WINSTON-SALEM — A Georgia pastor has been elected president of the Center for Congregational Health, a ministry that provides consultants and trained leaders to help churches become “healthier communities of faith.”
Bill Wilson, who has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga., since 2003, will become the president of the North Carolina-based organization Sept. 21. He brings about three decades of parish ministry to his new position.
“This is a significant transition for me from 33 years of local-church staff ministry to a position in which, while still involved in ministry, is on a much broader scale,” said Wilson. “The motivation for the change is an opportunity to put into practice all my sense of gifts and interests and passion in one place.”
The 17-year-old center is based at North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem and was formed out of a partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
As the son of a pastor, Wilson said,
“I have come to believe that we must give ourselves fully to the task of empowering God’s church to do its work in the spirit of Christ.”
“When I began to look at this opportunity it was like reading something that had been written for me,” said Wilson. “It was a good feeling. It’s exciting to think I’ll be doing what, unknowing to me, God was preparing me for all along.” His only regret, he said, is leaving “a church I love desperately — it’s a wonderful position.”
The center has been without permanent leadership since July 2007, when founder David Odom, who had been president for 15 years, left to take the helm of the leadership-education program at Duke University Divinity School.
“The center wanted to handle the interim period like a church would,” said Marinn Bengel of Charlotte, who chaired the committee that called Wilson to the center. “We put an intentional interim in place and began a process to reflect on who and what we are.” After a year of self-examination, the center’s board of directors began the search process.
“We contacted people all across the country,” Bengel said. “We were looking for somebody who is a team leader, someone with lots of focus on the future of church, someone well-rounded and who would be respected in a number of church settings, someone who would take us to the next level.
“Bill has that kind of experience,” she added. “He’s been not only in a small-church setting but in a ‘big-pulpit’ church, and he’s thrived in numerous states. And a passion of his happens to be coaching and counseling other pastors and helping them move their churches forward.”
Before assuming the Dalton pastorate, Wilson was pastor of two Virginia Baptist churches — First Baptist in Waynesboro, from 1992-2003, and Farmville Baptist, from 1987-1992. Earlier he was minister of youth and recreation at First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C.
He has served as president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and on the governing boards of a variety of Baptist organizations, including Associated Baptist Press, the Religious Herald, the University of Richmond, the Baptist Center for Ethics, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Mercer University and Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology. He was a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship national coordinator search committee in 1995-1996.
He is a graduate of Murray State University in Murray, Ky., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and holds a doctor of ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation in South Bend, Ind. He has done additional graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., and Oxford University’s Regent’s Park College in Oxford, England.
Wilson said his father founded Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro and served on the BSC’s General Board. He mentioned fond memories of Caswell and Caraway.
“It feels like God is giving me the opportunity to come home,” Wilson said.
“I look forward to joining my voice with North Carolina Baptists, working together to further help the church to be a place of hope and healing.”
He and his wife, Kathy, have three grown children.
The Center for Congregational Health was organized in 1992 as part of North Carolina Baptist Hospital’s pastoral care division and continues to be a department within that division. Though its directors are approved by the hospital’s governing board, they come from a wide range of denominational backgrounds. The center is supervising a number of CBF leadership-training programs.
It receives funding from the Cooperative Program and serves an average of 20 congregations in North Carolina and across the nation each month and hosts about 600 people each year at its educational events. In addition to financial contributions from North Carolina Baptist Hospital, it is supported by fees from congregations and other gifts.
The center offers a range of services to congregations, including consultation
on issues such as strategic planning, team development and conflict
management; leadership development for clergy; and an intense focus on
interim ministry — both training intentional interim pastors and
helping churches utilize interim periods to grow and develop.
During the last five years N.C. Baptists received consultations with 207 congregations, church consultant training for 28 ministers, coaching for 149 ministers, and interim ministry training for 98 ministers. Forty N.C. Baptist ministers received leadership development training through the Center’s Young Leaders program, and 30 clergy completed the Pastor as Spiritual Guide, a spiritual formation ministry.