June 15, 2018
By Carrie McGuffin and Aaron Weaver
DALLAS — “By grace I am a Christian—a follower of Jesus. By heritage I am Baptist. By choice I am Cooperative Baptist,” said Gary Dollar, incoming CBF Moderator for 2018-19, as he shared his dreams for the Fellowship during the June 15 morning session of the CBF General Assembly in Dallas.
“I am a proud Cooperative Baptist,” Dollar said. “I am a Cooperative Baptist because we take seriously our commitment to the distinctives of the four fragile freedoms set forth by Walter Shurden…I am a Cooperative Baptist because we take seriously the Great Commission and Great Commandment.”
This pride for being a Cooperative Baptist, Dollar added, has been emboldened by the 2018 General Assembly and the opportunity to see the work of the Fellowship come alive in community. His hopes for the future of this community of faith, he said, are not unique, but echo the hopes of those who founded the Fellowship 27 years ago.
“I am hoping that we will give more to do more, to serve more, to love more,” Dollar said. “It is my hope that we grow our work through bringing the Gospel to the world through tangible acts of love in the world….My hope is that we each personally engage in missions.”
Dollar challenged the Assembly to engage in their own communities in mission so that their eyes could be opened to the needs of neighbors around the world and follow a call to serve or support ministries in the global context.
“We cannot all be that daily missional presence needed to develop long-term sustainable relationship,” he said. “But we can support those who do and who stand in our place as witnesses to the Good News. Together, we can be the local church and global church.”
To make this a reality, Dollar challenged the Assembly to “increase our understanding of the power of our diversity in the midst of our unity,” and encouraged those gathered, affirming that diversity is a powerful tool to become all things to all people, driven by love.
“Not love in spite of our differences, but because of them,” said Dollar. “In seeing and recognizing our differences, we get a better glimpse of the Kingdom…It is difficult at times to love. It can be challenging, but I know we can do it.”
Love in spite of differences, and unity as a Fellowship are key to our transformative work across the globe, Dollar said.
“If we can learn this lesson, we just might transform the world in ways we can’t even imagine,” he said. “In the coming year, let us love and serve each other, pray for each other and, above all, be about the love with which God has entrusted us. I invite you to join me as we love the world, love each other and serve the world.
United under Great Commission and Great Commandment
These dreams of transformational love from the incoming Moderator were affirmed by Shauw Chin Capps, outgoing CBF Moderator for 2017-18, as she reflected on her time of service and the opportunity she had to visit CBF field personnel Jade and Shelah Acker and Missy Ward-Angalla in Kampala, Uganda.
“When we live up to our name—Cooperative Baptist Fellowship—our reach for the sake of the Good News of Jesus Christ is without limit,” said Capps.
Alongside Colleen Burroughs, vice president of CBF-partner Passport, Inc., Capps had the privilege of leading a retreat for 13 refugee women at Amani Sasa, the women’s shelter program that is part of Refuge & Hope and the ministry of Missy Ward-Angalla.
“Against all odds, these women have found hope and healing,” said Capps, telling the stories of women who have overcome all odds to become leaders alongside Ward-Angalla. In the presence of these women, Capps added, “I was reminded again of the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ to break down the walls of human barriers that we put up.”
Experiencing first-hand the work of CBF field personnel in transforming the lives of others was life giving for Capps, and she quoted Daphne, a graduate of the Amani Sasa shelter program: “When I think of God, I think of Missy.”
“These words,” said Capps, “best capture the work of our field personnel who are being the presence of Christ to the most marginalized around the world…We can accomplish so much more when we are united under the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.”
Honoring Gary Skeen
Gary Skeen was recognized for his 17 years of service as president of CBF Church Benefits. Skeen, whose history with CBF spans three decades, announced in January 2017 his plans to retire in June 2018 from his role as the founding president of the Fellowship’s financial ministry that offers Fortune 500-quality benefits to thousands of ministry professionals.
“Thank you for casting a vision and making it so beautiful for us and CBF,” Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter told Skeen.
Rob Fox will succeed Skeen July 1 as president of CBF Church Benefits and Skeen will continue serving the financial ministry in the new role of president emeritus. Fox comes to CBF Church Benefits from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond where he was Vice President of Advancement. Prior to his tenure at BTSR, Fox was coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia.
Youth to Know and Vestal Scholars
Devita Parnell, director of the CBF Young Baptist Ecosystem, recognized “25 Youth to Know”—an initiative launched in 2017 by the CBF Ministries Council to honor outstanding leadership among young adults, youth, college students and young clergy across the Fellowship. These “25 Youth to Know” are profiled in the summer issue of fellowship! magazine, and 16 were present on stage during the Friday session.
“Young people want to be included in the lives of their churches,” Parnell told the Assembly. “They’re present, they are exploding with life and they are the church’s biggest asset. And they are waiting—waiting to be asked, waiting to teach, waiting to lead, waiting to be noticed. We too notice you, we are your family in Christ. We are excited by the ways that you will lead us into the future.”
Along with the 25 Youth to Know, Parnell presented the two Vestal Scholarships for 2018-19, awarded to William Reilly, a student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and Emily Morrow Loachamin, a student at Truett Seminary at Baylor University and the Garland School of Social Work.
The Fellowship’s most prestigious scholarship, named in honor of former Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal and his wife, Earlene, was created in 2011 to further CBF’s 25-year commitment to theological educationand is a foundational element in the
Fellowship’s focus on nurturing young Baptists.
“[Will and Emily] have not been waiting to do ministry, but have been exploring and living out their callings alongside their busy lives as full time students and spouses,” said Parnell. “They embody the Fellowship’s attributes to pursue excellence in all things, to be authentic in their relationships and to approach ministry and their callings with innovation.”
Jason Coker, national coordinator of Together for Hope—CBF’s rural development coalition, shared about the coalition’s efforts to expand from focus on 20 of the poorest countries to 301 counties identified as in persistent poverty by the United States Department of Agriculture. Coker said this expanded vision to eliminate poverty will take the collaborative efforts of many.
“It will take all of us and many, many more. We may not agree on the most divisive issues of our time…can’t we agree that poverty is not God’s will,” Coker asked. “You turn thoughts and prayers into transformative action.”
He also updated the Assembly on Civil Rides, a three-day 200-mile bicycle ride, April 4-7, 2018, from the steps of the Lorraine Motel at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s martyr. Civil Rides aims to raise awareness about persistent rural poverty in America and to advocate for racial justice and healing. Coker reported that the ride raised more than $25,000 and announced a documentary by an award-winning filmmaker is being produced about Civil Rides. Learn more here.
Churchworks and Encourager Churches
Two Virginia pastors were also recognized for outstanding leadership as Christian educators. Rachel Sciretti, associate pastor for children and youth discipleship at Hampton Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., was honored with the 2018 Jack Naish Distinguished Educator Award, and Meg Lacy, associate pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., was honored with the 2018 CBF Young Baptist Leadership Award. Both Sciretti and Lacy were presented with these awards in February at the annual Churchworks conference in San Antonio.
Watch the video below to learn more about these recipients and the 2019 Churchworks conference at Third Baptist Church in St. Louis.
Ryan Clark of CBF Global Missions and Linda Jones of CBF of North Carolina shared with the Assembly about the importance of encourager churches, who support field personnel around the world through a mutual covenant and financial assistance. Learn more about how you and your church can become an Encourager Church here.
The Missions Council recognized three churches that exemplify what it means to bear witness to Jesus Christ, cultivate beloved community and seek transformational development: Gaston Oaks Baptist Church in Dallas, Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., and Oakland Baptist Church in Oakland, S.C.
Watch the videos below to learn more about these congregations and their commitment to missions:
In other business, the Assembly adopted the 2018-2019 CBF missions and ministries budget of $14.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1. Attendees also voted to elect new members to serve on all of CBF’s governance bodies (list of nominees here).
The 2018 General Assembly concludes Friday evening with a service of communion and commissioning for new field personnel, church starters, chaplains and pastoral counselors. Find news, photos and videos from the June 11-15 General Assembly at www.cbf.net/dallas2018.
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.