“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,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, said of Smith, who has served as executive editor of Florida Baptist Witness since 2001. “I have known Jim Smith for many years, and I have seen the evidence of his work and leadership up close. I am tremendously proud to have him return to Southern Seminary in this important new capacity.
“I am so thankful for Jim Smith’s commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention and to the cooperative work of our denomination. 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,” Mohler said.
In the new position, Smith, 48, will oversee the editorial content of the seminary’s publications, supervise the seminary’s news operation, and lead public and media relations. He is expected to start no later than Aug. 1.
Smith expressed excitement about returning to the seminary’s administration, having served 1997-2001 as news and public relations director at the school.
“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to serve again at Southern Seminary,” Smith said in a May 9 statement to the Witness board of directors.
“Because President Albert Mohler is such a pivotal figure in Southern Baptist life and the broader evangelical world, this is a wonderful opportunity to minister in a place of great significance to our denomination and the Kingdom,” Smith said.
While expressing great “affection” for Florida Baptists, Smith said he is convinced God is calling him to Southern.
“I have been blessed abundantly by serving as executive editor of Florida Baptist Witness,” he said. “My time here has greatly shaped me, making me the minister I am today.”
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 announces 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,” he 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.”
Whitten said Smith’s “accomplishments are many, and we have been tremendously blessed to have had Jim at the helm these past 12 years.”
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. “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.”
In Smith’s 12 years at the Witness, the official newspaper of the Florida Baptist State Convention, he has emphasized coverage on missions, theology and moral concerns. The Witness website (gofbw.com), established in 2002, is now vastly expanded with readers across the Southern Baptist Convention and is watched closely by reporters of Florida newspapers. His editorials took a strong, conservative position on issues within the denomination and in the broader culture.
Under Smith’s leadership, the print edition of the newspaper has gone through three redesigns, added color, and moved from a weekly to a bi-weekly print edition. It is available on mobile devices and in a digital online format.
In 2011-2012, Smith served as president of the Association of State Baptist Publications, the fellowship of state Baptist newspaper editors.
Previously, Smith worked in public relations at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. Also, he was the first Washington, D.C., staff member of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, serving 1989-1995.
Smith earned a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary in 1999 and is also a graduate of Dallas Baptist University. He and his wife, Linda, are parents to two adult children.