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S.C. search committee nominates Jim Austin

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–A seven-member search committee seeking a new executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention has found its nominee in Missouri.

Jim Austin, an associate executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, is the committee’s choice to succeed Carlisle Driggers, who retired at the end of February after 15 years as the convention’s top official. Driggers, who already has moved to his retirement home in Georgia, has continued to assist in the work of the convention as the search committee continued its work.

If approved by the convention’s executive board, Austin’s name would be presented to messengers for their vote at a called session of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. No date has been set for a called convention, which will meet in Columbia. Late April is considered a likely time for the special convention.

In a statement issued to the convention’s newsjournal, The Baptist Courier, search committee chairman Tim Williams said, “In a genuine spirit of unanimity, the search committee for the position of executive director-treasurer for the South Carolina Baptist Convention is pleased to announce that we will be recommending Dr. Austin to fill this position at a special called meeting of the Executive Board on March 27 at the Baptist building in Columbia. Dr. Austin currently serves on the staff of the Missouri Baptist Convention with responsibilities for several key areas of ministry.

“Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dr. Austin has spent most of his ministry in the South. He has extensive pastoral experience in Georgia and Virginia, and has a great heart for evangelism and missions and the expansion of God’s Kingdom,” Williams noted.

Austin, 53, has been with the Missouri convention for a year and a half. He has held supervisory responsibilities in the ministries of Sunday School and discipleship, family life, worship, youth and college, technology and ministerial services.

Austin has wide experience in the field of missions. He has served as a missionary journeyman in the Philippines. He has been a mission team recruiter and leader for short-term overseas mission trips and pastor training seminars to the Caribbean, Central America, Canada, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia -— including India and China. He is a veteran of two terms as a trustee of the International Mission Board, where he was chairman of the Europe, Western Pacific and orientation committees.

Austin held pastorates in Morganton and Gainesville, Ga., and Roanoke, Va. In 1999, he served as first vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention and is a former trustee of one of the convention’s schools, Truett-McConnell College.

“For all of his valuable experience and leadership credentials, Dr. Austin made the greatest impact on the search committee with his spirit of humility. We were impressed by his desire to see the Kingdom of God expand, with no concern for any acclaim for himself,” Williams, pastor of Roebuck Baptist Church, said.

As search committee members discussed the position with him, Williams said Austin always emphasized his commitment to pray for the committee and for the South Carolina convention.

“During the interview process, Dr. Austin was asked, ‘Are you sold out to the Cooperative Program?’ In a very unassuming yet profound response, Dr. Austin replied, ‘I’m sold out to Jesus -— but I am very committed to the Cooperative Program,’” Williams recounted.

He added, “I look forward with great anticipation to having Dr. Jim Austin lead South Carolina Baptists as we continue to emphasize the growth of God’s Kingdom here and to the ends of the earth.”

Austin is a graduate of Jacksonville State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned the doctor of ministry degree at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He received an honorary doctorate from Emmanuel Bible College and Seminary in Kota, India.

Austin and his wife Debbie are parents of five children.

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  • Don Kirkland