‘We’ve been commissioned by God to change the world,’ Griffen proclaims
in Thursday evening commissioning service
GREENSBORO, N.C. – In his message Thursday night, Judge Wendell Griffen, pastor of the New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark., quoted Elwood from The Blues Brothers’, donned dark sunglasses and challenged Cooperative Baptists to be on a “mission from God.”
To act on God’s behalf is an audacious belief, Griffen said. “However audacious our calling and claims may seem, remember that our audacity must be traced to God. God, who had the audacity to empty divine grace and truth into humanity and place it in the world in Jesus, is at work with us,” Griffen said.
“We’ve been commissioned to proclaim God’s good news to people in bad situations and change the world. We’ve been sent to shout freedom to people imprisoned by life and the order of things. We’ve been sent by God to declare new vision to people blinded by the weight of their past and present realities. We’ve been sent by God to call people who’ve been oppressed by greed, pride, power, violence and hate and declare their freedom. We’ve been commissioned by God to change the world.”
During the service that featured readings and songs in Arabic, Spanish and the Yoruba language from Nigeria, attendees gave $21,197.83 to support CBF’s work around the world. An additional offering on Friday night will go to the Offering for Global Missions, which provides for the salary, benefits and operating and ministry expenses of fully-funded field personnel and member care, health insurance, technology support and travel stipends for self-funded personnel.
CBF commissioned eight field personnel and church starters and recognized 48 new CBF-endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors.
Bo Prosser, coordinator of missional congregations, and Jim Smith, interim coordinator of global missions, led a litany of commissioning for the field personnel and church starters. “God has called. Your communities of faith have affirmed that call, and you have responded. These who stand with you represent all of the fellowship of CBF churches, and we are sending you out to invest your lives in the work of Christ,” Smith said.
During the service, George Pickle, CBF chaplaincy and pastoral counseling endorser, and Angela Lowe, chair of the CBF Council on Endorsement, recognized 48 chaplains and pastoral counselors endorsed by the Fellowship in the past year, bringing the total number of CBF-endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors to more than 700.
Ethics luncheon previews forthcoming documentary
on faith community’s engagement with prisons
GREENSBORO, N.C. – At a luncheon sponsored by the Baptist Center for Ethics (BCE) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, BCE Executive Director Robert Parham introduced the crowded ballroom to a new documentary on faith and prisons. This forthcoming documentary will be released in early 2014 and highlights the faith community’s engagement with prisons including outreach to inmates and officers.
Parham noted that the nationwide recidivism rate for those incarcerated is more than 40 percent. “Both political parties are recognizing that the recidivism rates are way too high and the cost of prisons are busting state budgets,” Parham said.
Parham explained that the only group making a real tangible difference on this issue is the faith community. He hopes that this documentary will raise much-needed awareness of the need for prison reform.
“I think what we can do that advances the common good is to show what others are doing in hopes that it will spark the imaginations of congregations across the country to emulate and duplicate those models,” Parham added.
Two versions of the documentary will be released with a shorter version geared for the general public and a longer version designed to be used by congregations.
New constitution and bylaws presented
at Assembly’s first business session
GREENSBORO, N.C. – A new constitution and bylaws that will replace the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s representative Coordinating Council with four smaller bodies was presented to the General Assembly Thursday morning during the first business session.
The changes call for a Governing Board that will provide oversight for CBF with the help of three other bodies – the Nominating Committee and the Ministries and Missions councils. The plan will be voted on Friday, along with the proposed $12.4 million 2013-14 budget and the nominating committee report.
The nominating committee report included two new officers for 2013-14 – Kasey Jones, senior pastor of National Memorial Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., as moderator-elect and Jason Coker, pastor of Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Conn., as recorder. The report also included 13 members of the Governing Board, with Bill McConnell leading the group; six members of the Ministries Council with Michael Cheuk, senior minister at University Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., as chair; and five members of the Missions Council with Mimi Walker, pastor of Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta, as chair.
Chaplaincy luncheon honors George Pickle
for 12 years of CBF service
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The CBF Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling luncheon honored George Pickle Thursday, who is retiring after 12 years with CBF. Pickle said he was overwhelmed with the more than 150 people who attended the luncheon, many of whom gave testimonies of how Pickle had impacted their lives professionally and personally.
“The thing that is indelibly imprinted with me is how hard it was for me to go back to work at the same trauma unit, in the same hospital where they brought my daughter,” she said. “But without telling me, George drove up to where I was working and sat for hours in that office. He let me cry, and he really didn’t say much of anything. It just meant so much to me that he was there.”
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said she learned how vital chaplaincy ministry was when she had responsibility for chaplaincy with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and when she became CBF Executive Coordinator, she said she had one request.
“I want to see chaplains included in our commissioning services for new field personnel,” Paynter said. “For me, this is witness that what you do serves the kingdom of God in the way that brothers and sisters in local congregations cannot. They won’t be with the people that you are with.”
This unique and beautiful ministry, co-ministering with other chaplains and other expressions of ministry so that your commission is only done by you,” she said. “What it means to be the presence of Christ, the kingdom of God, at the hospital bedside, to the individual service person, the individual inmates, to the tough conversations with families at hospitals on advance directives. That is no broad brush. That is the kingdom of God.”
Together for Hope interim manager
charges Mission Advocates to be ‘bullhorns’
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The interim manager for a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship program that works to help break the cycle of economic disparity in more than 25 of the nation’s poorest counties encouraged a group of CBF missions advocates Thursday to be “bullhorns” for communities in need.
Stephanie Vance told the breakfast meeting of more than 70 people that “we could not work in any of these places without the bullhorns.”
Launched in 2001, the program, called Together for Hope, is a ministry that works to establish long-term relationships, while listening, learning and walking alongside local leaders. The hope is that communities will be transformed as will the churches and individuals who serve in local counties.
Mission advocates – the bullhorns – say, “together we can make this happen – you can make this happen,” Vance said.
She said an important element of Together for Hope’s work is that it seeks to accomplish what a community wants to accomplish using the community’s own assets.
Together for Hope has ministries in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.
Vance is a graduate of the University of South Alabama and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. In 2010, she began her tenure with CBF Louisiana as the Together for Hope Missionary in the East Carroll and Tensas parishes. Vance has been involved in missions work in diverse locations across the United States as well as Panama and Tanzania.
Current hosts lunch for networking and fellowship
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Current, CBF’s young leader’s network met Thursday for lunch and fellowship at Natty Greene’s, a locally-owned restaurant. More than 60 young Baptists and supporters gathered in the restaurant’s rustic third floor loft for an informal meal and opportunity to network with one another.
Chris Aho, Current coordinator and pastor of Oxford Baptist Church in Oxford, N.C., was encouraged by the event’s attendance and the energy of those present.
“The Current lunch gathering provided an excellent venue for young Baptists to gather, reconnect and get connected with each other,” Aho said. “It helps us reach our immediate goal of connecting real life faces of friends so that in the days ahead, we will be better connected and equipped, locally and regionally, for seamless support, partnership and collaborative ministry.”
Thursday breakout sessions include focus on
8 CBF Mission Communities fostering online collaboration
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Breakout sessions at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly on Thursday afternoon offered information about CBF’s eight mission communities. These networks, which are centered on distinct kinds of service, foster discussion, sharing of resources and hands-on engagement through CBF’s mission interest website, missioncommunities.org. The website is open to individuals, churches, ministries and CBF field personnel and partners.
Church Starts and Faith Sharing Ministries – A group of 30 women and men of all ages, gathered to discuss the CBF church starts process during the Church Starts Mission Community breakout session. Facilitator Susan Rogers, a church starter from Jacksonville, Fla., discussed available church starting resources and ways existing congregations can engage with new church starts. A panel of current church starters shared about the challenges and successes in their work. Panelists included Andy Hale of Mosaic in Clayton, N.C, Joshua Hearne of Grace and Main in Danville, Va., and Linda Jones of the Via Faith Community in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Economic Development Ministries – In a conversation facilitated by Brian Foreman, an overflow crowd of more than 75 shared stories and concerns, asked questions and proposed answers on building a long-term vision and commitment to a community in need. Forman presented the necessary parts of fostering genuine economic development, including providing immediate relief to the powerless, helping people participate in a return to their pre-crisis lives and helping people participate in rebuilding their lives above the status quo level.
Justice and Peacemaking Ministries – Cindy Ruble led a workshop on how to prevent child sexual abuse. Ruble, one of CBF’s field personnel, advocates on behalf of women and children in Penang, Malaysia. She highlighted various myths of sexual abuse and offered strategies for both churches and parents on how to be proactive in protecting children.
Healthcare Ministries – Two CBF field personnel – Tammy Stocks and Dianne McNary – and a senior national church relations associate for Bread for the World, Dianne Ford Dessables, led a session on impacting communities through health care ministries. The session detailed two projects, Bread for the World’s 1,000 Days Initiative and Community Health Evangelism.
Internationals Ministries – Nell Green, one of CBF’s field personnel, led a workshop featuring five panelists from around the world who spoke on immigration issues as well as other topics affecting internationals. She also discussed how churches can respond to these needs.
Disaster Response Ministries – Cooperative Baptist Fellowship U.S. Disaster Response Coordinator Tommy Deal discussed CBF’s proactive response to communities in need in the wake of disaster. Joining him were the Rev. Will Baker, pastor of Drummondtown Baptist Church in Accomac, Va., and the Rev. Rusty Edwards, pastor of University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., both who led disaster relief efforts in their communities and told their stories for attendees of the session.
Poverty and Transformation Ministries – On Thursday afternoon, Stephanie Vance, interim manager for Together for Hope, CBF’s rural poverty initiative, led a breakout session focusing its work. Vance told attendees that Together for Hope has expanded its ministry reach beyond its 20-county focus because of the interests of participants. This mission community is made up of individuals, churches, CBF field personnel and partner ministries that work together with local communities to meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs while addressing systemic causes of poverty, building capacity and being advocates.
Education Ministries – Emily Holladay and Mary Beth Foust, the inaugural recipients of the Vestal Scholarship in honor of former CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal, led a conversation on how churches can nurture a sense of calling within individuals. The two recent seminary graduates shared from their own experiences of sensing a call to ministry and how their churches impacted their journey to seminary. Foust also shared examples of how churches can create a culture that nurtures call. In addition to the Vestal Scholars’ presentation, Sam Bandela, one of CBF’s field personnel, shared opportunities for people to minister through education programs in India.
The following writers contributed to these stories: Emily Holladay, Jeff Huett, Jeff Langford, Bob Perkins and Aaron Weaver.