The Rev. Brad R. Braxton, a nationally known preacher and pastor of Baltimore's Douglas Memorial Community Church, has accepted an appointment to the faculty of Wake Forest Divinity School, which opened last fall in Winston-Salem, N. C.
Braxton will join the faculty of a school that aims to train moderate Baptist leaders as a balance to the increasingly conservative turn of the nation's second largest denomination.
"Both my wife and I are incredibly excited about this opportunity. I'm looking forward to the challenge of going into [the] classroom full time," said Braxton, 31.
Braxton came to Douglas Memorial, at Lafayette and Madison avenues, in 1995 with the understanding that he would make a five-year commitment to the congregation. He will fulfill that commitment in April and plans to stay until July to help with the transition.
"I'm the third pastor in 75 years [at Douglas Memorial]. So this congregation has a history of stability in terms of pastoral leadership," he said. Braxton's predecessor, the Rev. Marion C. Bascom Sr., served the congregation for 45 years.
The process of saying goodbye has been painful, he said.
"I just was not prepared for the overwhelming grief that has been experienced by the congregation," he said. "It was manifested in lots of ways, just like you'd see in a death, from denial and anger to depression. A lot of people talked like they were losing a son or grandson. I realized that outpouring of grief was actually saying something quite positive once you waded through the waves of emotion."
Braxton said he made it clear to the congregation when it hired him that academia would always be a part of his ministry. He is a 1991 graduate of the University of Virginia, and in 1993 he earned his master's degree in New Testament studies from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar. Braxton received his doctorate in New Testament studies from Emory University in Atlanta last year.
Braxton will serve as assistant professor of homiletics and biblical studies at Wake Forest, where he will teach classes in preaching and the New Testament. He also will be responsible for developing relations with black churches. He acknowledges that racism is a problem at Wake Forest University, and he plans to be outspoken on the topic.
Perhaps the greatest strength he will bring into the classroom will be the pastoral experience he had in Baltimore, he said.
"Taking a congregation that was somewhat biblically illiterate and really creating a curriculum that helped them to become literate in Scripture has been challenging, yet rewarding," he said.