $5 million anonymous contribution to be used for CBF Global Missions field personnel, HIV/AIDS initiatives and tsunami relief. It was the fourth anonymous multimillion-dollar donation to CBF missions since 2002, totaling $21 million.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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