This past Friday the Baptist Center for Ethics awarded me “Baptist of the Year.” I am very grateful for this honor, and I will share the mercifully brief response I offered. Of course, I appreciate any good will that accrues for Central because of such an award. It has been my place of ministry for 21 years now, and I have the privilege of a vow of stability in our seminary. This is what I said:
The Baptist Center for Ethics is one of the most entrepreneurial and creative entities in the CBF constellation. For 25 years this prophetic partner has called us to be more just as a people. Regularly this small staff pursues BIG projects that illumine critical concerns and offer new perspectives. Race, interfaith issues, gender equity, ecological education and advocacy, immigration reform, prison reform, and global justice issues are among the thoughtful initiatives of the Center.
This past year, BCE engaged the new papal encyclical Si Laudato, which calls for new practices in light of the global environmental deterioration and its impact, especially on the poor. Can you imagine: Baptists learning from Catholics? I love it!
One of BCE’s creative innovations is to name a Baptist of the Year. By doing this, they ensure that the nominee will give—at least for that year! I sure did—and talked my seminary into buying a whole table. There are usually just a couple of us back in the corner; today Central is well represented.
This award draws attention to varied pathways of ministry: public service, race relations, peacemaking, environmental justice, engaging the needs of incarcerated women, philanthropy, and theological education. (Glad that last one got in there!) Theological education has been my life’s work. God put me on the planet to love students and stir the pot. God has preserved my vocation over these many years.
Since this award began 11 years ago, BCE has honored some of my heroes: Al Gore, Emmanuel McCall, Wayne Flynt, Linda Leathers, Glen Stassen, and my dear friend Babs Baugh. It is remarkable to be in their company.
When she learned of this award, one of my friends asked if it came with a cape. I wish it did so that I might be in more places more quickly. Only the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, but I am chasing her example as best I can.
I appreciate the presumptive (love that word!) reasons for the award, and I will strive to be worthy. Dag Hammarskjöld observed, there is “the humility that comes from others having faith in you . . .”
Indeed! Thank you.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares creative and entrepreneurial leaders.