NASHVILLE (BP) — Bill Sumners, director of Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives since 1988, will retire from his post next July, he recently announced in a letter to the Council of Seminary Presidents, which governs the organization.
“It has been my pleasure and joy to serve in this position, in this place, for most of my career,” Sumners told the CSP.
Since the 1997 reorganization of the Southern Baptist Convention, the SBHLA has been governed by the CSP, comprised of the six SBC seminary presidents. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is also CSP president.
“We are very thankful for Bill Sumners for his many years of service to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives,” Mohler said. “He has been a key figure in bridging the Southern Baptist past to its present and future. We look forward to recognizing him in the months ahead for his service.”
Mohler said the CSP is “now about the task of finding” Sumners’ successor. As CSP president, Mohler will be “receiving all nominations for this very important post,” he said.
Candidates for SBHLA director are required to have a graduate degree in librarianship, Baptist history or archival studies, with a preference for certified archivists, Mohler said. Nominations will be received through Dec. 31, and can be mailed to: R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, Council of Seminary Presidents, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.
Sumners expressed his appreciation to the Council of Seminary Presidents for its support and encouragement through the years.
“You have let us do our work and championed our vital role in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he noted in his Sept. 21 letter to the CSP. “I particularly want to thank Dr. Mohler for his foresight in his work with the Program and Structure Committee in placing the SBHLA under the management of the Council. I am uncertain of our existence without his keen wisdom back in 1995.”
Sumners said the SBHLA’s “modest” collection in 1983 has grown to become the “largest, most diverse and most accessible collection of Baptist material in the world.”
Established in 1938 as part of the Southern Baptist Historical Society, the SBHLA maintains thousands of books, Baptist associations’ and state conventions’ annuals, Baptist newspapers, histories of Baptist churches, archival records, and many other Baptist history resources in 10,000 square feet of office space in the SBC Building in Nashville, according to its website.
Before becoming SBHLA director and archivist, Sumners was archivist of the Dargan-Carver Library of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (then known as the Sunday School Board of the SBC), 1983-1988. Previously, he was assistant archivist at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., and held library and research positions in Alabama and Texas.
Sumners holds degrees from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and University of Texas at Arlington. He has been married to Donna since 1971, and they have three children. He is a member and Sunday School teacher at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.