January 29, 2021
By Aaron Weaver and Carrie Harris
DECATUR, Ga. — The CBF Governing Board gathered virtually January 28-29 via Zoom for its winter meeting focused on hearing a report from the Response Team of the Toward Bold Faithfulness initiative, a two-phase process launched in October 2019 to discover and respond to the greatest gifts and most urgent needs of congregations and communities across the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
The meeting opened Thursday with a moment of silence and prayer for the victims of the more than 400,000 Americans and 2 million persons globally who have died from COVID-19.
In his remarks to the Board, CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley reflected on the agile work of the CBF staff, Toward Bold Faithfulness teams and CBF congregations over the past year.
“It has been quite a year,” Baxley said. “As our moderator, Carol McEntyre, has already mentioned, we have mourned the death of over 2 million people across the globe. In the months that have come and gone, the coronavirus pandemic has become more and more personal. It has touched congregations across the Fellowship, field personnel around the world, our partners in theological education, Together for Hope practitioners, and the work of our chaplains and pastoral counselors.”
After this unusual year, CBF also comes to the conclusion of the Toward Bold Faithfulness process and is preparing for the full implementation of plans set forth by the discovery and response teams, he added.
Response Team Report (Toward Bold Faithfulness)
The Governing Board heard a report from members of a team appointed in Fall 2020 tasked with responding to the findings of the initial phase of Toward Bold Faithfulness. During the initiative’s discovery phase, a diverse team of Cooperative Baptists discerned the most powerful gifts and most urgent needs of congregations and communities through an online survey, listening sessions with governance bodies, field personnel, partner ministries and staff, and individual interviews with people identified by leaders of CBF networks. In total, the team heard from more than 5,000 Cooperative Baptists.
Building on this extensive listening by the Discovery Team, the Response Team was tasked with identifying connections between the most urgent needs and greatest gifts, including attention to who across the Fellowship and its partners and state and regional organizations (SROs) is best equipped to meet urgent needs.
“In all of this work, we have listened and listened and listened again,” said Kyle Reese, co-chair of the Response Team alongside Baxley. “We feel like we have come to a conclusion of our work in a few weeks that comes from Cooperative Baptists…and we have heard the voice of the Spirit and can move forward together as a Fellowship.”
Baxley said that the Toward Bold Faithfulness process has given the Fellowship a clarifying gift—“the gift of clarity of calling, reminding us that we are not empty-handed or ill-equipped, because we have been bestowed with powerful gifts.”
“One of the greatest gifts of the Toward Bold Faithfulness process is that the clarity of needs and gifts, even as the world changes and shifts around us, remains in focus,” Baxley said. “Everything that had been determined as urgent in January was even more urgent in April, what we identified as powerful in January was even more powerful in May.
“The Response Team has begun to see and plan for a future for the Fellowship that focuses on congregations, an expanded collaboration and partnership with states and regions,” Baxley continued. “They have not just helped imagine a different way forward, but a set of practices for our life together.”
Four Areas of Focus
Reese outlined the Response Team’s four areas of focus: 1) conversations with SROs toward strategic and structural alignment with attention to enhanced development and more sustainable funding, 2) further clarification of CBF identity and vision, 3) collaboration with partners and SROs toward initiatives to meet the discovered needs of congregations and their communities, and 4) work in CBF staff and governance bodies to amplify Global Missions, enhance ministries for young Baptists, and extend work in advocacy, racial justice, diversity and growth.
Strategic Alignment with SROs
In its focus on strategic alignment with CBF’s 19 state and regional organizations, the Response Team developed a model with congregations at the center said Susan Crumpler, co-coordinator of the CBF North Central region.
“The health and vitality of local congregations has been really crucial in conversations with state and regional leaders,” Crumpler said. She noted that leaders of state/regional organizations took part in a 6-week series of meetings with the Response Team during Fall 2020 to identify areas of dynamic collaboration to support the health and vitality of congregations.
Crumpler emphasized that the “proximity and closeness of relationships to local churches” was identified as one of the important gifts of SROs. Because the best approach to serving congregations requires proximity and sustained relationships, CBF Global will support CBF state and regional organizations as the primary provider of ongoing ministry to congregations and their leaders, she reported.
Baxley added that as part of this collaboration with state and regional leadership, the Response Team identified ways that CBF Global and CBF SROs can make the most faithful use of their powerful gifts and develop greater clarity and a more shared strategy around primary responsibilities.
“SROs discovered and the Response Team affirmed that because of proximity these state and regional organizations are best suited to do ministry to congregations,” Baxley said. Examples cited by the Response Team include care for ministers and lay leaders, point of entry into the larger Fellowship, connections with laity, local events, and reference and referral. A focus on local partnerships (e.g. mission projects, connection to field personnel, local ministry initiatives) was also identified and affirmed by the Response Team as a powerful gift of SROs.
The Response Team concluded that CBF Global’s most powerful gifts include a focus on its coordinating functions (Global Missions, Together for Hope, Young Baptist Ecosystem, Pastoral Counseling & Chaplaincy), convening functions (advocacy, racial justice, outreach and growth, strategic engagement, networks and partnerships, events) and platform functions (communications, development, information technology, human resources and finance).
CBF North Carolina Coordinator Larry Hovis, also a member of the Response Team, noted that the group focused their strategic alignment work on four key areas—three of which came from the discovery phase (financial strain, navigating change, vision and identity). Ministerial transitions (helping churches find ministers and ministers find churches) was selected as a fourth area to focus on due to a shared desire for a higher level of collaboration.
“State regional leaders have always had a strong desire for greater collaboration but we’ve struggled to execute on this,” Hovis said. “I am encouraged that this [Toward Bold Faithfulness] process gives us a framework for living into our desire for collaboration and cooperation.”
“The approach we are taking is a very Baptist one,” Hovis added. “We recognize that one-size does not fit all. We want to honor the Baptist principle of autonomy but at the same time encourage voluntary cooperation and collaboration.”
Clarifying Vision and Identity
Response Team members Jeff Roberts, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., and Lauren McDuffie, associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Morehead, Ky., shared about their work leading a subcommittee focused on achieving clarity around CBF’s vision and identity. This subcommittee engaged in 10 two-hour listening sessions with state and regional leadership, CBF staff and field personnel, CBF’s Pan African Koinonia and Familia leadership as well as governance bodies to test proposed shared language that could be used to describe the work of the Fellowship. The Response Team will continue its identity work based on recent feedback received and will collaborate with CBF Global staff on next steps.
Collaborating with Partners
“Partnerships have been part of CBF since the beginning and an essential part of our future,” said BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler, a member of the Response Team. Partner leaders are eager for deeper and stronger collaboration rooted in shared mission, she said. The Response Team recommended that CBF Global leadership explore and develop initiative approaches to partnership based on urgent needs of congregations and communities beginning with a focus on difficult conversations and engaging diversity.
Strengthening CBF governance
Reese concluded the Response Team report with its recommendation that Governing Board officers partner with officers of other CBF governance bodies (e.g. Ministries Council, Missions Council, Nominating Committee) to seek opportunities to strengthen CBF governance so that its structure and function supports the mission of the organization. This work will be supported as part of the regular bylaw review process, he added.
Called to Lead
Baxley emphasized that this new season in the Fellowship we have to trust God, listen and be agile to reflect the priorities set forward.
“Now we reach a season in our life together that those of us who were called to lead in the Fellowship will have the responsibility of sustaining not only the priorities and practices that have come out of this season but continue to grow and change and expand,” Baxley explained. “We have to trust God, see all the ways the risen Jesus will renew and strengthen us and hold one another accountable to the emphases that have emerged. We have to listen, be agile, change, serve our congregations and reflect the priorities that have been set forward.”
Learn more about the Toward Bold Faithfulness process and find the Discovery Phase report and other related news at www.cbf.net/tbf.
Committee and Staff Reports
Governing Board members also met in committees, providing reports on Identity and Communications, Finance, Personnel and Legal, and Networks and Partnerships. The Board also heard reports from team leaders on the CBF staff in the areas of Advocacy, Global Missions, Development, Identity and Communications, Outreach and Growth, and the Young Baptist Ecosystem.
CBF Moderator Carol McEntyre closed the meeting giving thanks for the volunteer hours given, and the hard work of CBF staff throughout the year, calling the Board to prayer and faithful work together for the kingdom.
“Faithful God, we are grateful for this Beloved community called CBF. We thank you for the staff, the individuals, the partners, for all those who make up the Fellowship generously defined…We know that together, we serve you in more faithful and excellent ways.”
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith into 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.