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Posted by on Jun 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Meets in Tampa: News Round-Up, Part I

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is meeting this week in Tampa, Florida to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Check out a few articles about this gathering of moderate and progressive Baptists:

Female pastors on rise in progressive Baptist bodies (Houston Chronicle)

The number of female pastors in Baptist churches has grown by a third in the past five years….Baptist Women in Ministry found that women’s involvement in ordained ministry is slowly growing among organizations like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Reduced financial contributions still a problem, CBF council told (Baptist Standard)

Sagging financial contributions remain a challenge for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, members of the group’s Coordinating Council were told June 22.  Current receipts are running at about 82 percent of the $14.5 million budget for 2010-2011, said Bill McConnell, a Knoxville, Tenn., businessman who chairs the council’s finance committee.

…The 66-member council will recommend to the general assembly this week a reduced operating budget of $12.3 million for 2011-2012, a $2.2 million drop from this year’s budget goal. But if projected trends continue, even that lower figure won’t be met, said McConnell.

CBF marks 20th anniversary with laughter, hope (Baptist Standard)

Celebration emcees Clarissa Strickland, a CBF staff member, and Brett Younger, a professor at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, acknowledged the “Baptist battles” produced many tearful moments. Those tears spilled over into the early years of the Fellowship’s existence, when their beloved SBC institutions fell into the hands of their adversaries, they noted.

But despite the memory of tears, they kept the anniversary crowd laughing. They chuckled at the names SBC leaders called them, such as “skunks” and “liberals.” They hooted at the idiosyncracies of their movement and the organizations it has produced. They cackled at comparisons between their own leaders and some of the SBC firebrands who ousted them.

Anniversary speaker labels CBF ‘movement of the Spirit’ (Associated Baptist Press)

“The Spirit works in freedom, calling the church to new forms of service in the world, and discerning that call is a demanding spiritual practice,” she said. To help, she outlined seven questions to be answered to gauge whether “CBF is called as a movement of the Spirit.”

A hearty party (Baptists Today)

There were serious moments, however. Christy McMillin-Goodwin, minister of education and mission at Oakland Baptist in Rock Hill, S.C. and CBF’s current moderator, compared her spiritual/Baptist journey to Dorothy’s travels in The Wizard of Oz, growing up in a church that was open to women in leadership, later realizing she “wasn’t in Kansas anymore,” and finally finding a home in CBF, which was creating a new “Kansas.”

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  1. As a CBF Leadership Scholar who attended last week’s General Assembly, I can report that many young CBF leaders were very disappointed in the 20th anniversary celebration banquet. Personally, I missed the event (as I was still on I-75), but I heard numerous Leadership Scholars lament that so much time and energy was spent at the banquet making jokes about, and taking jabs at, the SBC. (the transcript of Marshall’s address and the Baptist Standard story about the event corroborate their testimonies)

    While we agree that young Cooperative Baptists should understand the history of CBF and the events of the “fundamentalist takeover”, we also believe that it is detrimental to the future of CBF to continually relive and rehash the past. Young people are tired of hearing this negativity in CBF circles. We want to move forward.

    I am concerned that CBF leaders have not fully heard this message from their younger counterparts, despite attempts from young CBF leaders (such as the open letter you shared on this blog a few years ago). Leadership Scholars shared their views on the celebration banquet with the 2012 Task Force this week. I hope that did some good.

    The past should not be forgotten. But the present and future should not be neglected because of twenty year old scars. We need healing, not continued bitterness.

  2. Here’s my two cents:

    I understand the “move on” and don’t rehash the past sentiment expressed by some, young and old.

    And I think CBF has done a pretty good job at that. While you may hear the SBC referenced in workshops, etc. from to time to time, generally you’re not going to hear the SBC mentioned during the main sessions at General Assembly. You won’t see references to the SBC in CBF publications either.

    What Cecil Sherman said a couple years back was the exception and not the rule. Again, I understand the sentiment. However, I was not in agreement with the letter issued by the “young” leaders. I thought it was a tad disrespectful. That was Cecil Sherman’s last hurrah in front of the General Assembly. He’s certainly earned the right to say what he wants to say. Folks don’t have to agree with him. That’s fine.

    This year’s banquet did take a bunch of pot shots at the SBC. If there is ever a time to rail on the SBC, certainly it’s the 20th anniversary dinner which had a roast-like atmosphere. Clarissa and Brett Younger were a hoot. In order to remember our history, we do have to reflect on our past. And CBF did a fine job of reflecting on our past in a very humor-filled way.

    Honestly, I suspect some younger CBFers didn’t get a few of the jokes. They didn’t get the Bailey Smith God Does NOt Hear The Prayer of a Jew reference. If they didn’t get the jokes, then that probably is an indication that they only have a bare-bones understanding of Baptist history and the environment which birthed the CBF.

    I think we need to be careful not to lump all 20-something CBFers together. I hear and see this done often. I heard a few people say “Young Baptists want this” and “Young Baptists want that”
    It’s more complex than that.

    While Brett and Clarissa were doing their routine on Wednesday night, I looked around and at the two tables closest to me, I saw a handful of seminary-age folks enjoying themselves and laughing just as hard as the older folks. In contrast, I thought Kyle Reese had a good word on Friday with regard to the future and past. The difference between Wednesday and Friday was one of tone. Wednesday was about laughs and fun. Friday was about worship and a more serious environment.

    In my opinion, given the tragic downward spiral of CBF financial support (which can’t be pinned on making SBC cracks), I thought the humor was most appropriate. Really, how do you tell the CBF’s 20-year story? Humor was needed and good jokes always come at someone else’s expense.

    I am curious as to what these seminarians offended by the Wednesday humor envision these words to mean in practice “the past should not be forgotten.” While, it’s unhealthy to obsess over the past, I sense that some would moan and groan anytime history is invoked at any point and at any place during the CBF’s General Assembly. To some, “moving on” actually entails forgetting the past.

    Earlier this year in North Carolina, an identity statement was put forward that included a creed, downplayed the role of the individual and de-emphasized religious liberty and watered down local church autonomy. Then, was a time to remember the past and remember the role of a freedom theology and prophetic dissent (as Sherouse calls for in the Huffington Post column) in the birthing and history of the CBF.

    History has always been of the utmost importance to moderate and progressive Baptists. I hope that will remain the case in the future.

    Yea, there are valid complaints to be made – some comments are entirely unnecessary (I don’t put the dinner in that category though and I give Sherman a pass). Perhaps one complaint is, why does an organization that prides itself on soul freedom and values dissent have an organizational policy that excludes a whole group of people from employment due to their sexuality.

    And one truth that should also be acknowledged is the fact that the majority of CBF-affiliated churches support both the SBC’s Cooperative Program and CBF ministries. Only a minority of the 1900 churches that CBF claims are uniquely aligned with the CBF. That’s a sad stat.

    While CBF is faced with having to recall missionaries and just eliminated 25% of its staff, churches that support CBF still, year after year, send money to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings. That’s nuts.

  3. One more comment:

    I thought your comment was quite interesting in light of Ircel Harrison’s blog post and comments.

    Harrison also said that CBF needs to “move on” and quit referencing SBC. However, he completely gave his boss Molly Marshall a pass! :-)
    Somehow her criticisms counted as “healthy therapy” (by the way, I’ll add that I can understand the criticisms of Marshall, her sermon was not a comedy routine).

    A commenter asked Ircel if he was being inconsistent in his criticisms, since – after all – he is a contributor to which regularly engages Southern Baptist fundamentalism and takes on Richard Land.

    Unlike Harrison, I see a need for a public witness by Baptists against Baptist fundamentalism. Harrison’s reply to the comment was that he simply does not read those SBC-critical articles at (“I write for ’em but don’t read ’em)!

  4. A final thing: some of those scars you referenced aren’t quite 20-year old yet.

    I could have pointed to at least ten people in that room who have lost church jobs, teaching/administration positions, etc within the last 10 years due in part to Southern Baptists.

    One such person was on stage, making the jokes.

  5. I think it’s healthy to mourn losses to an organization that was once beloved. I also think it’s important for many in CBF leadership to realize that there are a whole host of Baptist clergy and lay people who have left CBF because of their stance on sexuality who are deeply wounded by CBF. In the same way that the SBC has hurt countless Baptists who now affiliate with CBF, the CBF has hurt countless Baptists who are now finding homes in welcoming and affirming Baptist groups, such as the Alliance, AWAB, and BPFNA. I see no difference between these two sets of exclusion.

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