Nominee called ‘person of the moment’

Suzii Paynter says her work at the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission has helped prepare her for her new role.

By Ken Camp

Leaders of the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship introduced Suzii Paynter, director of Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission, nominated as the next executive coordinator of succeeding Daniel Vestal, at a press conference Jan. 17.

George Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, who chaired the executive coordinator search committee, characterized the group’s selection of Paynter as “the culmination of a joyous journey” of discovery that involved 171 phone calls to pastors, as well as input from laity and state Baptist leaders.

paynter press2Paynter has served as director of public policy in Austin for the Baptist General Convention of Texas ethics agency since 2001, and she has been director of the Christian Life Commission since 2006. She also heads the BGCT Advocacy Care Center, which includes community ministry and chaplaincy.

Mason characterized Paynter as “the person of the moment” and a proven leader who has helped shape CBF, often working “beneath the radar.”

“I am excited about the future of CBF,” Paynter said, pointing particularly to the work of the 2012 task force that proposed a new governance model and an organizational structure that includes councils for missions and ministry.

“I come to this place out of a sense of call and a sense of preparation,” she said.

In her role with the CLC -- particularly spearheading efforts for the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger, which helps fund some CBF economic development initiatives -- Paynter noted she met many CBF global field personnel. She also worked closely with CBF partners such as the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, in Washington, D.C., the Baptist Center for Ethics and various schools.

“God has been preparing me and allowing me to build relationships with missions and ministry partners,” she said. “I am coming from a good place and going to a good place.”

If the term of founding CBF Executive Coordinator Cecil Sherman emphasized the “Baptist” part of the group’s name, focusing on distinctive identity, and if Vestal’s term stressed the “Fellowship” aspect, creating a sense of community, Paynter said, she hopes the next chapter of CBF life will emphasize the “Cooperative” nature of their work.

Social justice issues and advocacy for the vulnerable particularly present the CBF opportunities to relate to and cooperate with other Christian groups with shared concerns, she added.

Paynter characterized her nomination as “absolutely a milestone for Baptist women in ministry.”

At the same time, Mason emphasized the search committee felt no pressure to select a woman for the leadership role. The fact that “the best person for the job” is a woman and a layperson simply is “a double blessing,” he said.

A San Antonio native, Paynter earned her undergraduate degree at Baylor University and her master’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University. Last year, she received an honorary doctorate from Dallas Baptist University.

She worked 25 years as a reading specialist, literacy professional and educator in public schools and at the university level.

She has served on the religion and public policy team of the Council on Foreign Relations.

She has been a board member and officer of the Baptist Joint Committee and its Religious Liberty Council, as well as the Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society. She also has served on the CBF Coordinating Council, both for the national and state organizations, and has been a representative to Baptist World Aid with the Baptist World Alliance.

Other volunteer service includes board membership on the T.B. Maston Foundation for Christian Ethics, Stop Predatory Gambling, Baptist Child & Family Services, Texas Impact, the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, Samaritan Counseling Centers of Central Texas and the Coalition for Public Schools.

Her husband, Roger, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Austin. They have two adult children, Grayson and Mary.

“Roger plans to stay at First Baptist in Austin for the foreseeable future. Both of us feel a strong calling to our ministries,” she said. “I have been commuting six years between Austin and Dallas. Now the trips will just be longer.”