May 25, 2017
By Jeff Huett and Aaron Weaver
DECATUR, Ga. — The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will focus on greater church engagement, diversity initiatives and identity-building while right-sizing its budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter announced today.
The changes are a strategic investment in the future of God’s work through the Fellowship missions and ministries, but future investment comes at the expense of some existing programs.
“Under direction of the CBF Governing Board, we are addressing multiple years of changing revenue patterns, including a decline in support of the Offering for Global Missions that funds field personnel,” Paynter said. “After a thorough financial analysis, the Fellowship will reduce current expenses in every area, including personnel costs, to bring spending in line with strategic directions and revenue forecasts while retooling for maximum ministry effectiveness and efficiency in global missions and ministries.”
Moderator Doug Dortch, senior minister of Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and the leader of CBF’s Governing Board, said this emphasis comes at the right time for the Fellowship.
“Every organization over the course of time needs to analyze how well it is leveraging its resources to accomplish its aims and objectives, including commissioning new missionaries, nurturing diversity and expanding its ministry,” Dortch said. “This effort emanates from our desire to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. It is a concerted move ‘to refocus and streamline organizational structures’ so CBF churches and other ministries can respond more effectively to global challenges,” he said, referring to the 2012 report of a group of leaders from across CBF life to streamline organizational structures for more effective ministry.
“I can’t think of a better time to forge ahead on this path than the present, as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary and gear up for the next chapter of CBF life,” he said.
CBF will commission new field personnel at the 2017 General Assembly in Atlanta, even though revenue from the Offering for Global Missions — CBF’s primary way to fund the field presence of its missionaries — is down significantly from the previous year. As a result, the transition of field personnel to CBF Global Missions’ new funding model will be completed in two phases while certain positions in the mission field and the Global Missions office will be eliminated. The new funding model was presented at the 2016 General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C., and included a strategic vision and funding plan for CBF Global Missions. The funding model creates equity and sustainability by consolidating all CBF field personnel under a single employment category.
CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter stressed that a significant decline in giving to the Offering for Global Missions has limited the ability of the Fellowship to respond to all of the opportunities on the mission field.
“These are bittersweet days,” Porter said. “Friends in the Global Church keep asking CBF to ‘come over and help us’ like the Macedonian vision in Acts 16. The Holy Spirit keeps calling people out of CBF congregations to dedicate their lives to missionary service, and the CBF Missions Council created an innovative model that honors our Baptist roots but responds to new trends in engagement. God keeps opening doors for CBF, but a 25-percent decrease in gifts to the Offering for Global Missions hampers our ability to respond. We’ve turned new people away and called some old friends home.”
At the upcoming General Assembly, Cooperative Baptists will commission four new field personnel to serve strategic positions in China, New York City, as well as a position coordinating CBF’s field work in rural communities in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the past decade, CBF has established strong relationships and partnerships with churches and Christian leaders in Chengdu and the Sichuan Province of China through the ministries of CBF field personnel Bill and Michelle Cayard, who will leave the field in September.
Similarly, the Fellowship has had a presence in New York City for more than 20 years through the work of CBF field personnel Ronnie Adams in partnership with Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, an outreach center affiliated with Metro Baptist Church, a CBF partner in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. These strategic appointments, each built on vital partnerships with local and global partners, represent the Fellowship’s commitment to the long-term presence of field personnel.
In addition to partnering with specific field personnel ministries, CBF partner congregations provide much of the presence costs for CBF field personnel through the Offering for Global Missions. Each year, CBF recognizes top-giving churches for their support for Global Missions, while at the same time encouraging other churches to impact the world for Christ by increasing their financial support for global missions by collecting an offering in their church or including a gift in their annual budget.
Porter challenged CBF congregations to give sacrificially in support of global missions to advance the Gospel.
“I am ecstatic about the people we will commission in June to sustain long-term partnerships in New York, China and rural America; but I mourn the fact that finances force us to eliminate other positions occupied by faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ,” Porter said. “We have a relatively small number of churches in the Fellowship that contribute disproportionately to Global Missions. I simply wish more congregations would experience the joy of sacrificial giving to advance the Gospel beyond our own communities. Together, I know we can ‘turn the world upside down’ like people accused Paul and Silas in Acts 17.”
Ministry with Congregations
As part of this plan, CBF seeks to deepen its engagement with and service to local congregations. A new team of staff devoted exclusively to church engagement has been formed and will be led by Ruth Perkins Lee. This heightened focus on the local church also includes a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity, one of the Fellowship’s aspirational attributes, through an intentional focus on nurturing relationships and forming partnerships with African American and Latino churches and denominations.
Rubén Ortiz, coordinator of the CBF Latino Network, will join the CBF staff this fall in a senior role, serving on the CBF Leadership Team and directing the Fellowship’s outreach efforts in Latino contexts. Ortiz, a noted church planter and former moderator of CBF of Florida, has pastored La Primera Iglesia Bautista in Deltona, Fla., since 2002. For the past 15 years, Ortiz has led his congregation to foster relationships with more than 25 churches and missions in Cuba and Puerto Rico, committing financial support as well as physical labor to aid their growth and become self-sustaining.
CBF has also named Mark Pollard, a consultant with the National Campaign for Just Renewal and a well-known voice in the Black Church for justice and spiritual renewal, to guide its relationship-building efforts among African-American faith communities. CBF staff member Carrol Wilson, the chair of the CBF’s Diversity Committee, will serve as the staff liaison for this work.
This heightened focus on church engagement and diversity comes on the heels of the selection of preeminent Baptist journalist Marv Knox to lead the Fellowship’s expansion initiative in the Southwest United States. In April, CBF announced the hiring of Knox, who has served as editor of the Baptist Standard since 1999, as field coordinator of Fellowship Southwest, a new regional network launched in February to supplement the work of CBF of Texas, CBF of Oklahoma and CBF West. This expansion initiative aims to promote Baptist identity, ecumenical partnerships, support for theological education as well as effective missions and ministry and will include further integration of the CBF Latino Network into Cooperative Baptist life.
Paynter said the Fellowship is ever-vibrant and expanding while it retools and right-sizes.
“It’s not a rare occurrence for me to be at a meeting of religious leaders and have someone say ‘You’re from CBF – that’s the group with all of the young clergy,’” she said. “The Fellowship and its churches are healthy and growing, and we’re working together to make sure that continues.
“I am confident that the Fellowship’s Christ-like global witness will become even more powerful as churches and individuals across the Fellowship continue to invest their energy and financial gifts in response to their calling.”
Additional changes to the CBF staff in Decatur include the outsourcing of services to reduce fixed costs, including human resources, information technology, marketing and events. Changes include the elimination of two senior-level positions on the CBF Leadership Team: Coordinator of Organizational Relationships, Bo Prosser, and Associate Coordinator of Projects and Services, Ron Fairley. Prosser, who joined the CBF staff in 2002 as Coordinator for Congregational Life and shifted into the role of Coordinator of Organizational Relationships, will continue to serve in a part-time capacity as leader of CBF’s Ministerial Excellence Initiative and as a coach and consultant to CBF’s church renewal initiative called Dawnings.
While reducing fixed costs will necessitate certain changes in personnel, it is not affecting ministries that support healthy churches across the Fellowship, including Peer Learning Groups, Dawnings and CBF Fellows, which is outreach to ministers in their first fulltime church position after graduating seminary. These ministries are now funded in the budget instead of through grant funding. CBF’s support of Young Baptists through scholarships for theological education, Student.Go and Student.Church are also not impacted by these budget changes.
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.