Pro Ecclesia, Medal Of Service: Dr. Bill Pinson

October 5, 2010
Dr. Bill Pinson, executive director emeritus of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), is well deserving of the Pro Ecclesia Award. Pinson's life embodies the Baylor motto's "Pro Ecclesia" language. Among the many things he has done in Christian ministry, he has devoted much of his life to helping prepare people to start and strengthen churches.

Pinson's first memory of contact with the Baylor family came as a young boy, when he served as a candle lighter in the wedding of his cousin, Celestine Pinson, BA '44, MA '46, and Bo Baker, BA '45, MA '46, who later became Pinson's friend and mentor. The men in the wedding party were leaders in the famous Baylor youth revivals of the 1940s, and Pinson was impressed with their good humor and Christian character.

"Through the years, my contacts with Baylor students, faculty, alumni and administrators have been positive," he says.

Following a six-month orientation with executive director James Landes in 1982, Pinson served as executive director of the executive board of the BGCT from 1983 to 2000, the longest tenure of any person in that position. During this time, he led the statewide MISSION TEXAS emphasis which resulted in planting more than 2,000 new churches and missions. Prior to that, he served as professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary (1963-75), pastor of First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls (1975-77) and president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in California (1977-82). He has authored numerous books and articles and participated in various conferences, many devoted to strengthening churches.

Among other awards, Pinson has received the George W. Truett Distinguished Church Service Award at Baylor University as one whose life and career exemplified the late George W. Truett, honorary degrees from five universities, the W. Winfred Moore Award for Lifetime Achievement in Ministry, and the BGCT Elder Statesman Award. He is on the board of trustees of the Baylor Health Care System, serves as the volunteer director of the Texas Baptist Heritage Center and assists in coordinating the work of the BGCT Baptist Distinctives Council. He and his wife, Bobbie, have two daughters, both graduates of Baylor, and two grandsons who are current Baylor students.

Baylor's roots and growth are intertwined with the Baptist denomination, Pinson says.

"Baylor has been part of the Baptist denomination from Baylor's very beginning, while being open to students of all faiths," he says. "It was founded by Baptists at Independence. The first Baylor president was also pastor of Independence Baptist Church. The denomination as a whole has contributed to the well-being of Baylor, and Baylor has contributed to the denomination."

The university's commitment to maintaining denominational ties has fared well, he adds.

"I feel that Baylor has done better than most of the large universities that were once identified as denominational in maintaining a denominational identity. Many pressures exist to diminish or even to eliminate that distinctive."

Pinson also believes the reasons Baylor is important to the Baptist denomination as a whole are numerous.

"For one thing, Baylor provides a means for sharing the denominational distinctives from generation to generation," he says. "Beginning with its founders, Judge R.E.B. Baylor, William Tryon and James Huckins, early Baptist leaders in Texas who were devoted to starting and strengthening churches, Baylor has provided a means of transmitting the cherished values, beliefs and practices of Baptists. This includes the emphasis on the importance of churches.

"Throughout its history, Baylor has maintained a strong emphasis on developing leaders for churches and various Christian ministries as well as for all other aspects of society. I have been impressed by how many Baylor students serve in churches on staffs and in other ways while they are students and then later become very skilled, effective church leaders."

Baylor's emphasis on its Baptist heritage stands out to Pinson, who notes the wording on the recent presidential inauguration invitation and the official Baylor Web site as two examples.

"The invitation states, 'Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas and affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baylor is both the state's oldest continuously operating institution of higher education and the world's largest Baptist university.' The Web site states that Baylor is 'a private Baptist university, and a nationally-ranked liberal arts institution.' Baylor is not hiding its Baptistness under a bushel; it is clearly stated," says Pinson.

"To me, three things stand out about the ideals of Baylor: Baylor strives to be academically excellent, to be distinctly Christian, and to be unapologetically Baptist.

"Saying so does not make it so; it takes constant attention to maintain these ideals, including the relationship of Baylor to its denominational roots, through sacrificial support, election of the board and selection of leadership. Indeed, it requires consistent effort to maintain the ideals that benefit churches and society.

"If Baylor maintains its distinctive quality, and I hope and pray that it will, the contribution it will make to church and society -- 'Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana' -- by faculty, students, administrators and graduates is going to be terrific, perhaps without parallel."

Read the Profiles:

Alumnus of the Year: J. Cary Gray
Young Alumna of the Year: Katie Wilhoit Kilpatrick
Pro Ecclesia, Medal Of Service: Dr. Bill Pinson
Pro Texana, Medal Of Service: Sen. Kirk Watson
Baylor Legacy Award: Sadie Jo Black
Baylor Legacy Award: Sue Holt Getterman
Baylor Legacy Award: Harold Riley
Baylor Legacy Award: Clifton Robinson
Baylor Founders Medal: Charles and Mary Alice Wise
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