August 27, 2021
By Aaron Weaver and Carrie Harris
DECATUR, Ga. — “Do not lose heart.” Citing the Apostle Paul, CBF Executive Coordinator delivered this message to attendees during the Friday morning plenary session of the 2021 General Assembly as he focused his remarks on the challenges of the past 18 months.
In his Executive Coordinator Report, Baxley encouraged Cooperative Baptists to be honest about the exhaustion they feel while seeking to create and find spaces of healing and restoration in the midst of a public health crisis, hyper-partisanship and systemic racism.
“I want you to know today that even in the midst of this difficult and challenging journey, and even in this Assembly that isn’t everything we first imagined it would be, I believe we can also declare: ‘So we do not lose heart,’” Baxley said. “Sisters and brothers in Christ, I believe in the depth of my being that in the midst of these deeply challenging days, we have seen signs of the Spirit’s work of renewal all across our Cooperative Baptist Fellowship most generously defined. Because we are already experiencing God’s renewing power, we do not lose heart!”
Baxley affirmed the work of CBF congregations, ministers, lay leaders, CBF field personnel, chaplains and pastoral counselors, young Baptists, CBF partner organizations, theological schools, state and regional leaders, and the CBF Global staff.
“As I look around from this vantage point,” said Baxley, “even in this time of tremendous travail and challenge, I believe we have reason not to lose heart. We are being renewed day-by-day and positioned for a ministry and mission that is abundantly far more than anything we could have asked or imagined.”
This time of challenge and travail, he added, comes during the 30th anniversary summer of CBF. While this is not the anticipated celebration of such an occasion, Baxley called on Cooperative Baptists to put a question to rest that has been circling since the organization’s inception: Is “Fellowship” the right name?
“The 30th anniversary of our Fellowship is as good a time as any for us to put this question to rest as nearly as we can, and for me to say I think those of you who chose this name got it exactly right,” Baxley said. “It turns out, ‘Fellowship’ is a stronger word than any other.
“Fellowship is a powerful community that grows out of the inner life of God and opens into the world. Fellowship binds us to God and to one another in ways of relating, loving and serving that change us and change the world. Fellowship means we are not left to our own devices and that we do not face the most substantial challenges alone. We are not dangerously autonomous or suffocatingly isolated. We have been and are being invited into a relationship with God and with one another in which we are equipped for bold faithfulness and are empowered for our own transformation, and then the transforming of our congregations, our communities and the world.”
It is in these seasons of diversity, he continued, that we need true and genuine life together with God and one another, so it is not surprising to see new connections begin to develop across CBF.
“The Holy Spirit has been bringing more and more Baptists into our community who were not among us 30 years ago, and, even as they join us, they are leading and equipping us in ways that are already transforming us,” Baxley said. “What if we come out of this season with a deeper commitment to really being a Fellowship?”
CBF is ready to take on this challenge—to be drawn more deeply into community with God and one another; to become more powerfully equipped to be a community through whom God transforms, he stressed.
“There may not be much use for denominational entities that seek only to control or dictate or be coopted by external political agendas,” Baxley said. “There is an urgent need for the community we were called to be and are being called to be. Such a Fellowship, flowing out of the Fellowship of love that is the inner life of God, committed to the mission of actual transformation for which Jesus gave his life, is urgently needed for the sake of the salvation of the world God loves.”
Reflections of Outgoing CBF Moderator
CBF Moderator Carol McEntyre shared her reflections leading the Fellowship during the 2020-2021 year, emphasizing the “unique and challenging time” it has been as both Moderator and a pastor.
“I want to begin with a word to CBF pastors and congregational ministers,” she said. “We never dreamed we would be managing COVID-19 task forces in our churches or ministering to so many virtual worshippers who may not live in our communities. We have been doing these things while preaching and offering a word of hope and providing pastoral care when many people in our congregations feel overwhelmed and angry about the state of the world. This has been a heavy pastoral load to bear. But somehow CBF pastors and other ministers have found energy to be creative. You have gone to great lengths to minister to people….You have been brave in our polarized culture and it has cost some of you.”
“Like our churches, the Fellowship has also adapted to these unprecedented times,” McEntyre continued. “This has been a year of creativity as we have learned to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in creative ways and I’m proud of how our staff and field personnel have ministered in these difficult times.”
Dreams of the Incoming CBF Moderator
“I believe we have developed a plan that positions the Fellowship well for the challenges of the future, both those that are known and hopefully for those we cannot anticipate,” Wilson said. “If there is one thing we have learned from the pandemic, it is the need to be agile and adaptive.”
“I believe that our plan maintains and strengthens the core values of the Fellowship while setting the stage for CBF to adapt to the challenges of a changing world,” she added. “My hope this year is that we will truly act boldly and faithfully in our plans.”
McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer Award
The 2021 recipients of the McCall Racial Justice Trailblazer Award were announced during the Friday morning session. The McCall Trailblazer Award as well as the McCall Racial Justice and Leadership Initiative are named after the Rev. Dr. Emmanuel McCall, a longtime pastor, educator, former CBF Moderator and racial justice trailblazer. The award exists to recognize CBF individuals and ministries who charter through unequal and unjust areas of life and initiate proactive resolutions from communities in the form of policies or practices, resulting in greater equity, opportunity, impact and outcomes for all.
The 2021 recipients are Rev. Cheryl Moore Adamson, pastor of Palmetto Missionary Baptist Church in Conway, S.C., and the first Black Baptist woman to pastor a CBF South Carolina congregation; Rev. Dr. Preston Clegg, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock Ark.; and Pastor Rosalio Sosa, leader of Iglesia Bautista Tierra de Oro in El Paso, Texas.
Watch the video below to learn more about the recipients and read in the months ahead in-depth feature stories about and conversation opportunities with these ministers and their faithful service on behalf of racial justice.
Justo and Catherine González Resource Center
CBF also announced during the Friday plenary session a new partnership with the Association for Hispanic Theological Education to host the Justo and Catherine González Resource Center at the CBF Global offices in Decatur, Ga.
AETH Executive Director Fernando Cascante shared that the center was conceived as a place to “to provide resources about the Hispanic, Latino church, their ministries and their theological perspectives.”
The González Resource Center was created in October 2011 and maintains the hundreds of books and thousands of articles and sermons written by celebrated church historian Dr. Justo González as well as the literary production of Dr. Catherine González.
“These materials offer an opportunity for study and research,” explained Rubén Ortiz, CBF’s Latino field coordinator and a leader of Familia, the Fellowship’s Latino Network. “Through its lecture series, the center brings together denominational leaders, seminary professors, directors of biblical institutes and pastors for reflection on issues relevant to the church and the Latino/a community.”
Ortiz, who was instrumental in forming this new partnership alongside his friend Cascante, has devoted the past four years to working intentionally and strategically to give Latino/as a denominational home, resources and a strengthened and more visible presence in CBF life.
“At CBF, we are dreaming of a future of greater inclusion,” Ortiz said. “We know from the Toward Bold Faithfulness process that one of the most significant needs of our congregations is addressing changing demographics and leadership training.”
CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley echoed Ortiz, calling the partnership an “amazing opportunity” for CBF.
“We are going to have the chance to be taught by amazing theologians, preachers and church historians,” Baxley said. “And we’re going to see the gospel through a different lens than the lens that we’ve grown up with….The chance to have the González Center at the center of CBF life is an amazing next step in our Fellowship’s unfinished journey to being a Christian community that truly reflects the diversity that has been present in the Church since its founding on the day of Pentecost.”
Watch the video below to learn more about this partnership:
20th Anniversary of Together for Hope
Jason Coker, president of Together for Hope, CBF’s rural development coalition, thanked attendees for their commitment to the rural poverty initiative on its 20th anniversary.
“You made a decision based on your conviction,” Coker told attendees. “You were convicted by God that every human being has value and worth, and their human dignity doesn’t deserve to live in poverty, especially in the wealthiest country that the world has ever known. You believe in the people who lived in places of persistent rural poverty.
Coker emphasized that Together for Hope isn’t just standing on its 20-year foundation. He noted that by the end of 2021 there will be 50 organizations that comprise Together for Hope and by the end of 2022 the coalition expects to claim 100 organizations.
“That foundation is a launching pad,” Coker said. “This year, Together for Hope became its own nonprofit. We will continue to be part of CBF, function as a ministry of this beloved community, but we will also reach out to other denominations and faiths and organizations and individuals of goodwill, and build a coalition that will change rural America forever—and we need everyone’s help.”
Watch the video below celebrating the 20th anniversary of Together for Hope.
Honoring Churches and Chaplains
Three CBF churches were recognized for excellence in missions: 19th Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, Calif.; Second Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo.; and Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. Watch the video below to learn more about the Mission Excellence Award honorees and be on lookout for in-depth feature stories on each congregation in the coming weeks and months:
In 2020, CBF established the Carl Hart Award for excellence in chaplaincy and pastoral ministry. Chaplain Paul Byrd of Birmingham, Ala., was named as the 2021 recipient of this award. Watch the video below to learn more about CBF Chaplaincy and Rev. Byrd.
Attendees voted to approve a $14,575,891 budget for the 2022 fiscal year that begins October 1. Cooperative Baptists also approved a slate of nominees to serve on the Ministries Council, Missions Council and Governing Board, including Alabama lay leader Debbie McDaniel as Moderator-Elect for 2021-2022. Attendees also voted to approve new members to the Nominating Committee, Council on Endorsement, Church Benefits Board and CBF Foundation.
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.