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!