October 10, 2017
By Aaron Weaver
DECATUR, Ga. — CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter was honored Oct. 6 with the 2017 T. B. Maston Award for Christian Ethics for her “life of servanthood and leadership in applied Christianity” at the annual banquet of the T. B. Maston Foundation held at Dallas Baptist University.
The award is named for Thomas Buford (T. B.) Maston, regarded as one of the most significant Baptists of the twentieth century and a preeminent shaper of Christian ethics and Christian social concern among Baptists in the South. Maston’s emphasis on “applied Christianity” — applying the Gospel to all aspects of life — made his name synonymous with Christian ethics during his decades of training thousands of students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
George Mason, senior pastor of Dallas’ Wilshire Baptist Church, presented the lifetime achievement award to Paynter, recognizing her many years of ministry as an educator, congregational leader, director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, and since 2013 as executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Mason noted that he had the privilege over the years of seeing up-close Paynter’s “extraordinary moral leadership among Baptists.”
“Suzii has the spirit of Dr. Maston, that humble educator who cared little about personal recognition in his life, and much about the living out of the Gospel by the people of God in every place,” Mason said.
“There was a day when Baptists seemed to think you could have a brand of Christianity that didn’t touch deeply on moral concerns and social justice,” Mason said. “We thought that was somehow optional…but the very existence of the Christian Life Commission and this Foundation is about Dr. Maston’s insistence that the Gospel is not just about saving souls and building churches. It’s about bearing witness to the way of Jesus in absolutely every aspect.
“Christian ethics is not a discrete department of our faith that we can take or leave. If we leave it, we leave the world to the forces of nature that demean and diminish the humanity of sisters and brothers created in the image of God. We allow the powers-that-be to run roughshod over the weak and vulnerable. This just can’t be. There is nothing Christian about that, and Suzii knows it.”
Mason told attendees that Paynter, like her predecessor at the CLC, Phil Strickland, understood the necessity of “risking the consequences” to confront injustice.
“Suzii Paynter has done just that in her extraordinary ministry,” Mason said. “For most of those years, she was a layperson, like Dr. Maston. This diminutive woman has stood tall in churches, denominational meetings and legislative offices operating among trained theologians and seasoned politicians. This daughter of Texas has been overlooked and underestimated in what has been mostly a man’s world. Nevertheless, she persisted. Thank God she did.”
Paynter expressed her appreciation for the life and legacy of T. B. Maston, noting his influence on her mentors in ministry.
“I am so grateful for the formation and empowerment of T. B. Maston,” Paynter said. “Through his work and his indelible mark on my mentors — James Dunn, Foy Valentine, Phil Strickland, Charles Wade and Weston Ware….There is no lifetime achievement in Jesus is Lord, but there is a lifetime calling, and that calling goes into the future. As I give thanks to my Maston-shaped mentors, I say that is only a prelude to the work of the Gospel. Jesus is Lord today and tomorrow, and we are shaped now by global Gospel voices.”
“What will become of tomorrow’s church,” Paynter asked. “How shall we be tomorrow’s church? Number one, love your church. Just fall in love with people, care about people. Number two, love your city….Precious Lord, take our hand and lead us on. There is a great day today. There is a great day tomorrow. I am grateful for the capacity to serve in such a community.”
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.