The following post is from CBF moderator Keith Herron.
On the eve of entering CBF’s third decade, then-moderator Hal Bass appointed a 14-member task force to move the conversation forward on restructuring the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship movement (which also necessarily affects CBF partnering ministries).
No one could have predicted that this 2012 Task Force would aggressively sponsor more than 100 group conversations where CBF’ers from a wide-ranging number of regions participated. Obviously the value of listening that extensively to that many people generated the sense among CBF folk that the 2012 Task Group got it right resulting in an overwhelming vote of support. If you haven’t seen the report, go on online to read it for yourself: http://www.thefellowship.info/2012taskforce
The long arc of the short history of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a telling way to answer the question, “Who is the CBF?” In the beginning, we were a movement built upon a unifying commitment to our distinctive Baptist beliefs we called “our Baptist heritage.” It was a commitment that deemed those values to be uniquely needed in Christendom in the last decade of the 20th century.
As Dr. Walter Shurden reminded us at the end of our first decade, the fundamentalists were wrong as they broke into the vault of Baptist heritage taking from it those things of no lasting value and leaving behind the crown jewels of our most cherished beliefs. Among those values left behind was our foundational idea of four fragile freedoms (Bible freedom, church freedom, soul freedom and religious freedom).[i]
Moving into the second decade the organization grew and deepened its roots by pioneering resources and programs that helped us learn to serve the world by reflecting upon the idea of “being the presence of Christ.” Along the way, we nurtured our movement and learned to call ourselves “the Fellowship,” with a sense of living up to our ideals and dreaming big dreams. A professional staff was hired as growth occurred and the footprint of the Fellowship was extended through our partnerships with seminaries, other strategic groups and organizations. The second decade has been equally remarkable but some felt a loss of focus and a desire to show commensurate growth to match our imagination.
Consequently, the 2012 Task Force was launched to listen to our constituency and partners to consider how we could increase the effectiveness of our partnerships and to reclaim our vision of ministry. That report was delivered and eight recommendations were adopted.
We now have a direction … but will it take us where we want to go? Clearly the theme of the third decade and the direction of the flow of the report were to push us to explore more diligently how we can cooperate with one another to achieve our big dreams. It rightly names our need to be clearer about our identity and to accentuate the rich field of assets we share and can draw upon if we can live more cooperatively.
The 2012 Task Force has now handed off the report to the care and continuation of the Coordinating Council. But the Council rightly affirms that in truth, the report has been handed off to all of us. It’s now in our hands to bring about the changes recommended and to breathe life into those recommendations.
Here’s what will happen in the coming year …
Interim Executive Coordinator Pat Anderson has been charged with giving direction to develop an implementation plan that will make those recommendations come to life and in what sequences those changes will occur. There are a million details to be worked out and at the center of those changes will be the amending of our Constitution/Bylaws so our guiding documents support the structural changes we want to make.
Pat and I are preparing to name an Implementation Team consisting of a group of staff and strategic thinkers who will crash the brush of decisions needing to be made, paying attention to the sequences of how those decisions need to be made to effectively implement the eight recommendations. We will gather in advance of the October Coordinating Council meeting so we can apprise them of our work and to dialog with them about the initial stages and sequences of the implementation plan.
Clearly, we will engage whoever is hired to serve as our next executive coordinator once that person is presented for approval. We feel strongly the need that our new leader should be involved in putting a more exacting plan in place. It’s unclear whether an executive coordinator will be hired in October, February or at our General Assembly next summer (the three windows of time when a vote of approval can be made by the Coordinating Council).
With the leadership of a new executive coordinator and the diligent work of the Coordinating Council, the team will fine tune the plan to ready it for presentation at the 2013 General Assembly.
This is clearly a year of transition but it is not a year of standing still while we wait for the future to magically show up. I believe we have wonderfully positive goals that drive our fellowship to strive for our cooperative dreams together. Our prayers and a sense of peace that God is in our midst leading us forward are the need of the day. Stay informed via the CBF Moderator Facebook page or through this blog site or the other ways in which news of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is shared.
[i] Walter B. Shurden, The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms, Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 1993