Smith, executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, told board members May 9 he will leave by July 31 to take on his new role at the Louisville, Ky., campus. He has served as executive editor of the Witness since 2001. The seminary announced Smith's hiring Wednesday (May 15).
"Jim Smith is one of the most respected journalists and writers in the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a man of great gifts and tremendous experience," said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary. "I have known Jim Smith for many years and I have seen the evidence of his work and leadership up close."
Smith previously served at Southern Seminary from 1997-2001 as news director and later as director of public relations. From 1995-97 he was news and information director at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and from 1989-95 he was director of government relations for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
In the new position, Smith, 48, will oversee the editorial content of the seminary's publications, supervise the seminary's news operations and lead public and media relations.
"I am so thankful for Jim Smith's commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention and to the cooperative work of our denomination," Mohler said.
"He will bring a wealth of experience to this new position. Furthermore, he is passionately committed to the development of a Christian worldview and to the equipping of the church. We welcome Jim and Linda Smith back to Southern Seminary."
Smith said he has been "blessed abundantly by serving as executive editor of Florida Baptist Witness. My time here has greatly shaped me, making me the minister I am today. Members of the Witness board have been unfailingly supportive. I'm particularly thankful for the godly counsel and direction I have received from each board chairman."
Smith said he is grateful for the support from Florida Baptist leaders, including John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention. He noted "producing the Witness is heavily dependent on a capable staff, which I have been blessed with over the years. I'm appreciative of the hard and dedicated work of the Witness staff, especially Joni and John Hannigan."
In Smith's 12 years at the Witness, the official newspaper of the Florida Baptist State Convention, he has emphasized coverage of missions, theology and moral concerns. The Witness website (gofbw.com), established in 2002, has gained readers across the Southern Baptist Convention and is watched closely by reporters of Florida newspapers.
In 2011-12, Smith served as president of the Association of State Baptist Publications, the fellowship of state Baptist newspaper editors.
Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz and chairman of the Witness board of directors, said in a May 13 statement it was with a "mixture of joy and sadness" that the board announced Smith's departure.
Whitten said the board has joy in the knowledge that Smith will be able to work for the institution he loves. "He is not only a graduate of Southern but his love runs deep for Dr. Al Mohler and the entire staff; and like Florida Baptists, he will serve them well," Whitten said.
"Our sadness is that for 12 years Jim Smith and Florida Baptists have been talking to one another through articles, editorials and reports," Whitten said. "And we will miss his conservative mind, theological heart, his political views and gifted pen."
Speaking on behalf of the board and Florida Baptists, Whitten told Smith he will be greatly missed.
"We pray God's best for you and Linda as you begin a new chapter in Louisville, Ky.," he said, referencing Smith's wife. "They will love you as we have. Thank you for your devotion to the Lord, the accuracy of your writing, and your heart that always came through in your editorials. You will be greatly missed."
Smith earned a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary in 1999 and also is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University. He and his wife are parents to two adult children.
Compiled by reporting from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and the Florida Baptist Witness.
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