General CBF

Forming Fellowship Southwest

By Suzii Paynter

As the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship responds to the needs of churches and individuals and seeks to grow in mission and ministry endeavors to advance the witness of Christ, new organizational expressions of the Fellowship will continue to grow.

We have some governing parameters for CBF that set a firm foundation for us. The Constitution and Bylaws of the Fellowship designate that CBF members “shall be Baptist churches and the members thereof and individual Baptists, as set forth in the Bylaws.” In order to facilitate cooperation and accomplish effective ministry and missions; the Fellowship has organized itself into three primary entities: CBF Global in Decatur, Ga., CBF state organizations and CBF regional organizations. These entities exist for effective ministry and mission, but the expressions of vitality needed for a living community certainly don’t end there.

We are an active group of connecting and supporting learners and leaders. Have you noticed?

In ways that are far beyond our governance structures, we as the Fellowship have formed together in many types of partnerships and networks for the common good. How about you?

Are you part of a CBF Peer Learning Group, the Youth Ministry Network, Children’s Ministry Network, Encourager Church, Student.Go or Student.Church cohort, CBF Leadership Scholars, South Africa Network, Dawnings cohort, CBF Fellows cohort, Ministerial Excellence cohort, Church Starts cohort, Together for Hope team, New Baptist Covenant partner or mission team member? Do you serve on a board, as a writer or action team member of one of our ministry partners or theological schools?

As active as we have been in connecting, we have not always been as active in exploring ways of growing and amplifying the Fellowship; and we know that intentionality matters. It is prudent to consider how we will amplify, diversify, expand and serve using the strong foundations we have.

In response to these considerations, CBF is launching Fellowship Southwest in an effort to promote Baptist identity among a wider community of colleagues; in hopes of strengthening existing bonds with others in Christian cooperation; and in order to grow as we nurture new, more deeply and authentically diverse partnerships.

The Fellowship Southwest network is a coalition comprised of individual CBF state and regional organizations, additional independent Baptist partners, ecumenical partners and other domestic and international partners. This network exists alongside CBF as an expanded table of partnership and cooperative ministry.

Fellowship Southwest includes three state and regional bodies: CBF of Texas, CBF of Oklahoma and CBF West, working in cooperation with each other in new ways and with new partners. This region includes more than 500 churches, four cooperating seminaries, CBF field personnel, chaplains, student groups, church starters and a wide array of other partnering institutions and individuals. All three CBF entities — CBF of Texas, CBF of Oklahoma and CBF West — will remain in operation as autonomous CBF organizations. Each of their state/regional coordinators will serve on the steering committee of Fellowship Southwest along with other equity members.

Beginning in August, the Fellowship Southwest network will be led by Marv Knox, a prominent Baptist leader and recent editor of the Baptist Standard in Texas. As coordinator, Knox will be responsible for the vision and mission of the new venture as well as staff, contracts, coordination and collaborative partnerships.

Although still in the formative phases of development, several ideas for expanded work have been enthusiastically explored:

  • Collaboration for communication and identity in the Southwest
  • Collaboration for communication and identity in the Southwest
  • Latino church and mission development
  • Ethnic and ecumenical partners across the region
  • Theological education scholarships and support for young leaders
  • Collaborative mission and ministry endeavors in regional areas
  • Church starting and church revitalization
  • Clergy health and sustained, effective ministry
  • Advocacy and public witness
  • Recruitment and retention of new congregations
  • Referral and placement services

Although widely reported that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, perhaps for us, a new chapter in CBF life is coming up in the west.

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