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Published on July 8th, 2015 | by ABCUSA


Remembering James Dunn, Former Executive Director of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty


VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 7/8/15)—On July 4, James M. Dunn, former executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and a great friend to American Baptist Churches, died. Dunn served the Baptist Joint Committee from 1981-1999, advocating for religious liberty and separation of church and state.

“James Dunn was a fierce advocate for religious liberty and a stalwart defender of what he called its institutional corollary, the separation of church and state,” said Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, chair of the Board of Directors of the Baptist Joint Committee and managing director of Resource Development with the American Baptist Home Mission Societies. “‎He was a true gentleman and a man of conviction. He pulled no punches when it came to the things that mattered most.”

As reported by Baptist News Global, Dunn’s robust leadership positioned the BJC to become one of the most respected voices on religious liberty in the nation’s capital. It was a key player in the passage of the Equal Access Act in 1984 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993.

“James was the finest Baptist spokesperson for religious liberty that I have known,” said Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA. “He was equally articulate whether arguing against attacks on religious liberty or reminding Baptists and others why separation of church and state was necessary for the protection of the church.  Dunn easily disarmed unknowing opponents with his colorful Southern speech only to trump their arguments with his keen intellect.  He was a great friend of American Baptists and of the American people.”

“On July 4, the world lost a great soul and champion of religious liberty who fought valiantly for the separation of church and state,” said Rev. Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, executive director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies. “While I am saddened by his passing, I cannot but help wondering if James Dunn chose to book his flight home to glory on July 4th to signify his commitment to liberty in all of its manifestations.”

After retiring from the Baptist Joint Committee in 1999, Dunn relocated to Winston-Salem, N.C., where he became professor of Christianity and Public Policy at the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University. Prior to his years with the Baptist Joint Committee, Dunn served for 12 years as executive director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, and also served as a pastor and campus minister, among other positions.

Today, supported by 15 Baptist bodies, the BJC continues to receive financial support from a variety of sources, including denominational bodies, foundations, churches and individuals.

Visit the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty website for more information, and to view tributes and photos of James Dunn.

A memorial service for James Dunn will be held at Knollwood Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C, on Saturday, July 18, at 11 a.m.

Primarily an education and advocacy organization, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is a leading voice in Washington, D.C., fighting to uphold the historic Baptist principle of religious freedom. It stands guard at the intersection of church and state, defending the first freedom of the First Amendment by protecting both the free exercise of religion and defending against its establishment by government. American Baptist Churches is one of the member Baptist bodies of the Baptist Joint Committee.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.

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