By Marv Knox, Fellowship Southwest
Paul Baxley is visiting Texas during his first week on the job as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s fourth executive coordinator. Along the way, he is meeting CBFers and a few ecumenical friends over meals, getting to know and allowing Cooperative Baptists in Texas to find out more about him.
The Baxley Texas Tour began Wednesday morning with breakfast at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, continued to lunch at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth and concluded in Waco. Today, he started with breakfast at Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco, moved on to Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin and will end at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio. Tomorrow, after some morning visits in the Alamo City, he will continue on to South Main Baptist Church in Houston, where he also will preach Sunday morning.
Baxley, a North Carolina native who most recently was pastor of First Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., has acknowledged widespread reports he is not from Texas—making him CBF’s first executive coordinator who is not a native Texan. But his commitment to visit Texas beginning his third day on the job reflects his appreciation for Texas and the Southwest, and the important role of the state and larger region in the life of the Fellowship.
Along the way, Baxley is calling for a renewed commitment to cooperation. “Our faith has never been isolated,” he said. “Our faith, from the beginning, has been communal, cooperative and challenging.”
Cooperative faith is vital in order for Christians—and particularly Cooperative Baptists—to accomplish their important spiritual assignments, Baxley noted. He’s talked about the need for cooperation to engage in such tasks as “embodied missions” and preparing women and men for ministry.
“We’re not talking about superficial cooperation,” he added. “Any community that dispels dissenters should stop calling itself ‘Baptist.’” CBF welcomes diversity ad dissent, he explained. “We can discern a distinctly Baptist way of differing. … We are impoverished without dissent. It’s not easy or culturally convenient, but it’s truly Baptist.”
At each stop, Baxley has taken questions from his audience. They have ranged from the strategy and focus of missions, to the role of women in ministry, as well as CBF’s relationship to the Baptist World Alliance and groups from other denominations and faiths, partnership with seminaries and schools of theology, diversity within CBF and CBF’s relationship to states and regions.
Echoing his beginning theme, Baxley said CBF is much more than the CBF Global staff based in Decatur, Ga. It includes and embraces individuals and congregations, missionaries around the world, state and regional organizations, theological education and communication partners, and others affiliated with CBF. “The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is us—all of us,” he stressed.
Fellowship Southwest is a multicultural network of faith communities that improves lives and shares the love of God with people often discounted and overlooked.