KIRKWOOD, Mo. — Scott Stearman is passionate about urban ministry, social justice, human rights and believers’ role in making a kingdom difference on earth. Kirkwood, Mo., has benefitted from that passion. Now New York will.
Stearman, pastor of Kirkwood Baptist Church since February 2003, will take up his new post as pastor of Metro Baptist Church in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen on Feb. 1. He sees the move as God’s opportunity for him to impact a broader audience.
In addition to his church role, Stearman will be the voice for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist World Alliance at the United Nations.
The longtime minister has known about Metro Baptist and its “extraordinary” social outreach for a number of years. Although the congregation is smaller than that at Kirkwood, members have developed strong engagement with the community and beyond and commitment to urban ministry, Stearman said.
That ministry and the opportunity to engage with the U.N. were the impetus for Stearman and wife Cecelia to say yes to the Metro congregation.
“The call to Metro is a ‘mission call’…. It is a smaller church in a bigger city with a smaller salary and a much more expensive location,” Stearman wrote in Kirkwood Baptist’s Jan. 6 newsletter. “Am I out of my mind? Possibly. But at every step ‘no’ was the wrong answer.”
Though he and Cecelia are excited about the opportunity, they believe they will leave a lasting impact on Kirkwood Baptist.
“We [the congregation] have become more focused to community engagement and our impact on Kirkwood,” including more mission efforts in the St. Louis suburb.
“We also continue to be more explicit about inclusion, including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, into our community of faith,” he said.
Stearman also pointed to the Kirkwood congregation’s successful capital campaign and renovation of its facility with minimal debt.
Cecelia, a private voice instructor at Missouri Baptist University, has used her music abilities to impact Kirkwood as well, starting and leading the Community Gospel Choir and other activities.
As he approaches his new ministry, Stearman wants to “continue to grow the church community” and find “the right way to do outreach,” he said.
He added that part of the effort will involve “figuring out” Metro’s identity as the Hell’s Kitchen area changes. All of Manhattan is “gentrifying” and “becoming the playground of the very rich,” Stearman explained. The congregation will have to be aware of changing needs and ministry opportunities.
In the midst of change, the pastor also will develop relationships at the UN and will attend key committee meetings on religious liberty and human rights.
A pastor since 1989, Stearman served churches in Oklahoma; Athens, Greece; and Paris, France. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion and history at Oklahoma Baptist University, a Master of Divinity degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a master’s in philosophy and theology at Princeton Theological Seminary and a doctorate in ancient philosophy at the University of Oklahoma.
Stearman invites Baptists in Missouri who feel called to do a mission trip to come help in New York City. Contact him at email@example.com.