July 21, 2016
By Aaron Weaver
DECATUR, Ga. — Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Moderator Doug Dortch has appointed a five-member ad hoc committee to oversee implementation of the Illumination Project, an initiative adopted by the CBF Governing Board at the 2016 General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C., to build and strengthen unity through cooperation across the Fellowship.
The Illumination Project is a process of discernment and accompaniment involving CBF congregational leaders to illuminate the qualities that have built unity in CBF, and through discernment, identify intentional efforts by which the Fellowship can maintain and grow unity through cooperation.
Designed to create models of dialogue and decision-making for a cooperative body, the Illumination Project aims to provide “more light and less heat” in situations where the Fellowship finds itself in conflict or has varying convictions, furthering CBF’s commitment to seek intentional community in spite of differences. With a commitment to Scripture and reliance on foundational faith tenets as well as lessons from history, the Governing Board believes that the project can be used to enable new clarity regarding the process of cooperative Christian community in our current cultural context.
Dortch said that after much prayerful consideration and in consultation with CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter he had fulfilled the Governing Board’s directive to name members of the ad hoc committee and had selected Charlie Fuller, minister for congregational life at Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., to serve as the committee’s chair.
“As a former dean of the School of Fine Arts at Ouachita Baptist University, Charlie knows how to manage diverse viewpoints and personalities,” Dortch said. “As a church staff member, he understands how conversations on potentially controversial topics have a bearing on local congregations. As a valued Governing Board member, he has made many valuable contributions to our work together. He is, without question, the right person for this responsibility.”
The five-member committee includes four current CBF Governing Board members as well as a former CBF Moderator:
- Charlie Fuller (Chair) — Minister for Congregational Life, Second Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark.
- Paul Baxley — Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Athens, Ga.
- Kasey Jones — Senior Pastor, National Baptist Memorial Church, Washington, D.C. (CBF Moderator, 2014-2015)
- Steve Wells — Pastor, South Main Baptist Church, Houston, Texas
- Rebecca Wiggs — Attorney, Watkins & Eager, Jackson, Miss.
Dortch said that that the committee’s charge is to facilitate implementation of the Illumination Project “as a means by which to build and strengthen CBF unity through cooperation in light of our current cultural context.”
“I have asked that the committee proceed with this charge through a process that is broad-based and transparent; deliberate and intentional; and without any predetermined outcome, other than the desire to encourage CBF unity through cooperation,” Dortch said. “Knowing the caliber of people we have on this committee, I have no doubt that they will be able to fulfill this charge most effectively.”
Fuller added that the ad hoc committee is “committed to implementing a process that models what we claim to be: Cooperative Baptists.”
“Our objective is to listen and truly hear the voices from CBF stakeholders across the rich and diverse breadth of our Fellowship,” Fuller said. “A process that seeks to discern the voice of God can’t have a predetermined outcome or a predetermined timeline. We must wait until we’ve heard God speak through the Fellowship itself. We will work together to determine what issues of human sexuality mean for us as a cooperating network of Baptists. We will work diligently and be as transparent as possible throughout the length of our work. Most importantly, we covet your prayers for us as we discern the voice of God, who speaks to all of us in our ‘Big Tent’ Fellowship.”
The ad hoc committee held its first conference call July 13, and will hold a two-day retreat Sept. 19-20 in Decatur, Ga., and convene again Sept. 29-30 during the fall meeting of the Governing Board.
Dortch asked for Cooperative Baptists to pray for the committee and be prepared to participate in future conversations.
“I encourage everyone in the Fellowship to be in prayer for this committee and the important work they will undertake. Be ready also to join your voice to the conversation, and let us be hopeful that we will come to a place where we have the necessary clarity to forge forward as a unified Fellowship in addressing issues that come before us.”
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.