Over the next weeks and months, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will be sharing reflections from our CBF field personnel serving around the world. These are stories of impact and outreach, Gospel-sharing and relationship building, long-term presence and abundant love.
The following is a reflection from CBF field personnel Shane McNary, who serves in Slovakia, with his wife, Dianne. You can learn more about their ministries and support their work at www.cbf.net/mcnary.
While nothing good can be said about the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluating what has been done thus far over the course the pandemic deserves attention. Particularly, I am thinking about how we have used this time of little or no travel, with online meetings replacing in-person contact, to plan for the future. During this fallow season of ministry, I have returned to the seeds of a ministry initiative I have considered for a few years now.
As chairman of the European Baptist Federation’s Freedom and Justice Commission, I shared a vision with the EBF Executive Committee to establish a training program to educate at least two representatives from each EBF member union or network in Freedom of Religion or Belief for All (FORB) or religious liberty. This foundational Baptist belief of FORB for All has guided Baptists involvement in advocacy since our beginnings. The Executive Committee received the report with excitement and even asked why we would limit ourselves to only two participants from each Union. I asked for time so that we could learn to walk before we started running!
I approached EBF’s theological school, the International Baptist Theological Training Centre (IBTSC), née Ruschlikon and later IBTS, about collaborating in this initiative. Several years of service representing CBF on the IBTS/IBTSC executive board made my connection with them for this initiative a logical step. Further, the new emphasis of IBTSC to provide a place for education and reflection for laity on topics of interest within the EBF context, meant that the FORB Programme belongs there naturally. Together with Tony Peck and Christer Daelander from EBF, we are writing curriculum to supplement the excellent material we purchased from the Nordic Oekumenical Freedom of Religion or Belief Network (NORFORB). Beginning in February 2021, we will offer a 12-week online training opportunity for up to 20 participants.
The aim of this initiative is to develop quality-trained FORB advocates who will be uniquely equipped to:
- advocate for FORB for All, reflecting the context of EBF Unions/Networks
- nurture future leadership for Freedom and Justice efforts
- function as a certified community of Baptist experts for ongoing FORB advocacy
- discover areas for further collaboration and research.
Our long-term presence as CBF field personnel and our ability to engage with EBF as a manifestation of the Global Church are enabled by your generous and faithful giving to the Offering for Global Missions. We celebrated the beginning of our 17th year of service in Slovakia in September 2020. For this milestone, we are exceedingly happy as well as a bit surprised! We have been here so long that, in spite of my persistent southern accent and tendency to forget to adjust my spelling and vocabulary to the more acceptable Queen’s English, my service with EBF is often associated first with Slovakia and then as CBF field personnel from the United States. For that, I am honored and thankful.
I look forward to completing the course design work and collaborating with my former student.go intern and current EBF FORB researcher, Kieryn Wurts, to co-facilitate this Learning Programme. I appreciate your prayers as we begin this effort and, as God’s Spirit leads, would also appreciate your partnership in this through providing a scholarship to cover the costs of the program for those from less-affluent regions, particularly central Asia. You can contact me via email for more information on how you can partner with us and the EBF in this effort.