By John D. Pierce

ATLANTA, Ga. — Paul Baxley said his calling to serve as the fourth executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) “came most unexpectedly.”

The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Athens, Ga., told media at a Feb. 1 press conference — prior to a service of installation — that his ministry transition resulted from a process of discernment along a gradual journey. Yet he is eager to tackle the tasks ahead.

“There is a bright and beautiful future for this Fellowship,” said Baxley, acknowledging the personal role CBF has played in his life and ministry.

Baxley, 49, said he likely would have left denominationally “homeless” without the rise of CBF in 1991 and the partnering organizations that provided theological education, missions and congregational resources.

Cooperation, Baxley told media representatives, is more than a reaction to fundamentalism but a theological understanding reflected in the Triune God. And cooperation, he added, should not require uniformity.

“CBF is never going to be one size fits all,” he said. “Diversity is a source of advantage for us.”

Members of the search committee that unanimously recommended Baxley to the CBF governing board praised his leadership in various roles with the Atlanta-based Fellowship and within state CBF organizations.

Baxley, who transitions next month from the pastorate to leading the CBF network of congregations, described his leadership philosophy as “collaborative,” saying the decision-making process is enhanced whenever persons are engaged to help raise the right questions.

Baxley said his priorities upon beginning this new calling are “getting to know more of the (CBF) family,” cultivating a “beloved community,” and engaging in partnerships.



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