CORRECTED: Age in paragraph 1 corrected Oct. 5
PHOENIX (BP)–Dan C. Stringer, who served as executive director-treasurer of three Baptist state conventions, died Oct. 2. He was 79 and had been diagnosed with terminal cancer two weeks earlier.
“A true giant has gone to his Lord’s side,” said Steve Bass, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention executive director/state missionary. “Dan has been a wonderful statesman in Southern Baptist life.”
After serving the Northwest Baptist Convention as executive director-treasurer from 1971-79 and retiring from the Florida Baptist Convention in 1989 after 10 years of service, Stringer went back to work as executive director-treasurer of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention in 1990 at a critical time for the state’s Baptists.
“Dan came to our convention as executive director when we desperately needed his leadership,” said Bill May, retired president of the Arizona Church Growth Board. “The convention was faced with a financial challenge that needed vision, knowledge, planning and, most of all, integrity. Dan provided it all.”
The Arizona convention had experienced declining Cooperative Program receipts and had a $3.6 million deficit in its Baptist Loan Fund. Stringer led the convention’s executive board in developing a 10-year plan to erase the deficit, and the goal was reached ahead of schedule.
Stringer demonstrated his commitment to the Cooperative Program during salary negotiations with the Arizona search committee. He insisted that he begin at the entry level of the executive director salary line and that the salary be further reduced by 20 percent. He used that 20 percent as a discretionary fund for Cooperative Program promotion.
As executive director, Stringer was an instrumental leader in establishing the Arizona campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in 1995.
After serving Arizona Southern Baptists for five years, Stringer retired in June 1995. However, he continued to serve as interim executive director on a contract basis two days a week until Bass was named his successor that November.
“When I first accepted the call to follow Dan Stringer in Arizona,” Bass said, “the best thing he ever gave me was his phone number. He was exactly what Arizona Southern Baptists needed when he arrived as our executive director. We are facing a bright future today all because of the servant leadership of Dan Stringer.”
During his tenure with Florida Baptists, Stringer led the churches there in 1985 to become the first state Baptist convention to send 50 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program for national and international missions and ministries. The convention stayed at that level for four years.
Recognizing Florida’s growing non-Anglo population, Stringer created a language missions department and expanded program resources to train ethnic church leaders. He also recommended the creation of an evangelism division, elevated its visibility and role in the convention.
Reflecting his commitment to Southern Baptist pioneer mission areas, he led the state convention to enter into state-to-state mission partnerships with Baptist conventions in Pennsylvania-South Jersey, Montana and North and South Dakota.
Stringer also led in the expansion and development of Florida’s camps and assembly facilities.
Current Florida Baptist Convention Executive Director John Sullivan, who succeeded Stringer in 1989, observed, “In these 50 years, Dr. Stringer has always been a consummate Christian gentleman.” The two men first met nearly five decades ago when Sullivan led a youth revival at First Baptist Church in Buckeye, Ariz., where Stringer was pastor.
Since that time Sullivan said his observations of Stringer’s ministry can be characterized as “never acting outside the confines of the character of Christ.” He described Stringer’s work ethic with four phrases: “Hard working. High expectations. Healthy administration. And humble servant.”
Stringer was at the helm of the Northwest Baptist Convention during a time of tremendous growth. The number of churches increased 24 percent; baptisms by 37 percent; and Sunday School enrollment by 28 percent. The growth of the churches extended to Canada, leading to the 1977 Southern Baptist Convention action making possible the formation of the Canadian Southern Baptist Convention.
Bill Crews, current interim executive director of the Northwest convention who served under Stringer for two years as the communications division director, said, “The reason for our success was because of God’s grace and His provision of a genuine, God-blessed leader. Dan was everything one would want in a leader: He was a man of godly character, a visionary leader, an effective change agent, an innovator, creative, courageous, a team leader and team player, wise, humble and caring about others.”
During Stringer’s tenure in the Northwest, Cooperative Program giving by the churches increased from $292,000 to $975,000 and the percentage sent to Southern Baptist causes increased from 20 percent to 28 percent.
Stringer also was instrumental in planning and raising funds to start the Pacific Northwest campus of Golden Gate Seminary.
From 1966-71, Stringer served the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention in a variety of roles: associate missions director, stewardship director, assistant executive secretary, associate executive secretary and as missions director.
He served as pastor of churches in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
Stringer was a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
In conjunction with the 10th anniversary of Golden Gate’s Arizona campus, the seminary established the Dan and Harriett Stringer Award, given to an Arizona campus graduate who demonstrates significant perseverance through difficulty in completing his or her seminary studies. Stringer considered it a fitting honor since he spent 11 years in two seminaries before receiving a degree.
Stringer served in the U.S. Marine Corps, completing boot camp as World War II came to an end.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Harriett, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and a son, Kirk. A daughter, Sheridan Kaye Stringer Cox, preceded him in death.
Services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at First Baptist Church in Sun City, Ariz.
Elizabeth Young is editor of Portraits, journal of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Don Hepburn, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s public relations division, contributed to this story.