June 21, 2019
By Aaron Weaver and Carrie Harris
“In my travels, I have found much to celebrate. I have found so many reasons to have renewed energy and conviction,” said CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley during his Friday report to Assembly attendees, reflecting on his first three months as Executive Coordinator traveling through 14 states, visiting 48 churches as well as attending eight CBF state/regional gatherings.
“I must say my hope and my confidence and my conviction about the capacity of local congregations to serve God in their communities has never been higher than it is now,” Baxley said.
This energy can be centered on celebration, Baxley explained, citing the beautiful ministry being done across CBF’s state and regional organizations, the amazing ministries being carried out by CBF field personnel around the world, the commitments to racial and cultural diversity within the Fellowship, CBF’s commitment to come alongside those experiencing persistent rural poverty through Together for Hope, and the many ways that CBF is coming alongside congregations to help them thrive.
Along with these celebrations, Baxley also noted concern centered on a decline in revenue and challenged Assembly attendees to recommit to support CBF through undesignated gifts and ambitious promotion and support for the Offering for Global Missions, which funds the long-term presence of field personnel.
“Now it seems to me like there are several commitments I should make to you,” said Baxley. Citing a classroom conversation with the late Cecil Sherman, he offered the promises to “tell the truth, use good judgment and love our people.”
“Today that promise is a promise that I make to you,” he said. “I will tell you the truth as I see it. We will work together toward greater and greater transparency. In the days ahead, we’re going to seek new ways to engage with all of your congregations. It is extremely important that we hear from you—your hopes, your dreams, your deepest concerns, what you need most from our Fellowship community. Because above all else, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship exists for congregations and to help congregations thrive.”
Baxley committed also to continue the efforts of the Fellowship in reaching further, to grow in places across the country and around the world, and with people of other races and backgrounds. He also recommitted to the dreams of those who started the Fellowship nearly 30 years ago, asking for some commitments from Cooperative Baptists in return.
“I want to ask you to commit to praying for our work collectively as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,” he said. “And most of all, I want to ask you not to take our life together for granted.
“Sometimes we get together in our CBF gatherings and we talk about our founding… Unlike many of you here, I wasn’t in the room. I was in those college classes I was talking about last night. I hear [the founding of our Fellowship] talked about as a decision that came out of the experience of pain—of struggle. I see it as a remarkable act of courageous faith… This community did not come to life because of an accident—not because there were no other options. It was a community worthy of risky, daring, ambitious support.”
Baxley then asked all those who were in the room in 1991 at the Fellowship’s founding to stand, adding, “I have something to say to you…Thank you. Thank you on behalf of myself, my family, and a generation of younger Baptists because you heard the Lord saying, ‘see I am doing a new thing.’ Any act of God that began like that cannot be taken for granted.”
Baxley left Assembly attendees with a challenge and a question.
“My question today is: do we have the same kind of daring faith? The same kind of generous heart? The same kind of resurrection confidence? Listen. Can you hear the spirit of God? ‘I am still doing a new thing.’ Now it springs forth. Don’t you see it? Let’s not take that for granted. Let’s join in.”
Ministerial Excellence Initiative
Bo Prosser, who leads CBF’s Ministerial Excellence Initiative, shared about efforts to help pastoral and congregational leaders identify and respond to financial stressors causing anxiety in their personal and professional lives. The MEI issues grants that provide direct financial support and direct retirement support as well as coaching, financial literacy training and financial advisement.
The MEI has assisted 60 pastors totaling $600,000 in debt relief.
“We can’t cure the debt epidemic but we can make a difference,” said Prosser, noting that applications are being accepted at www.cbf.net/mei. Watch the video below to learn more about the Ministerial Excellence Initiative:
Thriving in Ministry
CBF’s Ruth Perkins Lee and Harry Rowland reported on a new initiative made possible with a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to expand the Fellowship’s work of empowering ministers to have healthy ministries which, in turn, support healthy churches.
CBF’s Thriving in Ministry initiative will be developing new patterns and practices for clergy to build and sustain collegial relationships, Perkins Lee said. This initiative will place a special focus on six groupings of pastors that have been identified as in need of a better ecosystem of well-being: female pastors, pastors in rural settings, Latino pastors, church starters, pastors in transition and pastors in the second half of ministry.
“There are many transitions and unique contexts of service that characterize a sustained career in ministry,” Perkins Lee said. “This initiative creates space for relationships to develop and flourish.”
Stephen Reeves, associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy, updated the Assembly on the work of CBF Advocacy. Reeves noted that Cooperative Baptists have continued providing leadership in the national faith community calling for reform of predatory payday and auto-title lending, and in partnership with Fellowship Southwest, advocates in CBF life have spoke out against the child separation policy during summer 2018.
“Our Advocacy Action Team for Immigrants and Refugees worked to craft a statement of values and principles that should guide immigration reform,” Reeves said. “we remain hopeful and prayerful that a moment for positive reform will come and CBF advocates will be ready to provide vocal, public support firmly rooted in our mission commitment of ministering to migrants across the globe.”
Ministries Council Grants
CBF Ministries Council chair Carrie Bearden updated the Assembly on the work of the council’s action groups in the areas of young Baptists, networks, identity and resources. The Ministries Council grant recipients for 2018-2019 were also announced. Financial assistance was awarded to six difference projects totaling $25,000 including: “Building Bridges and Empowering Immigrants” program of Iglesia Baptista Victoria en Cristo of Fort Worth, Texas, which serves low-income legal permanent residents, refugees, asylees and undocumented immigrants in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex by providing legal case management and services; the English as a Second Language program of Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio; a scholarship for medical coder classes at Edgewood Church in Atlanta—these classes aim to give unemployed and low-income persons a valuable and marketable job skill in the medical insurance industries; the Mobile Produce Stand of Palmetto Works in Conway, S.C., providing fresh produce, job training, and economic support to local farmers; and the Peace by Piece quilting ministry of Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., which provides homemade quilts for children who have suffered sexual abuse and survivors of domestic violence.
Devita Parnell, Director of CBF’s Young Baptist Ecosystem, recognized the 2019 25 Young Adults to Know—college students and young adults who exemplify leadership, commitment to mission and ministry, and joy of sharing the love of Christ through Cooperative Baptist congregations or partner organizations.
“Most importantly and perhaps most significantly, are the roles into which your congregations have invited them because you noticed their gifts,” said Parnell. “They are deacons, Sunday school teachers, anti-hunger, human trafficking and domestic violence advocates, choir leaders, youth, children and college ministry interns, and the list goes on. And now we, your extended family in Christ, celebrate you! We recognize that God, who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it.”
Vestal Scholarship recipients and ChurchWorks Award recipients were also recognized.
In other business, the General Assembly adopted the 2018-2019 CBF missions and ministries budget 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 elected nominees and budget information here).
The 2019 CBF General Assembly concludes Friday with an evening worship service with keynote speaker Krista Tippett. The session will be live-streamed on the CBF Facebook page beginning at 7:30 p.m. CDT. 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.