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Canadian churches emphasize cooperation

EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (BP)–Messengers to the annual meeting of the Canadian National Baptist Convention, formerly the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, in Edmonton, Alberta, emphasized cooperation by reciting together a covenant that was approved at the 2008 meeting.

“We’re using it in all our convention meetings. Every convention meeting we have, we now have a time where we affirm the Church-to-Church Covenant,” said Gerry Taillon, the convention’s national ministry leader.

Local churches that affirm the covenant agree to work with fellow CNBC churches and pastors in their immediate area in times of need, with a goal of fostering a new mindset among the churches.

“The emphasis among Baptists has been autonomy, and we respect the autonomy of the local church. But we feel like there’s another, stronger value in the New Testament, and that is the value of interdependence,” Bob Shelton, leader of the CNBC staff’s “strengthen” team.

“So we’re intentionally trying to create a new culture where churches are interdependent. Cooperation has been a hallmark of Baptists, and so I don’t think we’re doing anything radical,” Shelton said.

What they want to avoid in the future, he added, are scenarios where churches that have floundered and died have said, “Why didn’t anyone help us?”

In the future, any church seeking to join the CNBC will be required to affirm the covenant as a precondition of membership.

The 264 people who attended the meeting June 30-July 3 included 144 messengers representing 45 churches from across Canada, and they heard encouraging reports on church plants, a major church planting partnership and an increase in baptisms.

Dwight Huffman, leader of the CNBC staff’s “start” team, reported that 35 new seeds — gatherings that are not yet organized as churches — and congregations were planted across Canada in 2008, bringing the total number of CNBC churches to 279. The team’s target for 2009 is to see 42 more planted.

Gary Smith, the team’s advocate for eastern Canada, also reported that the CNBC could be on the verge of a church planting breakthrough in northern Ontario — the vast region between Ottawa and the Manitoba border, which currently has no Canadian National Baptist Convention presence.

Smith said the catalyst was a road trip he undertook through the region in May with Rick Hedger, partnership missions specialist with the Missouri Baptist Convention. The MBC has explored the possibility of a partnership with the CNBC targeting northern Ontario to be voted on at the MBC’s annual meeting.

If approved, it would be “a dynamic partnership. I have never seen anything like this, quite frankly,” Smith said.

The proposal, he explained, is to engage 100 Missouri Southern Baptist churches, with most of them making trips to northern Ontario. Ten churches would be invited to “plant what we call platform-based churches that are going to require lots of resources, lots of investment, lots of time and lots of key people.”

“We are asking God to allow this to yield 50 new works within the next five years. That’s 10 a year,” Smith said. “This can be explosive, it really could.”

Meanwhile, Paul Johnson, leader of the CNBC staff’s “share” team, said the number of baptisms in CNBC churches seems to be on the rebound. Churches reported baptizing 774 people in 2008, or 10 percent more than two years earlier.

“If I were to attribute it to anything,” Johnson said, “it’s that we keep putting in front of all of us that loving God also means loving our neighbor. And we don’t know any better way to love our neighbor than to bring them the Good News and to tell them about Jesus.”

“We’re still not satisfied, though,” Taillon said. “We want to see so many more baptisms, and so we’re going to put lots of energy and lots of emphasis on that.”

In other business, Rick Lamothe, pastor of Sequoia Community Church in Nepean, Ontario, was re-elected by acclamation as CNBC president. Also re-elected were Joey Mask, pastor of The Potter’s House Community Church in Westbank, British Columbia, as first vice president, and John Evans, co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, as second vice president.

Messengers approved for 2010 an overall budget of $2,497,579, an increase of 2.1 percent from 2009, with $722,579 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from Canadian churches. With a goal of forwarding half of CP receipts to international missions, at this year’s meeting the CNBC increased the figure by .5 percent to 27 percent.

Next year’s annual meeting will be July 6-8 in the Toronto, Ontario, area.
Frank Stirk writes for the Canadian National Baptist Convention.
The full text of the Canadian National Baptist Convention’s Church-to-Church Covenant follows:

Given that we are a network of churches who give ourselves away to advance the Kingdom of God, we value the importance of being in covenant. We recognize the autonomy of the local church and will guard the ability of every congregation to have the final decision-making authority. We also see the Biblical model of inter-dependence and accountability and we will grant congregational access to other churches and leaders. Therefore, being led by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to God and to one another to live out the following:

We as churches covenant together to affirm the CHURCH as God’s primary vehicle to advance His kingdom.

— by committing to share Christ, send missionaries, start and strengthen churches

— by connecting churches in association

— by valuing the contribution of every church as unique and significant

We as churches covenant together to honor the rich HERITAGE God has given us

— by upholding our commitment to the CCSB Statement of Faith

— by being on mission with other CCSB churches

— by partnering with the agencies and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention

We as churches covenant together to practice God’s desire for INTER-DEPENDENCE

— by realizing we can do more together than alone

— by accepting responsibility for one another

— by giving sacrificially through the Cooperative Program

We as churches covenant together to welcome God’s protection found in ACCOUNTABILITY

— by initiating dialogue with churches and leaders in times of need

— by welcoming the assistance of our churches and leaders in times of crisis

— by praying together for forgiveness and restoration in times of moral failure or spiritual distress

We as churches covenant together to protect the UNITY of our churches

— by praying for one another

— by refusing to gossip or compete with one another

— by demonstrating Christ-like loyalty and love to one another

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20,21.

    About the Author

  • Frank Stirk