By Terry Maples
Suzii Paynter brought her personal passion for advocacy to her role as Executive Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Paynter’s commitment to
advocacy is evident in the hiring of Stephen Reeves to coordinate advocacy efforts for CBF and the securing of David Gushee as CBF theologian-in-residence.
“Advocacy as mission is about people and policies, NOT about politics; it is about solving problems and addressing needs, NOT winning at all costs.” That’s the message that was delivered at the 2014 CBF General Workshop led by Gushee and Reeves titled “Developing a Biblical Basis for Advocacy.”
Reeves shared his understanding of what CBF advocacy includes: discovering advocates already at work in CBF life; promoting and encouraging new ways of advancing the mission work of our churches and field personnel ministering in CBF’s Mission Communities; developing new ways for younger Baptists and laity to engage and work with CBF; elevating the identity of CBF as the type of Baptists who work with others for the common good; modeling a more effective, positive and inclusive public witness for the church; and seizing the opportunity to help make a difference in our communities, states, nation and world.
Reeves noted CBF advocacy is NOT about:
- passing resolutions or finding the single, official or “right” side of political issues
- selecting issues and forcing them on churches or pastors
- asking churches to get involved in partisan politics
- endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Gushee offered these theological foundations for a CBF public witness:
- The Sovereignty of God/Lordship of Christ over all of life (without exception). All mistreatment of people is because of sin. Consequently, we must strive to “advance obedience to God’s will on earth.”
- Government’s mandate to advance public justice. A very strong theme of justice in public life can be seen throughout scripture.
- Our call as Christians to love our neighbors. Loving neighbor is the highest moral obligation and includes all, even those who are not like us. Our love for people motivates us to serve them and address factors contributing to social ills.
- Compassionate concern for “the least of these.” How we treat “the least of these” is how we treat Jesus.
- The sacred worth of the human person. All are created in the image of God. “We must commit to human flourishing for everyone, without exception.”
- Exercising responsible Christian citizenship in a democracy. We are Christians first, but we are also concerned about being good citizens.
- Concern for community and the common good. What happens to one person in community happens to all. We care because God cares about what happens at every level of human community.
This workshop was an excellent first conversation about the intersection of advocacy and missions in the Fellowship. We were challenged to faithfully live into our calling to “speak out for those who cannot speak” (Proverbs 31:8). I especially appreciated the reminder that advocacy involves working for one person AND working for systemic change AND empowering folks to advocate for themselves.
If you would like to learn more or engage in CBF advocacy efforts, contact Stephen Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry Maples is field coordinator for the Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.