Facets of Faith: Woman assumes leadership of Baptist group

Suzii Paynter, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship executive coordinator
Suzii Paynter, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship executive coordinator

When the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was looking for a slogan a few years back, they settled on “A New Way to be Baptist.”

On Feb. 21, the CBF found another way to be a different Baptist when it hired Suzii Paynter, of Austin, Texas, as its third executive coordinator.

While the first two executive coordinators came from a pastor/missionary background, Paynter’s recent job was in advocacy and lobbying.

Paynter spoke at the state CBF meeting May 17 at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Baton Rouge about how CBF and her job can help Louisiana.

“For me, the kingdom of God is at hand,” she said. “We have so many needs in our time, and we have people who are committed to a life in Christ, committed to generous spirits. They’re committed to open churches and to helping others.”

Paynter said the fellowship “is joining a team of compassionate, committed folks to solve problems for south Louisiana. And to meet needs. And to celebrate the good gifts and the blessings God has given us. We can party.”

As far as her skills, Paynter said, “For the past 12 years, I’ve served as a lobbyist with the Baptist (General) Convention of Texas. In 12 issue areas, I’ve represented the voices of the least of these.

“I feel like one thing the community asks of religious organizations is to mean what they say. I believe we have a responsibility for advocacy: to advocate for the least among us. And to join with other religious groups and other compassionate folks to make sure that the laws and the policies of our states and our nation take into consideration the least of these.”

Among the issues she’s worked with are religious liberty, hunger and poverty, environmental justice, human trafficking and immigration reform.

Paynter said that while deciding about taking the CBF helm, “I was moved and beautifully touched by this particular translation of Philippians.” She read Philippians 2:1-4, 12-13 from the New English Bible, emphasizing two phrases from the passage: “other people’s points of view” and “with a proper sense of awe and responsibility.”

“When I talk to people about their CBF churches, that’s the main thing they say, ‘In our church, you will find many points of view,’” she said.

Paynter spent most of her talk explaining how CBF has met and will continue to meet the goals codified in its 2012 Task Force Report.

She shared how CBF’s work has been noticed around the world, even by the federal government. She attended the President’s Easter Prayer Breakfast and was approached by a representative from the U.S. Department of Agricultural who knew of the CBF’s “Together For Hope.” The program aims to provide assistance for 20 years to the 20 poorest counties in the U.S. (Those counties include East Carroll and Tensas parishes.)

And Paynter shared what she sees as the CBF church of the future. “I hear our pastors say, ‘I want to be the healthiest Christ-centered missional church that we can be.’”

In reaching that goal, she emphasized, the approximately 1,800 churches “need to be a fellowship with each other. We have got to be friends to each other.”

Near the end, she said, “I think about Christ’s ministry: He healed, he taught, he fed. His own life was an example of hands-on ministry.

“We know it’s founded in friendship because he put up with 12 people that I’m sure he could have kicked out a longtime ago. … That’s all we have to do.

“We don’t have to create a new theology or work on some sort of philosophy. We just have to look the simple way in which Jesus lived.”

Sources: http://www.thefellowship.info/, interview, talk

Contact Leila Pitchford-English at lenglish@theadvocate.com or P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.