VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/10/16)—Susan Gillies, the Interim General Secretary for American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) and a resident of Omaha, Neb., will be awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, during May 14 commencement exercises on the main campus of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kan. The seminary is recognizing her for her significant contribution during her years of Board service to the school, as well as her decades of “creative and excellent ministry.”
“It is a great joy for Central to be able to honor Susan Gillies with this degree,” said the Rev. Molly T. Marshall, Ph.D., Central’s president and professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation. “Not only does this degree recognize how she has served American Baptist Churches in a variety of ways, but also it reflects Central’s appreciation for her faithful service on our Board of Trustees. Dr. Gillies made a strong contribution in helping shape Central’s future horizon, especially her strong advocacy for a Doctor of Ministry program.”
“American Baptist Churches USA-Office the General Secretary and its Board of General Ministries celebrates this well-deserved honor conferred upon our Interim General Secretary,” said the Rev. Judy K. Fackenthal, president of ABCUSA. “At a time of significant transition denominationally, Susan Gillies serves as a calm, steady guiding force. Her leadership over the years has brought that same presence to American Baptist sisters and brothers throughout the country. Personally, I find Susan a source of infinite wisdom, wit and grace. How grand it is to see her contributions recognized by Central Seminary.”
“Susan Gillies is both a model and mentor to me,” explained the Rev. Dr. Tom Wiles, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island, and a recent Central Seminary graduate. “During a time of radical, sometimes frightening change, she refuses to engage in unhelpful criticism of denominational colleagues, churches and partners. Instead, she speaks out for inclusion, vision, hope, hard work and even joy.”
Gillies began her interim role Jan. 1, 2016, as the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, general secretary for the denomination the previous 14 years, entered retirement. A major responsibility for Gillies is to assist American Baptist churches to adapt to societal and religious changes in the world until a new General Secretary is appointed next year.
Susan Gillies has a broad range of experience and skills in connection with the ABC denomination and beyond. She has held a wide variety of posts in the fields of education and electronic media.
She retired in 2010 after serving 10 years as Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Nebraska. During that time she also served two terms as President of the Regional Executive Ministers Council for the denomination.
Prior to that she served as Deputy Executive Director of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), then known as National Ministries. A lay woman, she also served that organization as Manager of the Ministry of the Laity in the Workplace Program, working with ABHMS for 13 years total. The organization also commissioned her as a home missionary.
Earlier in her career, Gillies was a faculty member at the University of North Dakota (UND) also at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and the University of Sioux Falls (USF), working in public radio at each school. Gillies directed the building of the first broadcast station at USF, hosted programs in radio and television at EKU and served in North Dakota as News Director, then Program Director and General Manager for two National Public Radio (NPR) stations licensed to UND. Gillies also served as Executive Director of the North Dakota Broadcasters Association. At KFJM, licensed to UND, she produced numerous news and music programs, documentaries and live coverage of political and community events. She has contributed to NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
Susan Gillies’ Board service in addition to service for Central Baptist Theological Seminary, has included American Baptist Women’s Ministries, Green Lake Conference Center (American Baptist Assembly) and Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska.
She is the co-author of two books, Renewing God’s People, published by ABHMS, and Empowering Laity Engaging Leaders, part of the Judson Press Living Church series. She was part of the first Baptist Peace Fellowship Tour of the then Soviet Union, traveling to Siberia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
In retirement she has done local church consulting and has recorded well over 100 podcasts for the ABHMS website. She also wrote a weekly newspaper column for the Bridgeport, Neb., News-Blade. Gillies also enjoys an avocation as a silversmith. She is a member of Benson Baptist Church in her hometown.
“When I was a child in Nebraska, I knew that Central Seminary was ‘our seminary,” Gillies said upon learning she would be awarded the honorary degree. “That sense of possessiveness stuck and much, much later I was honored to serve for nine years on the board. I am delighted with the vibrant health of the school under the leadership of Dr. Marshall and pray for its continuing ministry. To be recognized by the seminary is a tremendous honor.”
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.