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Carlisle Driggers to retire from S.C. leadership post

WINNSBORO, S.C. (BP)–B. Carlisle Driggers, saying “the time has come for me to announce my retirement,” will step aside as executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention on Feb. 28, 2007, after 15 years at the helm of the nation’s oldest state Baptist convention.

His will be the second-longest tenure for an executive director in South Carolina. Charles Jones held the position for 17 years, from 1925-42.

Driggers, 68, who said at the time of his election in 1991 that he wanted to be remembered as one who “tried to help the churches grow,” made the announcement during the April 17 spring meeting of the executive board at the convention’s White Oak Conference Center in Winnsboro.

Calling it “the best of times for me to step aside,” Driggers said in a prepared statement that the South Carolina convention is in a “positive and healthy condition.” He called attention to “a kingdom growth focus” across most of the state, with “strong finances, state staff members who love to serve, a committed Executive Board, worthy institutions, lots of growing churches, missions-driven associations, and strong relationships in place with the various entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Saying that “these are uncertain, complicated, even perilous times we are experiencing and facing,” Driggers said South Carolina Baptists must pray and “search the mind of Christ” in seeking the convention’s next leader. “We have no alternative,” he declared, “but to stay together, focused on the Lord’s kingdom work to be accomplished rather than being distracted by our own small kingdoms to pursue.”

The search for a new executive director-treasurer will begin immediately with the appointment of a committee selected from the executive board by the chairman, Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church in North Spartanburg. In a likely timetable, the search committee would bring its nomination for the position to the executive board at its Oct. 9-10 meeting and, if approved, move it forward for a vote by messengers to the annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention Nov. 14-15 at First Baptist Church in Taylors.

In October 1991, Driggers was the unanimous choice of the former general board to succeed Ray Rust, who retired on Feb. 29, 1992, as executive director-treasurer. Don Davis, then pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce, chaired the search committee which, he said, was impressed with the Driggers’ “great vision for South Carolina Baptists.”

That vision led to Empowering Kingdom Growth, a strategy for enhancing church growth that Driggers said would be his focus. The convention’s 10-year EKG emphasis became the centerpiece of the Driggers administration, which was renewed for an extended five-year run in 2002 and gained national prominence when adopted as a strategy by the Southern Baptist Convention. Driggers chaired the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force from 2002-05.

In the Nov. 7, 1991, edition of The Baptist Courier, Driggers explained, “Kingdom growth goes far beyond numbers. Kingdom growth also is measured by such indicators as spiritual enrichment through Bible study, prayer and worship, missions involvement, and stewardship development.”

The accent, he made it clear, would be placed on the work of the local church. “If the church is weak,” he said, “how can we carry out the Great Commission of Christ? If we are going to be effective, we must put the focus on the local church.”

Driggers wrote about the impact of Empowering Kingdom Growth on the churches of the South Carolina convention in a book published in 2000 titled “A Journey of Faith and Hope.”

Driggers, a native of Hartsville, S.C., served as executive assistant to Rust from 1990-92 after returning to the state from Conyers, Ga., where he was minister of outreach and pastoral care at Northminster Baptist Church for two years. Previously, he had worked at the former Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) for 13 years, first as associate director of the black church relations department from 1975-78 and as regional coordinator for planning and budgeting for the eastern seaboard states from 1978-88.

Driggers is a graduate of Mars Hill and Carson-Newman colleges as well as Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Pittsburgh Seminary, where he earned his doctorate. He holds honorary doctorates from North Greenville and Charleston Southern universities.

Driggers and his wife Jeanette, who are members of Lexington Baptist Church, have two married children, Jana and Dave, and five grandchildren.
Don Kirkland is editor of The Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, on the Web at www.baptistcourier.com.

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  • Don Kirkland