September 29, 2017
By Aaron Weaver and Carrie McGuffin
DECATUR, Ga.— The work of a group tasked with helping the Fellowship develop ways of illuminating and modeling unity through cooperation on matters of human sexuality is progressing and the group is on track to present its findings and recommendations in February, committee chair Charlie Fuller told the CBF Governing Board Thursday during the board’s September 28-29 fall meeting.
The Governing Board launched the Illumination Project at the 2016 CBF General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C., in an attempt to seek ways to model unity through cooperation in the midst of cultural change. The project aims to shed light on the qualities that have built unity in CBF, and through discernment, to design and develop models of dialogue and decision-making by which the Fellowship can grow through cooperation — now and in the future.
A six-member Illumination Project Committee, appointed in 2016 by then-CBF Moderator Doug Dortch and comprised of current and former Governing Board members, has been tasked with exploring how Cooperative Baptists can strengthen their unity in the face of differing beliefs and practices in matters of human sexuality.
The committee has hosted more than 15 conference calls, six in-person meetings and given presentations in 30 different cities with Cooperative Baptists over the past year, said Charlie Fuller, who serves as executive pastor of First Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
Since the 2017 General Assembly in Atlanta, the committee has met numerous times via conference call and held two concentrated in-person work sessions. Through embracing a process called Integrative Thinking, developed at the Rotman School of Business of the University of Toronto, the committee has sought to faithfully hear and feel the Holy Spirit moving among the priesthood of all believers and focused on holding opposing viewpoints on matters of human sexuality in tension to develop a third way forward, Fuller said.
Fuller and the committee also announced the release of six additional “personas” — composites of the stories and experiences of individuals who were interviewed during the first phase of the project’s process.
In this first phase, the committee sought to hear a diverse set of perspectives to more fully understand the convictions of Cooperative Baptists on matters of human sexuality. Following an extensive series of in-depth structured interviews with 30 individuals deeply engaged in CBF life — including pastors, laity, field personnel, chaplains, staff ministers, LGBT persons and others — the committee attempted to capture some of these stories in the format of personas.
At the 2017 Atlanta Assembly, the committee presented the first five personas, each representing distinct viewpoints comprised of the actual words spoken by Cooperative Baptists during these interviews.
The personas were developed to help build empathy and offer insights into the needs of people, the committee noted.
“The personas are helping the committee to continue to listen to the voices of the Fellowship in the important work of discernment ahead, reminding us of the faith, hopes, dreams and concerns of the people from whom we have heard through the process,” the committee said. “These personas have been created to honor the words of the Cooperative Baptists interviewed and the Cooperative Baptists themselves because any new model of dialogue and decision-making that emerges must remain true to the Fellowship. Like a choir, these personas have allowed the us to hold up and hear the beautiful voices of the Fellowship.”
These personas will help keep the personal experiences and views of the Fellowship at the forefront as the committee continues its work. Read all 11 personas and learn more about the Illumination Project at www.cbf.net/illuminationproject.
Fuller asked Cooperative Baptists to pray for the ongoing work of the committee as it begins the final phase of its process.
“We covet your prayers for all involved in our lengthy and thorough process,” Fuller said. “We will continue to celebrate and act upon our shared Baptist values. Baptists have historically been a people who have chosen to stay in community with those with whom they disagree because of their common call to work together for God’s Kingdom, and we celebrate and find strength in this diversity.”
Missions and Ministries Updates
CBF Moderator Shauw Chin Capps opened up the Governing Board’s fall meeting with words of encouragement for the board.
“I want us to think about the future of CBF and some of the exciting things that are already happening,” Capps said, pointing to the successful conclusion of the 25th Anniversary Endowment Campaign, launch of Fellowship Southwest and work of the Angela Project focused on racial reconciliation.
“There is wonderful energy and it is an exciting time. I look forward to serving with you all and I look forward to our work together this year.”
The Governing Board heard reports and updates from staff on the Fellowship’s missions, ministries and other initiatives including the strengthening of the CBF Latino Network under leadership of new Latino field coordinator Rubén Ortiz, plans underway to adapt CBF’s Dawnings church renewal process for use by Hispanic congregations, and about a heightened organization-wide focus, led by CBF Director of Ministries Ruth Perkins Lee, on engaging churches more deeply in the life of the Fellowship.
Stephen Reeves, who serves as associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy for CBF, updated the board about the Fellowship’s advocacy work, such as speaking out on behalf of vulnerable immigrant students and families, seeking immigration reform and criminal justice reform, promoting racial justice, and developing an advocacy toolkit for use in congregational settings.
Marv Knox, field coordinator of Fellowship Southwest, reported that CBF’s new regional network has identified five strategic priorities to guide its work in the U.S. Southwest including strengthening churches, encouraging and enabling missions, expanding racial and ecumenical outreach, and empowering young leaders and advocacy. A tactical infrastructure will facilitate the work of Fellowship Southwest, added Knox, highlighting plans to form a steering committee to set priorities, evaluate budget and plan ministries as well as “faith tables” which will involve a broader range of the network’s constituency and focus on each of the five strategic priorities.
CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter shared about field personnel and staff transitions as part of the completion of its comprehensive restructuring plan announced in January 2016, and provided updates on the Encourager Church initiative to form covenants between CBF congregations and field personnel on the mission field.
Jason Coker, who serves as national director of Together for Hope, the Fellowship’s rural development coalition, updated the board on the expansion of TFH from the 20 poorest counties in the United States to 301 counties of persistent poverty. These counties span across native lands, border territories, the Delta region, Cotton Belt and Appalachia.
Coker said TFH is “poised for great impact” in light of this expansion, which will leverage the networks of Cooperative Baptists and current TFH practitioners, aiming to connect with organizations that are already impacting these communities in positive ways.
The board also heard a finance report as CBF enters into a new fiscal year in addition to an update on the 2018 CBF General Assembly, which is scheduled for June 13-15 in Dallas and will be centered on the theme of global church/local church.
In other business, the Governing Board adopted a motion for CBF Moderator Shauw Chin Capps to appoint an Ad Hoc Committee on Leadership Development charged with strengthening the process of identifying, developing and enlisting leaders throughout CBF’s governance bodies.
Assembly hears report on Illumination Project at 2017 Atlanta Assembly
Find photos from the September Governing Board meeting here.
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.