By Aaron Weaver
DALLAS — The 2015 General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship kicked off Wednesday evening in downtown Dallas with a commissioning service for new field personnel, church starters, chaplains and pastoral counselors.
With more than 1,100 Cooperative Baptists gathered at the Hyatt Regency, six women and men were commissioned and added to the Fellowship’s growing group of 650 active chaplains and pastoral counselors who minister in diverse settings, from hospitals to jails and prisons to every branch of the United States military. Over the past year, CBF has endorsed 35 individuals as chaplains and pastoral counselors.
“Chaplains and pastoral counselors are partners in renewing God’s world as they embody the presence of Christ in these specialized settings,” said Gerry Hutchinson, CBF’s endorser for chaplains and pastoral counselors. “Tonight, I say to Eric Whitfield, Larry Johnson, Jeff Walton, Lee Ann Rathbun, Bisser Ovcharov and Cassandra Wilson: Your work is uniquely your calling. God has equipped you for such a time and for such a work as this. Live out your calling so that God calls out others through you.”
The Fellowship also commissioned three new church starters, including Michael Mills, pastor of Inland Church in Spokane, Wash., and Josh James and Doug McKinney, pastors of The Restoration Project in Salisbury, Md.
“As we commission you, you go being the incarnational presence of Christ as a partner in renewing God’s world,” CBF Church Starts leader Andy Hale told the new church starters. “Go with the hope and power of the Holy Spirit, being fully formed even as we continue to form together.”
Two new field personnel were also commissioned. David and Lauren Bass will work alongside the Cambodia Baptist Union as CBF field personnel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, helping new churches in the urban center of a predominantly rural country to become deep and sustainable.
“What we do here tonight is holy work — setting apart you, David and Lauren, for a sacred purpose,” said Steven Porter, CBF’s coordinator of Global Missions. “Your commissioning challenges us to remember the commission implicit in our own baptisms, to ponder anew what it means to follow Jesus not only as Savior but as Lord.”
The Wednesday evening service concluded with a litany and time of prayer and laying of hands on those being commissioned by the gathered body of Cooperative Baptists. CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter led the commissioning prayer and litany and offered a reminder of the need to be in community together as a fellowship.
“These candidates are here because we co-mission together,” Paynter said. “They each manifest an individual call. They have come from their local congregation of faith, but after discernment and training, after investment and prayer, they are here among us as a community of churches — with friends and strangers — seeking the hand of blessing and sending.
“Pay attention to this moment. It is speaking the message of strength through humility, that we alone are not sufficient but together we encourage these expressions of ministry to join with others. Pay attention to this moment when you bless this stranger into ministry. It is an act of faithful body-life — Christ in them, Christ in their congregation, Christ in you, Christ in all of us for the sake of the world.”
To keep up with news, photos and videos from the 2015 CBF General Assembly in Dallas, Texas, and for information on watching the online livestream of the evening June 17-19 worship and commissioning services of Assembly, please visit www.cbf.net/Dallas2015.
CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support.The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.