June 20, 2019
By Carrie Harris and Aaron Weaver
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Living out the ‘new commandment’ of Jesus Christ to “love one another with a relentless, sacrificial, active love” was the theme of Rev. Dr. Paul Baxley’s first-ever General Assembly address since becoming the Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in March.
“’A new command I give unto you, that you would love one another as I have loved you.’ The first time I read that text in preparing the sermon for tonight,” said Baxley, “I was transported back almost 30 years to a seminar on the Gospel of John.”
In this seminar, Baxley explained, students were challenged with the question: “In what sense do you think that this commandment was new for the disciples?” So, Baxley said, “I want us to ask ourselves the question tonight: is this a new commandment for us? For our congregations? For ourselves in our journeys of faith? Could it be these words are a new commandment for us in the room tonight?”
Jesus holds before us a standard of love that is relentless—not an “ordinary love or a conditional love or a fleeting love. It is a relentless love. It is a sacrificial love,” Baxley said.
“The love Jesus holds before us is not a love of manipulation, a love not of subjugation, a love not of domination,” he added. “Make no mistake; it is an active love.”
This relentless, sacrificial and active love, he added, is our new commandment.
“In Jesus Christ tonight, that love opens from the heart inside of God into the hearts and minds of every person in this room,” said Baxley. “I invite you to experience a relentless, sacrificial, active love that will turn your world upside down. It is a new commandment tonight in that this love reaches further than any other love we’ve seen.”
Recalling an interfaith conversation in which he participated, Baxley noted that the definition of “one another” is expanding.
“Don’t you see what Jesus is doing? He is giving us a new way of responding to difference and diversity—a new way that we desperately need in this moment,” Baxley said.
“Often we’re being trained that our first reaction to any type of difference is to be afraid. I want to ask us as followers of a God who parts the Red Sea and raises Jesus from the dead—why is our church these days so seized by fear? Perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love invites us to come to one another in the presence of difference.”
Baxley suggested that the holiest thing to happen in worship was not going to be his sermon, but that the holiest thing would be the commissioning of chaplains, pastoral counselors, church starters and field personnel.
“But I want to take a little liberty and I want to suggest to you that we are also recommissioning every congregation and every believer in this room. And the heart of the commission that Jesus places before us is the same commission he gave to his disciples—to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ Don’t just go along to go along. Don’t just peacefully coexist. Don’t just tolerate. Love one another with a relentless, sacrificial, active love.”
Commissioning of Global Missions personnel, chaplains, pastoral counselors and church starters
The Wednesday evening service featured the re-appointment of two former CBF field personnel, Annette Ellard and Mira Zivanov. Darnysha Nard was commissioned to a multi-year appointment working with Touching Miami With Love, a CBF Engagement Partner in Miami, as part of the relaunched Global Service Corps program, named in honor of longtime CBF missions advocates Dick and Jesmarie Hurst. Watch the video below to learn more about these three women reappointed and commissioned to serve with CBF Global Missions:
Thirty-two newly-endorsed CBF chaplains and pastoral counselors were also commissioned to serve in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, hospices, fire and emergency services and the military. For the first time, a CBF field personnel was commissioned as a CBF-endorsed chaplain. Tina Bailey, who serves alongside her husband, Jonathan, in Bali, Indonesia, sought endorsement to strengthen her credentials for access to the prisons where she ministers.
The following eight church starters were also commissioned: Heather Thomas Folliard, John Thornton, Jr. and Kevin Georgas, Jubilee Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, N.C.; Pam Ann Muise, Remnants, Myrtle beach, S.C.; Danny Prada, HeartWay Church, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Leo Garcia, La Familia De Dios, Green Valley, Ariz.; Amisi Mardochee Kamango, Alpha Omega Worship Church, Indianapolis, Ind.; and Erick Moon, New Life, Hamilton, Ohio.
“The eight church starters we commission tonight also have dreams, visions and hopes for their new communities of faith, and are following a faithful call to step out in faith and start a church,” said Kyle Tubbs, who leads CBF’s New Church Starts Initiative. “These contextualized churches don’t all look the same. The diversity of our class of 2019 church starters beautifully reflects the nature of the divine, whose endless beauty is diverse. Diversity is strength among our church starters…but the unity in our diversity comes from the choice to cooperate through common fellowship.”
The Thursday worship and commission service concluded with a laying on of hands and prayer over those commissioned and reappointed to mission, surrounding them with the relentless and active love of Christ poured out on them through the hands of the Fellowship.
The 2019 CBF General Assembly concludes Friday with a morning business session and evening worship service with keynote speaker Krista Tippett. Each session will be live-streamed on the CBF Facebook page beginning at 10:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. CDT respectively. Find complete coverage of the 2019 CBF General Assembly, including news, photos and videos at www.cbf.net/birmingham2019.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship 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. Learn more at www.cbf.net.