By Fellowship Southwest Communications
Fellowship Southwest has taken the next steps in its organizational maturity, maintaining its historically close relationship to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship while embracing its responsibility for long-term vitality and expanding its regional, cultural and ecumenical outreach.
CBF created Fellowship Southwest in 2017 as a regional network alongside its CBF Oklahoma, CBF Texas and CBF West organizations. The national organization asked Fellowship Southwest to deepen CBF’s relationships across the American Southwest, support the work of the three CBF affiliates, and expand CBF’s racial, cultural and ecumenical relationships.
Fellowship Southwest has focused on those assignments, while stepping up to meet several acute challenges, such as immigrant relief, ministry preparation and disaster response.
Along the way, FSW Coordinator Marv Knox, based in the Dallas area, has served on the CBF staff, as well as participated as a member of the CBF Movement Leadership Team, the association of CBF state and regional coordinators.
Fellowship Southwest has functioned as a division of CBF, accountable to the CBF governing board, while relying on its own regional steering committee for strategy and program development.
Now, Fellowship Southwest has incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the state of Texas, moved its financial operations from Atlanta to Dallas, and applied for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the IRS.
Incorporation has shifted responsibility and authority for Fellowship Southwest to its new board of directors, composed of members of the former steering committee. (To see Fellowship Southwest’s board of directors, click here.)
Although Knox now reports directly to the FSW board, he maintains a “quasi-staff” relationship to CBF. As such, he serves on CBF staff leadership teams as requested by CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley, participates in staff meetings and events, remains on the Movement Leadership Team, and represents CBF regionally and nationally.
Natural developments moved the Fellowship Southwest steering committee to ask Knox to incorporate the organization, launch the board of directors and seek tax-exempt status, reported board Chair Meredith Stone and Knox.
First, the regional organization is owning its responsibility for vitality and sustainability, Knox said.
“We were founded and have maintained our overall ministry thanks to the vision and generosity of the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. But we cannot expect to operate indefinitely on the primary support of the Baughs,” he explained. “So, we have explored how to achieve sustainability without competing for funds with CBF and our regional CBF partners.
“We cannot do that without broadening our base and leaning into our ecumenical, multicultural mandate. And we are making that easier for our ecumenical friends. They no longer have to write the word ‘Baptist’ to send a check to support Fellowship Southwest.”
Stone, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, amplified that sentiment.
“From its start, Fellowship Southwest has valued partnerships within Baptist life and beyond. We firmly believe that the beloved community can do more together,” she said. “By seeking 501(c)(3) status, Fellowship Southwest is better able to offer opportunities for our partners outside of Baptist life to join in our work.
“Fellowship Southwest’s board of directors is excited about this step in our quest to help Baptists grow ecumenical relationships that enhance the work of bringing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.”
Fellowship Southwest’s leaders believe regional incorporation provides the flexibility and responsibility to do just that, Knox added.
“Fellowship Southwest is a network that enables Christians of goodwill to do more together than they can do alone,” he said. “We strive to be faithful, agile, ecumenical and kind. With a regional board and responsibility to our churches, this new arrangement empowers us to do what needs to be done, especially in order to strengthen churches and serve those in need.”
Fellowship Southwest will continue to proudly fly the CBF banner, he stressed. “Our legacy is rooted in CBF, and we’ll always represent CBF across our region. In fact, CBF’s open-handed, open-minded, open-hearted heritage makes our outreach to all kinds of churches not only possible, but also inevitable.”
“Cooperative Baptists celebrate the ministry, witness and ecumenical outreach that has characterized Fellowship Southwest from its founding several years ago,” Baxley said. “In only a short time, Fellowship Southwest has engaged Cooperative Baptists not only in Texas, Oklahoma and the West, but also from all over our nation, in offering a compelling witness to Christ, active participation in the reconciling mission of God and compassionate response to horrific disasters.
“I whole-heartedly affirm the founding and growing commitment of Fellowship Southwest to ecumenical engagement and wider partnership as that is also a core commitment of our entire Fellowship, and I believe Fellowship Southwest is uniquely positioned to expand ecumenical collaboration in mission and witness. I look forward to continued shared ministry with Fellowship Southwest as the next, natural and important step is taken.”
Meanwhile, Fellowship Southwest is moving ahead with its first major transition. Knox plans to retire in about a year. A Baugh Foundation grant has enabled the organization to fund a period of overlap between him and his successor. So, a coordinator-search committee is working, and the board expects to choose a coordinator-elect sometime this spring.