By Aaron Weaver and Carrie McGuffin
DECATUR, Ga. – The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Governing Board launched a new regional network in the Southwest to strengthen joint ministry efforts, announced a creation stewardship initiative, and affirmed an historic partnership with a 3.5 million member African-American Baptist denomination at its Feb. 9-10 meeting.
“It’s a good time to be a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,” CBF Moderator Doug Dortch said to open up the winter gathering of the Governing Board. Reflecting on his time serving as Moderator of CBF, Dortch emphasized the important opportunities as board members to communicate “who we are as Cooperative Baptists” and “what makes CBF a worthy investment.”
“Let us work together to seize the opportunities before us to follow the call of Jesus,” Dortch challenged the group.
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter shared updates with the board about the Fellowship’s growing connections with the Global Church and highlighted the three focal points of the ongoing $12-million 25th Anniversary endowment campaign: sustaining the long-term presence of field personnel, forming healthy churches and nurturing young Baptists.
“Where we’ve come from, where we are and where we’re poised to go is amazing,” Paynter said. “One of the reason’s we have been so successful throughout this year is that we have these guiding principles of sustaining Global Missions, forming healthy churches and nurturing young Baptists. We are organizing the work of our Fellowship and organizing the fundraising of CBF around those commitments.”
Paynter also expressed her excitement for the Fellowship’s next three years, pointing to the deepening of congregational connection and identity with CBF.
“It is impossible to be the church sustained without being the church joined together,” Paynter said. “In every endeavor, whether it’s in missions and church engagement, or peer groups and church connections.
Paynter also offered updates on two global relationships that CBF continues to cultivate through deepening partnerships in both China and Cuba.
“We are on the doorstep of the Global Church,” she said.
To respond to the growing needs of churches seeking to strengthen joint mission and ministry endeavors, the board passed a motion Friday to affirm the creation of Fellowship Southwest, a new network of CBF Global spanning the southwest region of the United States to advance the witness of Christ and further the renewal of God’s world.
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter described the new network as a “wonderful opportunity” to connect with and engage churches across the multi-cultural and extremely diverse southwest. Fellowship Southwest aims to cultivate Christian community, enhance shared mission and equip impactful ministry through a coalition approach with CBF state/regional organizations including CBF of Texas, CBF of Oklahoma and CBF West, as well as with Baptist and ecumenical partners and other Christian organizations domestically and internationally.
“Fellowship Southwest will strengthen our core commitment as Cooperative Baptists to ‘unity in cooperation,’ bringing to the table churches and individuals with a variety of worship practices and beliefs who are serious about missions, ministry and advancing the witness of Christ,” Paynter said.
Affirming an historic partnership
The Governing Board heard reports from CBF staff on finance and accounting, global missions, ministries as well as from the CBF Foundation, Nominating Committee, Ministries Council and Missions Council.
The board also received and adopted a motion to approve a memorandum from CBF to the National Baptist Convention of America, International Inc. In October 2016, CBF entered into an historic partnership to ‘build an authentic Christ-like community through shared work’ with the 3.5 million-member denomination of African-American Baptists.
The memorandum addressed to the Rev. Dr. Sam Tolbert, president of NBCAI affirmed CBF’s partnership, plans for a joint summit called the “Angela Project” with NBCAI and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and pledged resources, volunteers and other support for the repair and restoration of the buildings and facilities of a vital community church of NBCAI which suffered significant damage from the massive flooding in Baton Rouge, La., in August 2016.
“We affirm the work of volunteers and supporters to aid in the disaster recovery efforts following the devastating floods of 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,” the letter stated. “We affirm the sustaining community leadership of Pastor SC Dixon, Reverend Jesse Carruthers and the dedicated ministry of the congregation of the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, a vital community church of the National Baptist Convention of America International.
“We affirm the CBF church leaders in Louisiana, especially Mike Massar, CBF of Louisiana, University Baptist Church, Bobby Rayburn and Leonard Ezell, Broadmoor Baptist Church and those from churches in states beyond Louisiana who provided help in the early weeks after the flood.
“We affirm the plans of the Angela Project to convene the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention of America, International, Inc. (NBCA), in cooperation with other historically-black denominations, and to join with them in 3 annual summits, the first of which focuses on education.
“We affirm unity in purpose to gather the faith community to set the agenda for each summit a) education b) alleviating both black and white poverty, and c) addressing the legacy of slavery through our commitment to national truth and reconciliation efforts. In recognition of these vital partnerships and in acknowledgment of the restoration work that is required for the benefit of the Greater Mount Olive Church and School, and in support of the priority of the Angela Project 2017 toward education the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship pledges resources, volunteers and supportive partnership for the repair and restoration of the buildings and facilities of Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church and Greater Mount Olive Baptist Academy.”