The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has selected veteran Baptist journalist Marv Knox to lead a new network aimed at expanding the 1,800-church network’s reach in the southwestern United States.
Officials at the Decatur, Georgia,-based CBF announced April 13 that Knox, editor of the Texas newspaper Baptist Standard since 1999, will lead a new entity called Fellowship Southwest to coordinate work of three autonomous CBF state and regional organizations in promoting Baptist identity and cooperative mission and ministry.
Fellowship Southwest is a new regional network announced in February that will supplement the work of CBF of Texas, CBF of Oklahoma and CBF West. It is a part of a CBF “expansion initiative” that includes further integration of the CBF Latino Network into Cooperative Baptist life, as well as advocacy efforts, support for theological education and ecumenical partnerships.
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said Knox “is the answer to prayer for a leader to step forward that has a heart for communicating, connecting and advocating for all of God’s children.”
“At a time when forming together is more important than ever, Marv will use his vast network and his immense talents to help enhance and equip the work of churches and partners,” said Paynter, who worked for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission before taking the helm at CBF in 2013.
Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston and a CBF Governing Board member, termed Knox “one of the most trusted people in Baptist life.”
“I could not be more thrilled to know he will lend his considerable gifts and his personal leadership to the formation of a new missions endeavor across the Southwest,” Wells said.
Knox, 60, described the opportunity as “an unexpected, exciting gift.”
“CBF always has impressed me with its courageous commitment to Baptist principles, particularly the priesthood of all believers and the autonomy of the local church,” said Knox, who has covered the movement as a journalist throughout its 25-year history.
Knox is a native of Fort Worth and a 1979 graduate of Hardin-Simmons University. He earned a master of divinity degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1984.
He was editor of his college newspaper and worked at the Abilene Reporter-News before becoming assistant news editor for the Southern Baptist Home (now North American) Mission Board in 1979.
In 1981, while a student at Southern Seminary, he became news and information director for the seminary, a position he held until 1983. From 1984 until 1986 he was assistant editor of the Baptist Message, the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s newspaper, before joining the staff at the Southern Baptist Convention news service Baptist Press as feature editor in 1986.
He served with BP for four years before accepting the editorship of the Western Recorder, Baptist state paper in Kentucky, in 1990. He left in 1995 to become associate editor of the Baptist Standard in Dallas, before being promoted to editor and publisher of Baptist Standard Publishing in 1999.
The CBF Governing Board approved formation of Fellowship Southwest about the time leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Texas were finalizing the process of kicking out three high-profile CBF-related congregations in a dispute over homosexuality.
Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, First Baptist Church in Austin and Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco all recently dropped policies banning full participation by LGBT members. Citing precedent dating back to the 1998 ouster of University Baptist Church in Austin for ordaining a gay deacon, the BGCT Executive Board formally declared the three churches “outside of harmonious cooperation” with the statewide Southern Baptist Convention affiliate Feb. 21.
During debate at the 2016 BGCT annual meeting last November, supporters of the three booted churches warned if the traditionally moderate church body failed to recognize changing attitudes about human sexuality among its membership, other large-budget congregations might consider alternative ways to spend their state mission dollars, with specific reference to CBF.
Knox called his decision to leave the Baptist Standard “agonizing” and said he “never expected it to happen,” but he is excited about what he anticipates will be his final career move before retirement. He said his departure isn’t “out of frustration, anger or disagreement” with anyone, and he believes the CBF will be as open to partnering with Texas Baptist organizations in the future as it has been in the past.
Knox was an early supporter of Associated Baptist Press and served 23 years on the board of ABP and its successor, Baptist News Global, including a term as board chair.
In 2015 Baptist News Global presented Knox with the Greg Warner Lifetime Achievement Award in Religious Journalism, recognizing courage and integrity in reporting important issues related to matters of faith and writing and reporting that consistently reflect the highest standards of journalism.
Taylor Sandlin, chair of the Baptist Standard board of directors, said in the days ahead a search committee will be assembled to begin the process of hiring a new editor.
“The need for a free, independent press is as significant today as it has ever been,” said Sandlin, pastor of Sugar Land Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas. “We trust that God will provide just the right man or woman for the next season of the Baptist Standard’s ministry.”