Transition is the “it” word at the moment. As I reflect on Brent’s transition from his leadership role at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and my own move into that position in January, I cannot help but notice how much change not only the BJC but also our country has seen in nearly three decades. We have seen four presidents and four transfers of power, wars and terrorism, economic booms and busts, and the advent of the internet age. The church’s role itself has changed with fewer of our neighbors choosing to identify with a given denomination or even a given faith. And new challenges for religious liberty have arisen at every turn, particularly as increasing pluralism has tested what that phrase means for our society.
But a constant through all of this upheaval has been Brent’s steady and strong leadership of the BJC. His steadfastness has also come with positive change for the organization; even its name was updated a decade ago to better reflect our focused mission. Brent has broadened support for the BJC, grown the endowment, completed the capital campaign, and opened the Center for Religious Liberty. He has increased the diversity of the staff and attracted the best talent for all positions. Brent has engaged in regular strategic planning and visioning to provide a blueprint for the future.
Soon after the BJC Board voted on my candidacy for executive director in September, a wise friend gave me advice to take joy in this work. I have taken those words to heart and can think of no greater mentor than Brent, who has approached his calling with good humor, encouraging words, smiles and laughter. Brent’s love for sports, and particularly baseball, is obvious. But perhaps less well-known is how he has brought a sense of play and recreation into the culture of the BJC, even taking time each spring to take the staff to a weekday afternoon baseball game. Brent remembers not just each denominational meeting he has attended, but what ballpark he visited on that trip and with whom. As impressive as his many accomplishments have been, Brent’s personal connection with everyone who has joined us in our mission may well be his greatest legacy.
There is no doubt that Brent has fought the good fight, finished his leg of the race, and kept the faith for 27 years at the BJC. With deep respect and gratitude, I will joyfully endeavor to build on his incredible work. I speak for many when I say I cannot wait to see what Brent will do next in his ministry.
Amanda Tyler succeeds Brent Walker as executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee in January 2017.
Chet Edwards: A man of faith on Capitol Hill
Richard Foltin: A partner for all seasons
Amanda Tyler: A steady and strong leader
Holly Hollman: A teacher and pastor who prepared us