KANSAS CITY, Mo. — “We did a lot in a year,” Keith Herron summed up his stint as Cooperative Baptist Foundation moderator for 2012-13, emphasizing “we.”
Herron, pastor of Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, prayed long and hard before agreeing to become moderator-elect for the national body in June 2012. Moderator-elect is the first year in a three-year commitment for CBF leaders.
That first year, “I understood Daniel [Vestal, then CBF’s executive coordinator] was on the verge of making an announcement” [to retire], and the 2012 task force “was in the formative…conversational stage,” he said.
As moderator-elect, Herron was involved in determining whether CBF would choose an interim. “We made an intentional decision to fill that spot,” he explained, taking seven months to do so. Pat Anderson was the committee’s choice, and served about nine months. During that year, Suzii Paynter was chosen as the organization’s new executive coordinator.
The task force formulated its report and recommendations during that first year. As Herron stepped into the moderator’s spot, CBF adopted the report. “We had to figure out how to implement it…. We had to find a path…and create a new system…,” Herron explained. “We had to think in terms of sequences…and get them in the right order.”
One of his first actions was to help form an implementation team to “create a playbook we could follow…without chaos breaking out,” he said.
They got to work, he said, concentrating first on the legal steps the body might need before changing its organizational structure.
“Once we figured out the legal ramifications…, it gave us an idea…,” he explained. “We worked backwards from the date of this summer’s General Assembly” to determine when each decision needed to be made. “That helped structure our year.”
And that structure led to a new plan and new look for the organization. “We made a huge transition in one year,” Herron said. “We walked out of Greensboro [where this year’s General Assembly was held] with a new structure.”
The most difficult aspect of his year as moderator, he said, was determining how to move forward fast. “The most difficult was how to, as quickly as possible, make constitution and bylaws changes…. I thought it might take a couple of years,” he said.
But once the transition committee developed the timeline, they figured changes could be made in one year. “With that major piece [the legal aspect], we were able to do it in two business sessions,” he said.
A lot was accomplished in the year, he reiterated, out of desire, not frustration. “We had very positive challenges to face, rather than negative challenges…moving forward,” he said. “It was fun.”
Herron said he particularly enjoyed the “collegial aspect” as a CBF leader. Coordinating council members “walk CBF, talk CBF,” he said, and the four officers worked closely together.
“Working with Daniel, with Pat and now with Suzii and with the staff has been very rewarding,” he said. “You never feel like you are alone.” He added that through his year as moderator, he served in a “project manager” role.
Serving with his church’s blessing also has been rewarding. “I always seemed very busy. It’s surprising how much time you spend and the travel you do,” Herron added.
“There was a sense in which the church shared it with me,” he said. He went to the congregation to seek members’ input when he was asked to step up into a leadership role. “For them to say yes, that it was something they should be involved in, was important. I wanted them to share in the decision,” he said. “We have a great staff here as well…. They did a lot of work.”
The most difficult aspect of his service personally was maintaining a balance among the church, his home life and CBF, he said. “Sometimes I went weeks without a day off.”
But he treasures the many new friends he has made. “I’ve had the chance to meet new people all across the country…. My reservoir of friends has really grown over this year,” he said.
Though he emphasized how leaders worked together, he did concede he has contributed to the effort. “Thematically, it began with Daniel, that we need to be better partners [with other organizations]. I held that close…. I took it very seriously because I felt it was important for us,” Herron said.
He acknowledged that some competitiveness had developed, and that CBF needed to take “a more collegial approach.”
He attended a peace camp, which drew conference leaders and participants from across the Baptist spectrum. “I did it as an advocacy issue,” he said. “It was fun…and helped build bridges.”
Now as immediate past moderator, Herron will help launch the Fellowship’s new nominating committee as an ex-officio member. “We’re getting to figure things out as we go…laying the foundation,” he said.
And he looks forward to continuing to work alongside Paynter. “Suzii is a game changer,” he said. “She is really an amazing executive coordinator…and fun to work with.”