Coordinator Update

"Why Do Christians Care About Economic Justice? My Answer" by Jay Kieve


This is the manuscript for a speech offered in the opening plenary session of the “Equipping Economic Justice Advocacy” conference of the South Carolina Christian Action Council. It was delivered December 4, 2018 by Reverend Dr. Jay Kieve, Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina. This speech introduced themes of racial inequity, predatory lending, and faith that the conference considered in breakouts and other plenary sessions.

**Author’s note: this manuscript was prepared for oral presentation so the sentence structure and grammar may vary from formal or academic communication.**

Download “Why Do Christians Care About Economic Justice? My Answer” Here


In my deep sadness over the killings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas I sought wisdom and hope from an old friend, a 35-year old systematic theology book. It is an old fashioned text and some of its conclusions are dated (frankly, hard to hear with modern ears). But Dale Moody offers his perspective with a love for scripture and a love for Baptists that feels like a visit home for me. So sometimes I read it and sometimes it helps. Today I flipped it open to a section I flagged with a post-it note years ago, section "VI. Sin." Here Moody quotes psychiatrist Karl Menninger: “If one wanted to find a germinal word to link all sins, perhaps hate would do it. In terms of action, however, the long term consequences of hate are self-destruction. Thus the wages of sin really are death.” Moody comments: “On the basis of clinical evidence he [Menninger] has reached one side of the conclusion with which the Scriptures begin. Sin is the disruption of [humanity’s] relation with both God and others.” *

Today I feel the weight of sin. I see it has demanded its wage. I see how high the price.

I did not pull a trigger this week but I still share the debt of sin. Cries of injustice I've glossed over with a channel click. Dedicated service I've taken for granted. A heart for diversity but hands easily distracted from the work. A tyrannical calendar an easy excuse for neglected relationship. A mind too easily tricked into false dichotomies and convenient binaries. Sin disrupts my relationship with people on both sides of the gun, and all sides of the issues and the neighborhood. Sin disrupts my relationship with God because like the couple in the primordial garden I’d rather hide from God than be seen in my shame.

But also like the story in Genesis 3, God seeks and calls. God comes searching in love. In Jesus God declares there is forgiveness and new life. So in response to killings and hatred, broken lives and an easy life, I adopt the posture of penitent, one convicted of sin and determined to turn from it. A penitent, confessing the disruption of relationship and inviting Jesus to change me that I might love God and neighbor more thoroughly, consistently, and boldly. A penitent, enshrouded in systems of brokenness but believing big change is possible. A penitent who doesn’t know all the right words to say or actions to take but knows he needs grace to absorb the disruptions between me, God, and others.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (Ps. 51:1)

* Emphasis of "hate" is original. Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 271.

General Assembly Review, Greensboro 2016

CBF’s General Assembly in Greensboro last week affirmed for me the power and hope of a fellowship engaging the mission of God in the world. When we gather as the Fellowship each year we renew relationships, share stories, dream dreams, and discern the will of God for our corporate work. This year several poignant and important moments stand out for me, including:

  • wonderful worship planned by SC’s Tony Vincent and others that included historic elements connected to founding days (“God of Grace and God of Glory”), “outsider” perspectives on the importance and impact of the Fellowship on the American religious landscape, and moving stories from field personnel that highlighted the power of sustained missionary presence;
  • an emotional prayer exercise that linked the anniversary of the Mother Emmanuel AME murders with the recent murders at Pulse in Orlando by listing the 150 people killed in mass shootings in the U.S. since our last General Assembly;
  • the launch of the 25th Anniversary Endowment Campaign with a $12M goal that has already pledged $8.5M and will give congregations and individuals the chance to sustain missionary presence, create healthy congregations, and nurture young Baptists for generations to come;
  • the Fellowship’s creation of a Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force that will recommend policies and procedures for the prevention of abuse by clergy along with faithful treatment for survivors of abuse (I’ve been invited to serve on the task force);
  • Baptist Women in Ministry’s worship service and luncheon along with their release of the “State of Women in Baptist Life” report. About 5% of CBF-partner congregations have women pastors or co-pastors, a 70% increase since 2005, but still far too few for a Fellowship that affirms women as ministers;
  • and, a renewed commitment to address the challenging questions of justice in our time with the launch of the “Illumination Project,” a strategy for faithful conversation about difficult questions (such as racism, sexism, and the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered, and queer Christians in the Fellowship). Details and resources from the “Illumination Project” for conversations within and among congregations should be available this August.

What joy to be a part of such a Fellowship!

That's a Personal Question

I came home from General Assembly in Greensboro, NC this year with a strong sense of how personal and close to the faithful hearts of Fellowship-folk our work is. Since the Orlando Pulse murders, some in CBF’s grassroots have issued impassioned calls for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the Church and in CBF life. CBF released two profound and touching statements of prayer and support for those affected by this particular shooting and the LGBTQ community more broadly. When a friend gave me a rainbow ribbon as a symbol of support for LGBTQ people, I quickly listed the names of a few people I love for whom inclusion in the church that reared them matters greatly. I also saw in my mind many other people I serve for whom accepting variations of sexual identity challenge their perspective but not their determination to love. I heard at GA how personally and faithfully field personnel take their responsibilities to the ones they love and serve, like when Tina talked about art in a prison and Kirk and Suzie shared the impact of 18 years spent translating the Bible into a little known language while living in the community. I saw the sustaining power of faithful friendship when BWIM honored Ka’thy Gore Chappell as this year’s distinguished mentor. Ideas like evangelism, acceptance, justice, or service mingle with emotional tears when expressed in stories of deep longing and friendship. CBF will, like many other American denominations, grapple with difficult issues like racism, sexism, and inclusion. To engage these issues, I know that I need to hear more stories of personal transformation and love. I need to hear, like I did at General Assembly, the experiences of the marginalized, the passed over, the excluded, along with the established. I need to know people, not issues, because I meet Jesus in others. I need faces and stories to accompany the reading of scripture so that I might feel the heart of the Gospel. I need to know the deep pains and sustaining joys of many different people in CBF life so that difficult conversations come with faces and voices that are loved and embraced not dismissed or ignored. I need to make difficult questions personal in order to imagine the consequences of action or inaction.

I don’t know many details about it yet but CBF will launch in August the “Illumination Project,” a strategy for having difficult conversations within and among CBF partner congregations. I am hopeful that sharing our hearts, making these conversations personal in the context of our Baptist commitments, will help us discern avenues toward even more cooperative, faithful, and fruitful life together.

The Genius of Congregational Church Government

Very many “yes” and one “no,” is how votes usually went in one church I served.

My dear friend (let’s call him DF for short) would very often vote “no” because he had remaining questions about the issue, the budget, or the implementation of our plans. DF questioned from a faithful heart and voted with the best intentions for the church in mind…though I suspect that once in a while he voted “no” so our decision making wouldn’t seem like a disengaged and perfunctory “rubber stamp.” I love DF and appreciate how much he treasured the processes of congregational governance because it truly is a God-blessed inheritance from our Baptist forebears.

The genius of the congregation having local autonomy, and the thing that DF’s questions and votes assured, is it makes the church perfectly contextual. The congregation through committees, councils, deacon boards, votes—whatever processes it chooses—decides who leads the church and what it does in the community and world. No one from outside a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-related congregation can tell it who to call as pastor, who to ordain as a deacon, where to send their money, or what mission endeavor best reflects the heart of the church. Local autonomy frees the congregation to tune their life together toward the particular call of God on them. Congregational governance leads to incarnational ministry because your physical location in a community shapes how you live God’s call.

The congregation exists as the highest authority in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship life so the Spirit’s work in the local church guides who we are as a Fellowship. As churches choose leaders and engage in missions, as they adapt to cultural change and adopt future visions, we encourage that autonomy and invite collaboration for missions and ministry together. Autonomy plus collaboration means that there is a lot of diversity among CBF-related congregations because the contexts of ministry vary across the Fellowship. CBFSC’s mission to encourage congregations to thrive, nurture spiritual development, and value innovative and collaborative missions and ministry is shaped by the ministry and vision of local congregations.

Congregational governance makes ministry perfectly contextual. Collaboration lead by local autonomy makes missions and ministry global while expressing the faith and heart of congregations. Dear friends may not always agree with one another but when committed to each other, with the Spirit’s help, they show Christ’s love in unique ways for their community and our world.

Sightings of the Kingdom

The month of June was very busy. On the first day of June I woke up in Kosice, Slovakia where I was visiting Jon and Tanya Parks, CBF Field Personnel to the Roma. I was taking part in a mission immersion trip they had put together as well as scouting out the possibility of taking a team from South Carolina to visit them in June of 2016 (go here for more information).

After a full and meaningful week and a half, I arrived home on June 8, but June 15 came quickly and my family and I took off for CBF Global’s General Assembly in Dallas. If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that trip took a slight detour, being stuck in New York City for a day, but that is another story for another time.

Once we made it to Dallas I got to take part in one of my favorite weeks of the year. I was privileged to see the commissioning of new Field Personnel to Cambodia, I met with old friends from the CBF offices in Decatur and from my time in seminary. I also got to meet new friends and hear of great work that is taking part around the world. It’s also a great time of networking, where I hope to have made connections that will make an impact here in South Carolina. It was also a humbling and encouraging experience seeing the response of love that was offered to our state during the hard days following the Charleston massacre.

Once the General Assembly wrapped up, my heart was full, but my trip wasn’t over yet. My family and I loaded up into a rental car and took off for the eight hour drive to Mission, TX to visit with future CBFSC partners who are doing work along the US-Mexico border. I had the privilege to learn from the ministry of Buckner International and Hearts4Kids in their work in the colonias, large, immigrant settlements along the border.

After about 1200 miles and over 20 hours in the car (Texas is a big state) we were back in Dallas and ready to fly home, this time without being stranded along the way! Now I’ve been back home for a while. I’ve had time to reflect some on these experiences, and even though it was one of my busiest months in a very long time, I’m energized and ready to serve the Kingdom with a renewed fervor.

See, at times when we spend too much time on our little patch of land, we begin to feel as if our work is isolated, or that it has no meaning. It’s easy to fall victim to the belief that there is more evil in the world than good, and that our work is seemingly in vain. We hear news of shootings, of war, of hunger, and of poverty. The pain and heartache of the world seems to eclipse any good we were hoping to achieve.

Over this month, though, I’ve had the privilege of being witness to sightings of the Kingdom, those times when we realize that for all the evil in the world God is at work through faithful people bringing about good.

For every Roma who is cursed in the street for their ethnicity, there are others working to build bridges and educate in order to put an end to such marginalization.

For every immigrant family trapped in poverty in a new and unfamiliar country that surrounds them with messages of hate and rejection, there are good, Godly people who are working to provide economic opportunity and to equip them to meet their basic needs such as reliable, safe shelter.

And for every person who feels alone in their search for meaning and purpose, there are church planters who are working tirelessly to start Kingdom minded communities that strive, together, to learn how to follow Jesus faithfully.

With every example I saw, I was reminded of the possibilities and potential of what can happen when God’s faithful community bands together to bear witness to the Kingdom in a world that so desperately needs it. That leaves me energized and hopeful for what can happen through us in South Carolina.

Transforming Romania Together

We are not called to be agents of transformation at home only. We are called to take the Good News of God's Kingdom to every corner of this world. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina is in a 3-year partnership with the Roma ministries of CBF Global in order to take seriously this call to be global disciples. This year, through your investments in the Beverly Greer Offering for State Missions, CBF of SC was able to take part in Project Ruth's Second Chance Program for adult education. Watch the video below from CBF Field Personnel Ralph and Tammy Stocks, and consider investing more in transformational ministry across our state and around our world.

To give to the Beverly Greer Offering for State Missions, click here and choose "State Missions" in the drop down.

Misogyny, Missions, and a Trip to the Orthodontist

Sometimes my kids talk to me in the car. This happened today on the way to the orthodontist’s office. emma volleyball

“That’s the disease some boys said was in South Carolina now!” fourteen year-old Emma exclaimed, following a radio news story about a man in Texas hospitalized with the Ebola virus. “First of all, don’t believe anything middle school boys say,” I said for the hundredth time. “Second, that story is about a man in Texas who came from Liberia to visit his family.” Then we talked about Ebola, why western Africa is particularly susceptible, how the disease impacts more than just the sick people because it disrupts school, work, and access to food. I told her about friends who are helping (through the Liberian Baptist Seminary and CBF).

From the Ebola conversation Emma declared that she wants to go on a mission trip to another country. Because Emma values differing languages and cultures as well as any 8th grader I know, she understands how important it is for Americans to listen and honor the countries they visit as missionaries. We talked about times when trying to help can actually hurt (I told stories like you can hear here). It was cool to hear her heart for others as an expression of her faith.

Back on the radio, the local morning show guys led a conversation comparing a “size 12 woman” and a “size 20 woman.” How much larger is one than the other? Should they work out (not for health sake but appearance sake)? Within the hour the hosts also confessed that they track a female coworker’s “PMS” on a calendar. They implied she is a less capable worker a few days a month. Emma learned the word “misogyny” on our ride though I suspect with “entertainment” like this she’ll be very familiar with its experience.

I am blessed to serve among CBF folks, and Emma is blessed to worship in a CBF-partner church, that honors the callings and lives of women and men as we respond to people in crisis with faithful and culturally sensitive missions and ministry. I’m sure no one gets it right all the time, but being among these folks has helped me have the right conversations with Emma.

Worship Responds to Bad News

I have struggled to watch the news these past few weeks. My heart breaks for Palestinians and Israelis locked in violent conflict, West Africans besieged by the Ebola virus, immigrant and refugee children and families in North America and the Middle East frightened and fatigued, and frustrated anger in Ferguson, Missouri. I sometimes feel helpless to respond. What can I do? What can I do? On my best days, I remember what my ethics professor taught me 25 years ago: when we come to worship we rehearse ways to follow Jesus in the world. The news is so bad, what can I do? Perhaps I can do what we do on Sunday morning.

Jay Kieve preaching

Sunday’s prayer of invocation acknowledges God’s presence in our midst and embraces God’s power to accomplish more than we can imagine or intend. When I watch the news, my worship reminds me of God’s presence. What can I do? I can trust that God is at work even when I can’t see how.

Sunday’s songs create solidarity of voice declaring the truths of faith. Hymns and choruses proclaim the holiness of God, the love of Jesus, the guidance of Holy Spirit, the depths of grace, and the promises of heaven. When I watch the news, my worship tells me that what I see and hear are not the only things to be said and heard. What can I do? I can stand and join my voice with others sharing Good News.

Sunday’s prayers present to God the concerns of our communities for healing, for help, for guidance, and for strength. We pray for the Kingdom, for forgiveness, for daily bread, and for deliverance from evil. When I watch the news, my worship teaches me that prayer is part of my power to respond. What I can I do? I can pray. And even when I don’t know what to pray, I have a model to follow.

Sunday’s Bible reading and sermon invite, challenge, and inspire me to hear from Jesus the truth about me, my life, and the world. The Invitation demands from me a response, a renewed commitment to follow Jesus in the truth I’ve heard. When I watch the news, my worship shapes me to see and to hear through the lens of Jesus’ life and teaching. What can I do? I can respond with a renewed commitment to follow Jesus in the world; a commitment that might lead me to protest or deeper prayer, to political organizing or teaching toddlers in Sunday School, to volunteer or to vacate a long held position.

Sunday’s offering gathers the gifts of creation and human labor, and presents them to God for blessing. Money supports ministry in the world. When I watch the news, my worship shows me how money is part of God’s power for life. What can I do? I can write a check that will fund the help and good I hope to see. (see: Resources for Giving and Learning at the end of this post)

Sunday’s Lord’s Supper begins with betrayal “on the night Jesus was arrested” and ends with blessed nourishment and the promise of a heavenly banquet. When I watch the news, Sunday’s table calls me to acknowledge my own betrayals, sinfulness that limits knowledge, will, and perspective. Sunday’s table assures me that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection overcome my sinfulness and our enmity to bring people together. What can I do? I can, with humility and grace, share a meal and seek unity. (see: Resources for Giving and Learning at the end of this post)

Sunday’s benediction turns the Church with a blessing toward the world. When I watch the news, my worship reminds me that my faith formed on Sunday mornings transforms the rest of the week. What can I do? I can trust, sing, pray, respond, give, and gather because I am not helpless. I am a follower of Jesus who every week participates in the practices that bless and change the world.

**Resources for Giving and Learning

CBF CARES for Migrant / Refugee Children

I want you join me in doing a very good thing. Click this CBF CARES link (then login or click "quick give") and give as much money as you can, because this money will go directly to bringing humanitarian aid to immigrant and refugee children and families apprehended crossing into the U.S. from Central America by way of the Mexican border. (You can also mail a check with CBF CARES on the memo line to: CBF of SC, P.O. Box 11159 Columbia, SC 29211)

The news has been hard to watch these past few weeks. My heart breaks to hear of children, many of them alone and some of them abused, traveling hundreds of arduous miles for a chance at life in the United States. Violence in home countries leading parents to risk the children they love makes me hold my children a little closer these days. Many of you have asked how we might respond. You have asked what CBF is doing to help.

CBF has field personnel serving on the Texas-Mexico border. They are partnering with folks from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, a local food bank, and other faith-based groups. We can best help right now by sending money through CBF Cares that can be used to purchase supplies. For example, about $10 will buy a case of water and a pack of diapers or a case of water and a hygiene kit. I’d love for us in SC to send enough money to purchase "kits" or other supplies for 100 children. In other words, $10 can make a difference for a child on the border and I'd love for us to send a $1000. My family sent enough to help 5 children today. Join me and let’s do 95 more!

And by giving to CBF Cares, our money will follow the children. As they move to temporary housing in the Southeast and across the United States, field personnel and perhaps even CBF-partner congregations can use those funds to extend help locally.

I know that there exists a wide range of political perspectives on the causes and solutions for the problems of immigration to the United States. And I know folks in CBF partnering congregations hold with sincerity the entire spectrum of those perspectives. But these kids didn’t cause the problem and they don’t have the power to remove themselves from a desperate situation. So amid whatever other voices we hear and heed, and as we lend our voices to call for change, let us also hear Jesus who in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18 said “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.” In children’s voices are gospel whispers we need to hear. I believe that by helping them we meet Jesus (as he promised in Matthew 25) and move a bit closer to the Kingdom ourselves.

Follow the link above to give and help children through CBF CARES. Visit the CBF CARES link at our webpage for more information. Share these links with your friends. Forward this email. Let's do a good thing.



General Assembly Takeaway: A New Conversation on Global and Local Mission

The dust is finally settling from CBF’s General Assembly last week in Atlanta. It was a busy but fulfilling week of meetings, business sessions, and worship in which heard of new visions for what Cooperative Baptist Fellowship mission and ministry may look like in the future. We also got to see old friends and meet new partners in ministry. Through it all I’m very encouraged with what I heard and experienced. Here are just a few highlights:

  • We heard from CBF’s new Global Missions Coordinator, Steven Porter. His vision for a new day of missions is inspiring. At the Co-Missioning banquet he said, “We, Cooperative Baptists, do not need vaunted rhetoric so much as a resolve to rethink mission in local congregations and in mission contexts here and abroad. We need to begin a new conversation on mission together.” I’m eager to see how this conversation takes shape on the global and national levels as well as here in South Carolina.
  • There were many workshops focusing on equipping churches to be faithful in their call to mission. Fellowship Baptists were discussing and dreaming about ways to further the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven” through addressing payday lending, working to transform impoverished communities, bringing justice and peace to situations of conflict, and welcoming our international brothers and sisters.
  • I attended a workshop, led by CBF’s Ryan Clark, on helping churches understand and assess their current missions engagement. From dollars spent on missions to hours volunteered in service, there is a way to begin to understand how we are involved in missions and how we can focus our efforts to be more faithful to our calling.
  • As always at such a gathering, I was able to network with several people to help better connect our CBF of SC churches to responsible mission possibilities both locally, in other states, and abroad. From the possibility of forming covenants of action with neighboring congregations of different races through the New Baptist Covenant, to taking teams to partner with communities near the US-Mexico border, to teaching at the Gypsy Smith School to help equip Roma pastors and church leaders, there are possibilities to enrich our congregations through mission around the world.

This is just a sampling of all the good that took place last week in Atlanta. I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend this annual meeting, and I’m eager to see how our CBF of SC missions will be enhanced and challenged by what we’ve learned.