General Assembly 2022 / Newsroom

Paul Baxley challenges Assembly to “build a whole new table”

June 30, 2022

By Aaron Weaver

DALLAS — “Our calling is to building a whole new table,” CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley told attendees during his Thursday morning address to the 2022 General Assembly in Dallas.

CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley

“The God who raises Jesus from the dead can engineer a more powerful algorithm than the convenient spaces where everybody already agrees,” he said. “Our calling is to build a whole new table. It’s not enough to set a place at a table that does not fully reflect the dream of God. It’s imperative that we answer a call that the Spirit is giving us a vision and is inviting us to set a new table, where all gifts are welcome and all gifts are unleashed.”

Baxley noted that the Fellowship is growing and becoming more diverse.

“Do not hear this as a victory lap,” he cautioned. “We have begun to grow as a Fellowship and become more diverse because we know that diversity is essential to us living into a vision of being truly a community of mutual equipping, that Baptists from different places who speak different languages, who worship in different ways, can teach and encourage and provoke one another on toward love and good deeds.”

“And though we have been saying since our founding that we are fully committed to the proposition that God calls women as well as men to all forms of leadership in the church, we have new evidence that we have not arrived yet,” Baxley said. “It grieves me that 30 years into our life, I still have to say we have not arrived yet.”

“Now the good news is, as we’re crossing over, more and more women are coming out of our theological schools, serving our congregations with gifts and grace. But the moment of truth is coming….Are we going to stand up and live into what we’ve been saying from the beginning and call gifted women to pastor our congregations and hold places of leadership in our Fellowship? It is time to cross over.”

Baxley updated the Assembly, highlighting new resources for congregations, closer collaboration with CBF state and regional organizations, and an increased commitment to outreach and growth to individuals of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Baxley noted that the 2022-2023 budget includes funding for a full-time coordinator of CBF’s Pan African Koinonia as well as a full-time staff presence in the Northeast.

Baxley also praised CBF field personnel and reaffirmed the Fellowship’s commitment to CBF Global Missions.

“CBF field personnel are incredibly committed, gifted servants of Jesus. They’re entrepreneurial and courageous. You think many of us have had a challenging season during the last two years? I invite you to come alongside our field personnel and listen to their stories. Yet, their presence remains, their gifts remain. This Fellowship community loves you values you and appreciates you and we’re committed to your ministry,” said Baxley, noting that the 2022-2023 budget includes the first substantial salary increase for CBF field personnel in many years.

Baxley thanked attendees for their support of the CBF Offering for Global Missions, which makes possible the long-term presence of field personnel.

“Thank you again as a Fellowship community for growing your support of the Offering for Global Missions. Even through this time of pandemic and recession, you are part of the amplification and the transformation. God is inviting all of us, equipping all of us to share in this transforming work. Sisters and brothers in Christ, we are crossing over.”

“I stand here today more hopeful than I have ever been about the life and ministry of this Fellowship,” Baxley said. “I stand here today knowing that together we will cross over.”

Watch Baxley’s Executive Coordinator report here:

Mission Excellence Awards

Three congregations were honored by the CBF Missions Council with the Mission Excellence Award for their commitment to living out the Fellowship’s mission distinctives of cultivating beloved community, bearing witness to Jesus Christ and seeking transformational development: Heritage Baptist Church in Heflin, Ala.; First Baptist Church, Corbin, Ky.; and Valley Ranch Baptist Church, Coppell, Texas.

Watch the videos below to learn more about these faithful congregations:

Ministries Council Grants

The CBF Ministries Council also announced grants awarded to two congregations. Fernwood Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C. received a grant to help fund an outdoor learning space at a nearby elementary school, and Welfare Baptist Church in Anderson County, S.C., was awarded a grant for a community-wide Juneteenth celebration.

Suzii Paynter March Advocacy Fellowship

Stephen Reeves, who directs CBF Advocacy, was joined on stage by former CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter March, to announce the search for the first recipient of the Suzii Paynter March Advocacy Fellowship. The recipient will focus on increasing public education advocacy within the Fellowship and work alongside the CBF Advocacy team to encourage Cooperative Baptists to become effective advocates for their public schools.

(Left) Stephen Reeves, (Right) Suzii Paynter March

Paynter March thanked the Baugh Family Foundation for its investment in the ministry of advocacy and making possible the fellowship program.

“Advocacy is Christian love in action,” she said. “Advocacy is born of the Holy Spirit, but it is nurtured by community, calling and congregation. And advocacy is brought to fullness by the nobility and honor of Christian character. Thank you for the work these fellows will do supporting and developing Christian character in the name of Jesus.”

CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley expressed his gratefulness to Paynter March for her leadership and commitment to the ministry of advocacy.

“We are grateful for your leadership of our Fellowship, and thankful for the way you have awakened a call to advocacy as a central part of our mission,” Baxley said. “We not only honor you, we continue the work you have called us to under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.”

Vestal Scholarship Recipients

CBF Leadership Scholars were also recognized during the Thursday business session. Devita Parnell, director of the Young Baptist Ecosystem, announced that 51 scholarships had been awarded for the coming academic year to students at 19 different schools.

Parnell was also joined onstage with former CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal and his wife, Earlene, for the presentation of the 2022 Vestal Scholarship named in their honor.

Beth Rooney Bailey and Luke Perrin were introduced as the 2022 recipients of the Fellowship’s most prestigious scholarship, created in 2011 to further CBF’s commitment to theological education. Students who receive the Vestal Scholarship have demonstrated excellence academically and have displayed a deep commitment to the local church and to CBF.

Left to right: Daniel Vestal, Earlene Vestal, Beth Rooney Bailey, Luke Perrin, Devita Parnell

Bailey is a rising second-year Master of Divinity Student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va., and an intern at River Road Church, Baptist in Richmond. Perrin is a dual-degree student at Duke University, where he is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School as well as a Master of Public Policy. Learn more about Bailey and Perrin here.

 In congratulating Bailey and Perrin, Dr. Vestal shared briefly about the importance of theological education to CBF identity.

“Theological education has been central to our ministry and mission,” Vestal said. “It is also important to say that from the beginning an important part of our identity was not to own seminaries, but to partner with seminaries, divinity schools, Baptist houses and work in partnership. I think the two of you are an example of that vision and those values,” he said to Bailey and Perrin.

“I want to add my voice to Earlene’s to saying God bless both of you and to all of you seminarians who are not just the future but are very much part of the present of this Fellowship. It gives me great hope and encouragement for CBF as a movement of renewal of the Baptist family and the body of Christ as I see God working in you and through you.”

Foundation and Benefits Reports

Attendees heard reports from Shauw Chin Capps of the CBF Foundation (video) and Rob Fox of CBF Church Benefits (video). The Assembly approved the 2022-2023 Ministry and Mission Budget, nominees to serve on the Fellowship’s governance bodies and voted to approve amendments to the CBF Constitution and Bylaws.

Moderator Remarks and Dreams

Outgoing CBF Moderator Patricia Wilson shared her reflections with attendees as she transitions to the role of Past Moderator.

“What I found is that God is good,” said Wilson, reflecting on the past two years. “We have carried on. Many things have happened despite COVID. Because we haven’t been able to have a typical General Assembly, we missed greeting friends, participating in uplifting worship services. Because of COVID, our field personnel and partners were unable to carry out ministry in usual ways. Because of COVID, we became more aware of inequities and injustices that exist in our local communities, country and world.”

Incoming Moderator Debbie McDaniel offers her dreams for the Fellowship after Patricia Wilson (behind) shared her outgoing remarks

Wilson expressed her gratefulness to the dedication and creativity of CBF staff and personnel.

“My hope and optimism for CBF have never been greater,” she said. “Last year, when I addressed the Assembly virtually I shared that my dream was that we would act boldly and faithfully. As I reflect on the past year, I can say my dream has been fulfilled and will continue to be fulfilled.”  

The Thursday business session concluded with Incoming CBF Moderator Debbie McDaniel sharing her dreams for the coming year.

“Friends, I’m energized by the faces I’ve seen this week and in various CBF spaces—the diversity of bright, young adults yearning to bear witness to Christ, hearing friends whose skin hues are different from mine telling stories of God-honoring work being done in their communities, listening to their words of support and encouragement to one another. These are positive witnesses to the risen Christ who is among us,” she shared.

McDaniel invited attendees to pray for her and Governing Board members as they work to serve the Fellowship in the coming year.

“My dream is for each of us to come and see and know the people and the resources of the Fellowship on a deeper level,” she said. “As I serve you, I will pray for you as you continue your journey of discovery and living into your own unique calling to Christ’s mission.”


CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to 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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