Newsroom

Baxley issues challenge to “hold one another in beloved community” at Winter governance meeting

January 28, 2022

By Aaron Weaver and Carrie Harris

Governing Board members attending in-person alongside CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley (far left)

DECATUR, Ga. — “Hold one another in beloved community and embrace one another in our exhaustion.” This was the challenge of CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley to Governing Board members meeting in-person and remotely, Jan. 27-28.

In his report, Baxley reflected on Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, where the sower scattered seed indiscriminately, unsure of what would be accomplished, and related the sower’s experience with that of clergy and laity alike during the continued coronavirus pandemic.

“Many of us can identify with how that sower felt here in the last several years as we have had to reinvent everything about life, work, school, church and family,” Baxley said. “We have felt like we are throwing things in the air uncertain of what will happen, uncertain what will grow, but aware we can’t keep doing things the way we used to.”

Governing Board members attending virtually

Baxley noted that as he has visited CBF congregations, in person and virtually, he has seen many “exhausted sowers.” “I see a lot of us pressed to the limits by the exhaustion of relentless innovation, relentless challenge and the never-ending parade of coronavirus variants. We need to name the exhaustion that grips the bones of congregational leaders, laity and clergy, of field personnel, chaplains, pastoral counselors, CBF staff, of each of us in our personal lives and recognize that, in Jesus, we have a Lord who also knows unrelenting exhaustion and who is able to identify with us in our weakness.

“At this moment, if we are going to live into our identity as a Fellowship, we need to find ways to hold one another in beloved community and embrace one another in our exhaustion, and to make space to care for one another. In this season of deep-seated multi-faceted exhaustion, we need a Fellowship, and we need it with an urgency and immediacy that is unprecedented in our more than 30 years. Let’s find ways to double-down on becoming the beloved community, and find ways to renew one another.”

Toward Bold Faithfulness

Baxley highlighted “seeds” that have started to come to life from the Fellowship’s Toward Bold Faithfulness initiative—a journey launched in Fall 2019 seeking to discover and then respond to God’s call for CBF entering its fourth decade of ministry—related to the expressed need for accessible and affordable resources to help congregations thrive.

He noted the recent publication of Global Missions Bible Studies and several forthcoming resources in 2022. These include the redevelopment and expansion of Dawnings, a resource designed to help congregations discover and fulfill their God-given mission for the near future and every season thereafter; an 8-week experience called Seeing Through the Eyes of Jesus being created to help congregations focus on Jesus’ life and ministry; a case-study resource from CBF Development staff on using church facilities in ways that open revenue streams; and The Damascus Journey, a resource to support congregations with a biblical and practical framework for their racial justice journey.

Baxley also pointed to hopeful progress being made toward realizing the dream expressed during the Toward Bold Faithfulness journey of becoming a more racially, ethnically and geographically diverse denominational community.

“We are starting to see new churches come into our Fellowship, and new churches of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. We are seeing signs of seeds starting to be converted into action,” said Baxley, expressing his appreciation to the work of CBF’s Outreach & Growth Team, Pan African Koinonia and Familia, CBF’s Latino Network.

Baxley emphasized the increasing commitment across the Fellowship to global missions as seen in the growing number of encourager church relationships. He celebrated that gifts to both the Offering for Global Missions and Field Personnel Programming were both above budget for the first quarter of 2021-2022 fiscal year.

“We have seen all across our Fellowship a desire for Global Missions to grow more and live more fully into the mission distinctives we named almost a decade ago. That seed is planting, it is sprouting, it is growing.”

Global Missions Transition Team

The Governing Board approved a request from Baxley to authorize CBF’s elected officers to establish a Global Missions Transitions Team following the recent resignation of Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter.

This team will work with Baxley and Executive Coordinator staff in conducting the strategic engagement process necessary to identify needed leadership gifts and structures for the future of CBF Global Missions. At the conclusion of this process, the transition team will function as the search committee and bring back to the Governing Board a recommendation for the next Global Missions Coordinator. The team aims to shift from strategic engagement to the active search process between Easter and the General Assembly in June, Baxley said.

Coordinator of Congregational Ministries

The Governing Board also approved a second request from Baxley to authorize CBF’s elected officers to appoint a search committee for a Coordinator of Congregational Ministries, and bring back a candidate recommendation to the Board. Baxley noted that the Toward Bold Faithfulness journey revealed a need and desire for a senior leadership position to coordinate CBF Global’s work to serve congregations and ministry partners, but that he wanted to wait until CBF Global was in a “financially sustainable and growing place.” “We have reached the moment where it is right for our organization to seek a Coordinator of Congregational Ministries,” Baxley said.

Staff reports on Identity & Advocacy

The Board heard reports from staff around the areas of CBF Identity and Advocacy, as two urgent needs that arose from the Toward Bold Faithfulness journey.

In the identity report, associate coordinator for identity and communications, Jeff Huett, shared an update on new language being used to tell the CBF story.

“More and more, you will begin to see the rhythm of ‘Invite. Equip. Transform.’ in the ways that we speak, design, and write,” he explained. “Throughout the next three years, we hope to positively define who we are as a Fellowship through the mutuality of invitation and equipping as we seek to be vessels of God’s transformation in the world.”

This new language begins to surface through the theme of the upcoming 2022 General Assembly, “Come & See.”

Huett also provided updates on the General Assembly, which will take place June 28-30 in Dallas, Texas, and online with hybrid opportunities. You can learn about the Assembly, submit a workshop proposal and see schedule highlights before registration opens on February 1 at www.cbf.net/assembly.

Stephen Reeves, who directs CBF’s advocacy work and serves as executive director of Fellowship Southwest, offered an update on efforts that continue in the areas of predatory lending, hunger, education, response to the pandemic, the death penalty and voting rights.

Reeves also pointed toward two resources to support congregational advocacy and steps that congregations can take to find their passions and take first steps toward becoming advocates—The Mission of Advocacy, and Amplify, which will be available to congregations across the Fellowship in the coming months.

Committee and Council Reports

Reports also came from Governing Board committees on finance, organizational culture, and constitution and bylaw review. 

Mike Oliver, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Madison, Ala., offered good news from the Finance Committee as first quarter giving to CBF Global is on target with budget and emphasized the Fellowship’s commitment to support Global Missions through the Offering for Global Missions and missions programming.

The Committee for Organizational Culture offered a report around three areas of focus including work environment, performance management and leadership development, and feedback and communication. These areas of work stem from a survey conducted among CBF Global staff through CultureAmp as the organization continues to focus on strategic agility and dynamic collaboration.

John Scott, attorney and lay leader, offered a report as the CBF Constitution and Bylaws are in a year of review.

The Governing Board also heard reports from the chairs of CBF’s governance bodies, including the Ministries (Charles Qualls), Missions Council (Caroline Smith) and Nominating Committee (Lauren McDuffie)

Moderator Remarks and Devotional

CBF Moderator Patricia Wilson expressed her gratitude for those serving and a call to gather, “It is good to be in the service of the Lord.”

This theme of service to the Lord and service to others continued as Charles Watson, board member and director of education at BJC, offered a devotional. Based on the text in Genesis 1:26 and his personal health journey, Watson explored the idea of our dominion over the earth and “every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

“Dominion is an interesting word,” he noted, “Dominion comes with power—dominion comes with ruling over. That power comes with great responsibility.”

Noting CBF’s recently published 2021 Impact Report, Watson emphasized through the work around the world, there is not a place or resource the Fellowship cannot touch, noting: “With that responsibility, with that power, with that dominion—what do we do?”

Watson challenged the board to consider that CBF looks at dominion not as just the things the organization does, but what has not been done.

“Never take it for granted,” he said. “Always think of others before ourselves—never take for granted the people that we touch. May we always be a group that understands our dominion over the earth and that we never forget the great responsibility that comes with this.”

–30–

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.

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