Robert Parham, founding executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, passed away Sunday night. With his leadership, BCE produced award-winning news coverage and documentary films, provided a strong public voice on moral issues and set an innovative example for other Baptist news outlets on utilizing new technologies. I had the honor of working for Robert as a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com for more than 11 years. We traveled together to Jamaica, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and multiple domestic locations.
Robert and Brian trying out the smells and tastes of the Spice Souk in Dubai.Robert introduced me to the world of global Baptists — literally. At the first annual meeting of the Baptist World Alliance I attended, Robert took me around to introduce me to Baptists from dozens of countries. It seemed he knew nearly everyone. So perhaps it’s appropriate I’m spending the first couple of days after his passing at a meeting of the BWA. I had just landed in Washington, D.C., Sunday evening when I got a call with news of his passing. The next morning, Baptists from several countries offered their condolences, remembrances and hugs. We reflected on Robert and his love for global Baptists.
Robert served for decades as a prophetic voice for “goodwill Baptists,” writing about Christian ethics, creation care, missions, immigration and human rights. He championed the work of missionaries, promoted dialogue with Muslims and warned against uniting church and state. He dedicated his life to living out the call in Luke 4 to “proclaim good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Robert offered encouragement and advice as I moved behind the editor’s desk at Word&Way. During our last phone call in February, we talked about his new film “The Disturbances” and a piece I wrote about it for the March issue of Word&Way. The film tells a powerful story of how missionaries saved lives during a genocide in Nigeria in 1966. Robert’s health briefly came up in that last call, though he kept those matters mostly private. He returned to his eager tone to end that call with a question he posed nearly every time we chatted: “Well, any Baptist news?”
Building on the lessons I learned from Robert and the opportunities he provided, I’ll keep working to answer that question and tell those stories. A prophet has left us and we must continue the work.