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.

 

Identity: Who Is CBF? Part 1 - Diversity

As I have traveled South Carolina for the past year, meeting CBF-folk in churches and at events, our diversity has impressed me. In fact, I’ve come to believe that our diversity is a hallmark of our identity. (I talked about this in a video here: http://youtu.be/WPxzrV57qDM) We value our diversity because it reveals our deep convictions about a  faithful life and church. I have seen that when we are together we represent some ethnic and racial diversity, though there is surely room for growth. We possess greater sexual diversity, with men and women sharing leadership roles in our congregations and in CBFSC. We span a range of denominational affinity with some congregations exclusively CBF and others primarily relating to other Baptist groups while adding a dash of CBF, with many variations in between.

I think that the diversity that has most impressed me is our range of theological, political, and social perspectives. Some of our congregations and people identify most closely with a Mainline Protestant theology while others are most at home in a traditional Evangelical expression of faith. I’ve worshipped alongside Democrats and Republicans. I’ve sang the great hymns of faith between people whose political voice is tuned by LBJ’s “Great Society,” and other’s who claim the Tea Party movement. Accompanying this theological and political diversity comes the full spectrum of social commitments. Choose any modern issue — sexuality, immigration, responses to poverty, educational reform, gun control — and you will find thoughtful, faithful people with a wide range of views.

Though sometimes cumbersome, after all we are charting a course together that requires choices and commitments, our diversity is a sign of our healthy Baptist faith. Because we affirm the priesthood of all believers we know that each of us has the responsibility to struggle with the scriptures and discern how we follow Jesus. Because we believe in free churches we know it is best for each congregation under the guidance of Holy Spirit to call their leadership, choose their relationships, and live their faith. Free believers and free churches, as we interact and call each other to faith, will walk differing paths towards the same goal of life with Christ.

Rather than being threatened by diversity, we hold together the differing paths with love for one another. We affirm diversity along the way to ministry as a sign of faithfulness. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina is a diverse community of grace on our shared spiritual journey that connects people to Christ and one another.