Whitworth elected Pa./S. Jersey exec.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (BP) -- Barry Whitworth, a longtime church planter and state convention staff member, has been elected executive director of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey by a unanimous vote of the convention's Executive Committee.

Barry Whitworth
 
Whitworth succeeds David Waltz, who retired after 23 years of leading the two-state convention, which has rebranded itself the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey (BRN). Whitworth will assume his new role Feb. 1.

"I am both honored and humbled to have this opportunity to be the executive director," Whitworth said in a video posted online by the BRN Dec. 10, the day following his election. "My passion is the local church -- to assist and encourage the churches" in "reaching the lost [and] discipling the saved."

Whitworth added he wants to help Pennsylvania/South Jersey Baptists "decrease lostness," "push back darkness" and "have an impact in our generation for such a time as this."

Since 2012, Whitworth has served the BRN as the North American Mission Board's lead church planting catalyst for Pennsylvania/South Jersey and Send City missionary for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

In all, Whitworth's tenure on the BRN staff dates back to 2004. He has served as the network's multiplying churches team leader since 2009, during which time the total number of churches cooperating with the convention has increased approximately 25 percent, according to the BRN.

Whitworth has planted churches and served on church staffs in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland.

Interim executive director Stanley Smith, who will retire March 1, said in a news release he is "so excited to see Barry move into this role, and excited for our churches and what Barry and [his wife] Beth will bring in terms of vision and leadership and heart and passion."

Whitworth has served in volunteer leadership capacities for Baptist associations in Maryland and New York and with the Baptist Conventions of Maryland/Delaware and New York.

A candidate for a doctor of ministry degree at Trinity Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind., Whitworth holds a master of arts from Bethany Theological Seminary in Dothan, Ala.; a bachelor of ministry from Covington Bible College in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.; and an associate of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

Prior to his call to ministry, Whitworth worked 13 years as a maintenance mechanic and supervisor for the United States Postal Service.

He and Beth have two children and six grandchildren.

Waltz, who retired March 31, 2016, led the BRN to become "a model and resource to other state conventions" by implementing "a regional structure to help streamline and decentralize convention staff," according to a resolution of appreciation adopted last February by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

During Waltz's tenure, the BRN "witnessed a 35 percent increase in the number of churches giving through the Cooperative Program, the unified budget process that funds the Gospel causes of the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention, with nearly 80 percent of the BRN's churches giving regularly through the Cooperative Program over the past decade," the resolution stated.

The BRN also grew "in diversity so that more than one-half (52 percent) of the convention's cooperating congregations are predominantly minority populations," according to the resolution. Over the final 15 years of Waltz's service, 2,667 baptisms were recorded annually on average in the network's nearly 400 cooperating congregations.

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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