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.