June 18, 2015
By Aaron Weaver and Carrie McGuffin
DALLAS — The second day of the 2015 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly opened with a time of prayer for the nine people who were killed by a gunman during a Wednesday night prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in Charleston, S.C.
“Our family has been injured,” CBF Moderator Kasey Jones told the room of Cooperative Baptists in attendance for the business session. “I would like for us to pause and pray for another family in crisis. Lord, we ask that you will minister to us and minister to those who have been affected by this tragedy.”
Jay Kieve, CBF of South Carolina coordinator, asked the crowd to pray for the pastor of Emanuel AME, the families of the victims, and to “pray for the healing of racial division and an end to racial violence.”
In her address entitled “Bridges at Hand,” CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter emphasized the both/and nature of the Fellowship.
“There is tremendous power in and,” said Paynter, focusing on the symbol of the ampersand (&) as a defining feature of statements about CBF. “As a community of Christians we have been ministering, missioning and living a witness to the power of and.
“To some degree, we as CBF have built our identity on and — because Cooperative Christianity is an ampersand endeavor.”
Paynter highlighted the new branding identity of the Fellowship implemented this past spring. Throughout the rebranding process, Cooperative Baptists were asked to describe CBF, and the brand research found that CBF was consistently described with an ampersand sentence, emphasizing the work that the Fellowship is doing locally and globally, connecting and engaging through both churches and individuals.
“This is what we mean when we say we are a denomi-network,” Paynter said. “Expression and reflections of a great community loosely woven together but reflecting the leadership and call of each individual context — this is not relativism, syncretism or cultural dilution of the gospel. Ampersand is addition, not subtraction. Cooperative Christianity is an ampersand endeavor.”
Paynter linked this connective and cooperative Christianity with the ministry of Jesus and his calling of the disciples to cast their nets wide. She challenged the Assembly to also cast their nets wide and become the leaders that can catch the world in free fall.
“In the words of Richard Rohr — he beckons us with the voice of Christ to the shining word ‘and,’’ Paynter said. “’And’ teaches us to say yes, ‘and’ allows us to be both/and, ‘and’ keeps us from either/or, ‘and’ teaches us to be patient and long suffering, ‘and’ is willing to wait for insight and integration, ‘and’ keeps us from dualistic thinking, ‘and’ allows to live the always and perfect now, ‘and’ keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything, ‘and’ demands that our contemplation become action, ‘and’ insists that our action is also contemplative, ‘and’ helps heal our racism, our sexism, our privilege or classism, ‘and’ keeps us from the false choice of liberal or conservative…’and’ does not trust justice if it is not also love.”
During the time of business, Cooperative Baptists heard a finance update from Jean Willingham of the CBF Governing Board, reports from the CBF Foundation, CBF Church Benefits, CBF Nominating Committee and CBF Governing Board. The slate of nominees from the Nominating Committee and Governing Board recommendations to be voted on Friday by the Assembly is available online here.
The CBF Foundation also presented two awards to Cooperative Baptists who have modeled excellence and generous giving. Patsy Ann Landry Weeks of Bangs, Texas, received the Award of Excellence for Generous Giving, and Barbara “Babs” Baugh of San Antonio, Texas, was honored with the Patricia Ayres Award of Excellence.
The Assembly heard an update from the CBF Missions Council by Missions Council Chair Mike Oliver alongside CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter and Governing Board member Paul Baxley, who also serves as chair of the ad hoc Committee on Global Missions Structures and Staffing. They shared about the ongoing strategic planning process that began earlier this year. On Tuesday, Oliver said, more than 80 CBF field personnel and CBF state and regional organization leaders participated in a planning discussion. Oliver called the time of discussion “spiritually energizing” for the Missions Council.
“As the Mission Council studied and learned about our mission contexts, we all felt a deep sense that God was calling us to this visioning process,” Oliver said. “The commitment to share the gospel from those early days still remains, but changing contexts demands new models of witness and new structures to support them.”
Porter reported that since January CBF’s 120 career field personnel have been engaged in structured conversations with one another as part of this strategic planning process, discussing together ideas about possible funding models. He added that the greatest contribution has been the development of CBF mission distinctives.
“Our field personnel have moved us beyond slogans to offer the entire Fellowship a common language for our common witness to the Triune God,” Porter said. “They identify three commitments — cultivating beloved community, bearing witness to Jesus Christ, and seeking transformational development — that provide a consistent and biblical way to talk about God’s mission in the world and our participation in it.”
Oliver and Porter encouraged attendees to continuing supporting the CBF Offering for Global Missions, which makes possible the ministries of the CBF’s mission enterprise.
“’I believe God is leading us to develop stronger bonds with Baptist Christians around the world, to engage in more focused and effective missions and to support local churches in a truly cooperative approach to global short and long-term engagement,” Oliver said. “But faithfulness to that vision will require sacrificial giving just like those children who pooled their pennies, nickels and dimes to hand Jimmy Allen that first contribution to a new cooperative program in 1990.”
“Like our founders, I still believe we can do more together than apart,” Porter said. “We live in a new missionary situation where the missional church is meeting the global church on the mission field. That forces us to rethink mission engagement from the ground up. …It’s simply a new day that requires new structures. The Holy Spirit is presenting us with opportunities we didn’t dream about 25 years ago.”
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.