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Hankins elected unanimously to lead La. Baptist Convention

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–David E. Hankins was elected as executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention in a unanimous vote during an Oct. 28 meeting of the convention’s 98-member executive board in Alexandria.

Hankins, 54, is a former Louisiana pastor who currently is executive vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.

He will succeed Dean Doster, who will retire from the Louisiana post Jan. 31. Plans call for Hankins to join the convention staff Jan. 1 and assume full responsibilities Feb. 1. Doster has led Louisiana Baptists for the past eight years. The convention encompasses more than 1,600 churches and missions.

Hankins was pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La., from 1985-96.

He holds M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and an undergraduate degree from Dallas Baptist University.

Philip Robertson, president of the Louisiana convention and pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, said in a statement to Baptist Press, “Louisiana Baptists all across our state have prayed diligently for God to give us an executive director that can lead us on into 21st century Kingdom growth ministry. Without a doubt we believe Dr. David Hankins is that leader. Because of Dr. Hankins’ commitment to God’s Word, his Louisiana connection and his vision for Baptist work, I am excited about what God is going to do in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.”

James Law, chairman of the executive director search committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Gonzales, told Baptist Press, “We are thrilled by the executive board’s election of Dr. David Hankins to serve as our new executive director. We are truly grateful for how God has led us all to this moment.

“Dr. Hankins has been given some very special gifts,” Law said. “He is a man of vision. He has a strong pulpit ministry. He is a skillful administrator. He understands the pastorate and the local church. He has understanding of how Baptists do their work. Additionally, he understands the unique challenges of doing ministry in Louisiana, having served here for 10 years. I believe the Louisiana Baptist Convention will be blessed many times over in the years to come by his Spirit-led leadership. As a search committee, what was most impressive to us was the opportunity to hear his heart and the passion he has to fulfill the Great Commission. We look forward to working side by side with him to reach our state and beyond for Christ.”

Hankins’ election marks the second of three key transitions among Louisiana Baptists.

In September, Malcolm Yarnell, 42, was elected as the eighth president of Louisiana College, which is affiliated with the Louisiana convention. Yarnell moves to the 1,100-student college from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, where he is director of the Center for Theological Research and assistant dean for theological studies.

Lynn Clayton, editor of the Baptist Message convention newspaper for 26 years, has announced he will retire on Dec. 31, 2005.

Hankins joined the Executive Committee staff in Nashville, Tenn., as vice president for convention policy in 1996, working with such SBC restructuring initiatives as the formation of the North American Mission Board. He was named vice president for Cooperative Program in 1998 to expand Southern Baptists’ involvement in supporting missions and ministry nationally and internationally. He was named executive vice president in September.

He served as an Executive Committee member from Louisiana from 1986-94, including two years as chairman.

He and his wife, Patty, have three grown sons: Andy, a businessman in Anderson, S.C.; Eric, pastor of Galloway Avenue Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas; and Adam, a surgeon in New Orleans.

Hankins, who was born in California but grew up in Texas, spoke of his heart for Louisiana in comments to the convention’s executive board prior to his election.

“When we were first asked by friends from this state to pray about being open to the possibility of coming back to Louisiana, the Lord revived a flame in our hearts that He started 20 years ago,” Hankins said. In 1985, he recounted, God’s call to Trinity Baptist in Lake Charles seemed like a call “to a place we’d never been, to work with people we didn’t know and eat food we couldn’t pronounce. But I want to tell you something, from day one in Louisiana, it was never strange.

“It was as if we were home,” Hankins said. “Louisiana is our home. I am now a former Texan.”

Describing his vision for leadership, Hankins told the board, “I will make this pledge to you, if God lays it on your hearts to elect me to this position of significant leadership. I will not do you the disservice of not giving you significant leadership. I will not stick my finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. I will place it into the holy Word of God and lead from the Spirit of God and the written Word. And I will lead not from the left, not from the right, not from the middle. I intend to lead from the front.”

Following his election, Hankins and his wife were greeted by sustained applause. He then offered brief comments to the board, noting, “Patty and I are honored and humbled that you have demonstrated this kind of confidence in us. I trust you do it because you sense God’s leadership….

“We pledge to serve faithfully. We ask for your prayers, for your encouragement, for your counsel, for your opinions, for your hard work in your churches and for the churches then to come together for the same kind of hard work in the convention. May God give us great days ahead.”
With reporting by C. Lacy Thompson of the Baptist Message.