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September 22, 1999






CBF nominates couple to head missions
___By Greg Warner
___Associated Baptist Press
___ATLANTA (ABP)--Veteran missionaries and Texas natives Gary and Barbara Baldridge will be nominated to lead the global missions program of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
___If elected, the couple will serve as co-coordinators of the Fellowship's 125-person missionary force and the Atlanta-based missions staff.
___Barbara Baldridge will be the first woman to fill a top administrative position in the Fellowship. The couple will share equally in the coordinator's duties, said Sanford Smith of Greensboro, N.C., chair of the search committee.
___"This is kind of coloring outside the lines as far as management is concerned," Smith said. "But we think they have the skills that will make it work. We feel comfortable with it."
___The search committee will recommend the couple for election by the Fellowship's Coordinating Council in Atlanta Oct. 14. They would replace Keith Parks, who retired in June. Gary Baldridge, associate coordinator for personnel since 1996, has been serving as interim global missions coordinator.
___Smith said the committee from the start was open to having a man, a woman or a couple fill the position. Both Gary, 47, and Barbara, 48, were recommended to the committee, but Gary initially declined to be considered. The committee first interviewed Barbara, one of "several" women considered for the post, Smith said.
___"In the process, it became more and more evident we needed to talk to both of them as a team," he said, explaining the Baldridges are comfortable sharing duties, much as they have in their work as field missionaries.
___"Gary and I feel either one of us could have done the job on our own, but it would have been a burden for either one of us," Barbara Baldridge said. "But we can share it and really enjoy it."
___Most missionary couples are appointed and function as a team, Smith said, but usually one spouse takes the lead on the mission field. In this case, the couple will function "equally as co-managers; there is not one more equal than the other," he said. Already the Baldridges and the search committee have divided up the coordinator's duties to emphasize the gifts and strengths of each.
___Smith said choosing a woman was "not something we set out to do," but the committee is pleased with the result "because we believe in equity in calling for men and women."
___All involved said the unusual arrangement will likely produce some confusion, at least at first, as missionaries and staffers try to figure out who is in charge. "We would need to take care to speak out in one voice, and we would assume that burden," Gary said. But the CBF's "cooperative culture" and style of leadership-by-consensus would minimize some of the dangers, he added.
___All agreed that placing a woman in a role traditionally dominated by men sends a message. "The message is that we do see women in ministry as being as gifted as anyone else," Gary Baldridge said.
___Barbara Baldridge said the joint nomination means CBF is willing to risk doing things differently and is serious about missionary spouses playing equal roles. And, she added, "it is a good message to the organization as a whole that we are looking at gifting and experience and how that fits into a job, and not just looking for someone who simply is charismatic or has a high profile."
___The Baldridges are 20-year missions veterans. They were appointed as missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention's Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) in 1978, serving first in Zambia. In 1985, they launched Baptist mission work on the French island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean, starting two churches. They spent three years coordinating mission strategy for the Azerbaijani people of the former Soviet Union and Iran. Gary Baldridge later served as the FMB's London-based associate director, supervising 100 missionaries serving in "World A" countries of the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe.
___The Baldridges resigned from the Foreign Mission Board in 1994 and returned to their native Houston, where Gary managed a book store until joining the CBF missions staff in 1996.
___Since then, Barbara has worked as a volunteer assisting in the selection and orientation of new CBF missionaries, missionary training, strategic planning and speaking in churches.
___Since 1998, she has been operations director for Duluth Cooperative Ministries, a church-based ministry to disadvantaged people in Atlanta.
___Gary Baldridge said he would like to see a "shift in focus" within CBF missions that would put more emphasis on equipping local churches to do missions and ministry. "In the past, it has all been geared toward getting churches to support our programs," he said.
___Under the plan to share duties, Gary will focus on selecting and supervising field personnel, personnel planning and budgeting. Barbara will concentrate on the orientation, training and evaluation of personnel, as well as facilitating CBF's team approach among field missionaries.
___Both will cultivate relationships with other missions groups and promote CBF missions in local churches and other public settings. But Gary predicted Barbara may be the more public of the two. "She would do a bit more speaking than I because she is more gifted in that than I am."

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