Dr. Christopher “Lee” Canipe
Dr. Christopher “Lee” Canipe was born in Winston-Salem, NC and attended Davidson College where he graduated with honors in History. After earning master’s degrees in History at the University of Virginia and Counseling at Wake Forest University, he felt a calling to the ministry. He pursued his theological education at Duke University where he graduated with his Master of Divinity, summa cum laude. At Duke, he earned the Interpretation Award for Excellence in Biblical and Theological Study.
While working on his degree he also served as youth minister at Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham. After graduation, he worked as a pastoral assistant at First Baptist Church of Savannah, GA. From there he spent a year as a Global Service Corps missionary to Russia. Upon his return to the States, Lee continued his theological education at Baylor University where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies.
Most recently, Lee was awarded an Oxford Foundation Fellowship for independent postdoctoral study at Oxford University in Great Britain. Upon graduation, Lee and his wife Hilary, a primary care physician, were called to serve Murfreesboro Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, NC as senior pastor. Here he has faithfully served for the last 12 years. During his time in Murfreesboro, Lee has led his congregation in a strategic reflection process, two capital campaigns, greater community involvement through service partnerships and other events, and the development of an international missions relationship with a French-Canadian Baptist Church in Quebec.
Lee has also been an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Chowan University for the last 10 years. He has authored two books, “Loyal Dissenters; Reading Scripture and Talking Freedom with the Early English Baptists,” and “A Baptist Democracy: Separating God and Caesar in the Land of the Free,” as well as numerous journal articles and book reviews. He has also written Sunday School and Bible Study materials for Smyth & Helwys.
Lee has been an important part of the Baptist community and his local community. He has strong ties to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as he served on its Coordinating Council for several years. Lee has also served on the board of Ridgecroft School (Ahoskie, NC), and the Board of Ministers at Chowan University and Campbell University. Lee has been an active volunteer in his community through his involvement with Rotary International as well as coaching numerous athletic teams. His contributions to the community have been recognized through several different awards: Rotarian of the Year, the Chowan Athletics Service Award, and the Sammy Doughtie Community Service Award (given by the Chamber of Commerce).
Lee and Hilary have three children: Helen (14), Watson (12), and Peter (9). His interests include running, travel, reading (especially American history), and college basketball.
Bachelor in History – Davidson College
Masters in History – University of Virginia
Masters in Counseling – Wake Forest University
Masters in Divinity – Duke University
Doctor of Philosophy – Baylor University
Ordained to the ministry by First Baptist Church, Greensboro, North Carolina on November 23, 1997
Minister with Youth
Watts Street Baptist Church
1996 – 1998
First Baptist Church
1998 – 1999
Missionary to Russia
1999 – 2000
Doctor of Philosophy
2000 – 2004
Murfreesboro Baptist Church
2004 – 2016
Providence Baptist Church
2016 – Present
Books Loyal Dissenters: Reading Scripture and Talking Freedom with the Early English Baptists
A Baptist Democracy: Separating God and Caesar in the Land of the Free
Chapter Freedom, Commitment, and the Challenges of Pledging of Allegiance in America’s Public Schools
In Church-State Issues in America Today
Multiple Journal Articles, Book Reviews and Additional Published Works
Service Beyond The Church:
Coordinating Council, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship – 2008 – 2011
Board of Trustees & Coach, Ridgecroft School – 2014 – Present
Board of Ministerial Associates, Chowan University 2006 – 2009, 2011 – Present; Vice-chair 2008, Chair 2009
Alumnus Advisor to the Chowan University Colony, Kappa Sigma Fraternity – 2011
Board of Ministers, Campbell University – 2009 – Present
Past President, Paul Harris Fellow, Public Relations Chair, Vocational Service Chair, Rotary
International, Murfreesboro Club – 2005 – Present
When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You have established; what are human beings that You are mindful of them, mortals that You care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)
Rarely, it seems, do we recognize those decisive turning points in our lives when they actually happen. It’s only in retrospect that they assume their true significance. So, I was on a boat, in the middle of a lake, near the Swiss city of Lucerne. Alpine peaks towered all around the water’s edge. It was one of those perfectly blue sky, impossibly clear fall days, and I remember looking at the mountains and hearing myself think, “I want to spend my life serving the God who made all this.” That was it. A flicker of spiritual insight that went nearly as fast as it came.
But it never went away entirely. I was in Lucerne because what I’d really wanted to do during that fall semester of my junior year in college didn’t work out. It was a bitter disappointment—and yet that disappointment, in a roundabout way, put me in a position to hear my spirit respond to the majesty of God one fall morning in Switzerland. What captured my imagination, and still holds it tightly even now, some twenty-five years later, was the awe I felt in the presence of the God who made all this. Since then—maybe before that, but I can’t be certain—the most important spiritual question for me, the one that has guided, strengthened, and sustained my faith, has been this question of Who? Who made all this? Who loves me? Who can I trust? Who is the source of all truth and goodness? Who speaks to my soul and invites me to step out further than I can see?
There are, of course, other profound spiritual questions through which God lives and moves in our lives, questions of how, why, where, and when. For some people, these are the questions that stir their spirits, the ones they fall back upon when they sense the Lord whispering their names. For me, however, the way I have tended to hear God’s voice and discern God’s leadership rarely makes sense to me in a way that can be explained in terms of how, why, where, and when. I remember sitting at Smith Reynolds airport in Winston-Salem one night with the late Ed Christman, the longtime chaplain at Wake Forest. I was unburdening myself to him. I feel called to serve God through the church, I told him, but I’m having trouble explaining it to people. Rather than answer me directly, Ed instead told me about his own experience with the same struggle and how he finally turned on one persistent friend who kept demanding an explanation for why in the world Ed would abandon a promising law career in order to enter the ministry. “Why did you get married?” Ed asked him. After each proffered reason—love, companionship, security, and so on—Ed would fire back, “Well, yeah, but you don’t have to be married to get that!” Finally, the poor guy blurted out, “I can’t explain it, but it just felt like the right thing to do!” With that, Ed turned and looked at me. “And that’s how you’ve gotta be, brother. Trust God to do the right thing,” he said. “You don’t have to explain it to anyone else.”
It remains, perhaps, the single best word of spiritual counsel I’ve ever received. Time and again—whether it be to attend divinity school, serve as a missionary in Russia, begin graduate school at Baylor, accept the call to serve as a pastor in Murfreesboro, agree to start a conversation with Providence’s pastor search committee, or take countless thousands of smaller steps in between—I have only (and I do mean only) been able to step out in faith because I trust God to do the right thing. My faith is not in the how, why, where, or when. It’s in the Who. If I get that right, then these more vexing (and, for me, frightening) questions tend to be resolved in a way that confirms my faith. Indeed, some of my greatest joy as a Christian has come in saying Yes to God without having any answers to those how, why, where, or when questions—and then watching with amazement and gratitude as God works it all out.
When I am anxious, when I am discouraged, when I am scared, when I wrestle with doubt, or am in the midst of one of those awful seasons of waiting for something that I can’t put my finger on but I know is out there, what I hang onto with deep reverence and determined hope is my faith in the God who revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ. A God who is great enough to create the Alps, yet humble enough to become weak and suffer for my sake, is a God whom I can trust to take care of my life, both now and forever. For, as I have come to believe, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Because I know Who loves me, I can trust that this promise is true. Because I trust that this promise is true, I can offer my life in service to the God who made all this and is, even now, working to redeem it through the grace, love, and mercy of Jesus Christ.
“We call it a search. But in truth God has been leading Providence Baptist Church to your next leader, Lee Canipe, who was also following God’s lead towards just this moment. In Christ you found each other! Lee is prepared for PBC; his ministry is full of gifts and grace that will yield fruit for many years ahead. Lee is a deeply spiritual and beloved minister who has thoughtfully spoken the good news of the gospel in word and deed both in his community and beyond to the greater world. PBC, you are beloved church with a beautiful future held tenderly in Gods hand and it Starts Here! CBF and the Baptist family in the US and around the world rejoice with you.”
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
“Lee Canipe is a bright young pastoral leader! His energy and vision will truly be a blessing. He has been well prepared and trained for leading Providence into an exciting new chapter.”
Dr. Bo Prosser
Coordinator of Organizational Relationships
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
“While I have known Lee Canipe for a long time, it was not until we began to meet when he would come to Davidson College to do sermon research that we became good friends. I came to discover his insight into scripture, his relational skills due to his genuine interest in others, his collaborative style of leadership, his commitment to God’s call to ministry and his keen understanding of congregational life. There is no pretense about him. He is authentic, the real thing.”
Dr. Jack Causey
Ministerial Transitions Facilitator
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina
“I’ve been privileged to know Lee Canipe for over a decade. He has been an outstanding pastor and dedicated member of the CBF family in North Carolina and beyond. When it comes to faithful, effective pastoral leaders, Lee is the total package. A thoughtful scholar, inspiring preacher, caring pastor and engaging leader, Lee will help Providence live into a fruitful future as the church writes the next chapter in its storied history. I am excited for Lee and Providence as you begin your journey together as pastor and people.”
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina
“I am very pleased that the Search Committee is recommending Dr. Lee Canipe as the next Pastor of Providence Baptist Church. I have known Lee in several capacities beyond just a professional acquaintance. Lee’s father-in-law, Dr. Bill Leathers, has been a friend for many years. Most of all, Suzanne and I have known Lee as a good friend of our son, Chris. Lee and Chris became friends during their seminary days.In fact, Lee was a groomsman in Chris and Heather’s wedding. So, Lee is no stranger. He has done an exceptional job as Pastor in Murfreesboro and will provide great leadership for Providence. Suzanne and I will be praying for Lee and Hillary, and the entire family as they make their way into life at Providence. Good days are ahead for the Canipe’s and for our church.”
Dr. Al Cadenhead
Providence Baptist Church