Opinion: Ed Vick: Baptists' Columbus - Word&Way

Opinion: Ed Vick: Baptists’ Columbus

(ABP) – For more than 17 of its nearly 21 years, Associated Baptist Press was blessed to have a Columbus on deck for its voyage across uncharted waters as the first and only independent news service created by and for Baptists.

Ed Vick penned his signature “C. Edwin Vick, Jr.” Few people knew that the “C” stood for Columbus. But had they known, they would have readily agreed that Ed lived up to the surname of the famous 15th-century explorer as well as the first name he shared with his father.

Ed died May 13 at age 76. His death came with his beloved Laura Anne at his side, holding his hand in hers. At the memorial service on May 17, former pastor and long-time friend Randall Lolley recounted that in his final hours Ed roused briefly, looked into Laura Anne’s familiar eyes and spoke clearly his final words and best gift to his soul mate of 47 years: “I love you.” 

His death came only seven weeks from the day he sent a typically succinct and straightforward e-mail to his closest friends and colleagues to inform them of the stunning diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer “of an unknown origin.” Ed died peacefully, without pain, and with the deep satisfaction of a life well lived and richly blessed by a loving family and with an unwavering confidence in the eternal promises of a loving God. Yet all of us who knew him could not help but feel cheated by his sudden departure.

Ed was a Christian layman. Though he never headed a Baptist institution or served as president of a national Baptist organization, his influence on the Baptist witness in America was immense and far-reaching.

Consistent with Baptist theology and polity, that influence began in the local congregation he loved dearly, the First Baptist Church of Raleigh, and then extended into state, regional and national Baptist life.

In 1991 in downtown Atlanta at the historic gathering of Baptists who had been systematically disenfranchised by the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, an infant movement was searching for a name. The “United Baptist Fellowship” was being considered when a layperson from North Carolina walked to the microphone. Ed Vick reminded the crowd that Baptists throughout their nearly 400-year history had rarely been united about much of anything. But in their best moments they had sought to be cooperative, he said, and proposed the name “Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.”

Ed was a Christian trustee. Churches speak much of stewardship. We hear less about the closely-related concept of trusteeship, which is every bit as noble and theologically rich. Ed Vick was the consummate trustee.

At his beloved alma mater, Ed was a member of North Carolina State University’s Board of Visitors. He served on the board of directors of the university’s School of Engineering, Technology & Sciences and its Engineering Foundation. In Baptist life he served on the board of directors or its equivalent for Meredith College, Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the CBF Foundation, CBF of North Carolina and Associated Baptist Press.

As a trustee, Ed understood what it meant to hold in sacred trust an organization, its vision and mission and its financial and human assets. He understood the trustee’s fiduciary role with all its import and implications.

Ed brought to his trusteeships the vision of an expert planner, the acumen of an enormously successful businessman, the precision of an excellent engineer, the wisdom of practical experience and a gifted intellect, and the integrity of leadership to put his money where his mouth was.

His trusteeships were guided by strongly held convictions. Ed shot straight, talked straight and expected of others the same straightforwardness. He had a fierce love of truth and truthfulness that left little patience for dishonesty spoken or lived. As Lolley said in his eulogy, Ed was the anti-chameleon. You never doubted where he stood. Yet you also knew he could be persuaded by facts, logic and experience. He never gloated when he was right, as he usually was. And he was humble enough to admit when he was wrong, which he rarely was.

Last fall at an event in Nashville, Tenn., Charles Overby, who chaired ABP’s founding Board of Directors, accepted the organization’s Founders Award on behalf of all the members of that inaugural board and the group of editors and others who launched ABP as an independent religion news service. Overby remarked, “They say that newspapers are a daily miracle. If that’s true, then Associated Baptist Press is a 20-year miracle.”

Ed Vick helped to nurture the miracle of ABP through two decades of enormous financial challenges. He did so as a freedom-loving Baptist who believed Baptist Christians and churches need and deserve free and responsible journalism.

On May 13 ABP lost a faithful and generous trustee. I lost a trusted friend and mentor. The Baptist family lost a genuine Columbus.


David Wilkinson is executive director of Associated Baptist Press.

EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: As part of our mission to provide credible and compelling information about matters of faith, Associated Baptist Press actively seeks a diversity of viewpoints in its columns, commentaries and other opinion-based content. Opinions expressed in these articles are not intended to represent ABP editorial policy and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABP's staff, board of directors or supporters.

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