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CBF to endorse chaplains; restores BWA in budget

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The General Assembly of the six-year-old Cooperative Baptist Fellowship voted to endorse chaplains and partially restored funding for the Baptist World Alliance in its June 26-28 meeting in Louisville, Ky.
Among other items approved at the annual meeting were a $14,325,852 budget for 1997-98, which is nearly identical to the 1996-97 budget; a Missouri layman as moderator-elect; four new career and seven short-term missionaries; and steps to maintain the “financial integrity of the Fellowship” in the event of continuing financial shortfalls.
The CBF is an organization of moderate Baptists formed in protest of Southern Baptist Convention leadership.
Although the vote to endorse chaplains, declaring the CBF an “ecclesiastical authority” and “religious endorsing body,” would seem to further indicate the CBF is a convention/denomination, officials insisted it is not.
“We are a partnering network,” Daniel Vestal, new chief executive officer of the CBF, told news media. Vestal said he is “hopeful” the CBF organizational structure would be suited to meet the needs of the 21st century.
The chaplaincy issue grew out of a year-long study by a CBF committee which heard concerns that present chaplains, sympathetic to CBF causes, had to be appointed by an SBC agency. The committee’s recommendation said the CBF “authorizes the CBF as an organization to act as its sole representative for the purpose of endorsing chaplains, counselors or other ministers in specialized settings.”
The relationship between the BWA and CBF was highlighted when members of the General Assembly forced an amendment to the proposed 1997-98 budget, adding $20,000 whereas the proposed budget did not include funding for the BWA.
Although Vestal told news media the decision to eliminate the BWA funding was “strictly a budget decision,” observers at the meeting said there was a feeling among CBF staff that the BWA snubs the CBF, possibly for fear of reprisals by the larger SBC.
The controversy came to light in May when the editor of the Virginia Religious Herald, Michael Clingenpeel, in an editorial took the CBF to task for eliminating $100,000 from the budget destined for the BWA and not making the decision public.
The CBF 1997-98 budget of $14,325,852, which includes a first-time reserve item of $203,569, is nearly identical to the 1996-97 budget of $14,102,000. That budget was later reduced to $13,982,243 in mid-year when revenues failed to keep pace with projections for a second year in a row. The budget includes the CBF Global Mission Offering, projected at $4.5 million.
Plateaued growth was apparent also in attendance at the Louisville meeting, with 3,559 registered compared to 3,809 last year in Richmond, Va. Convention planners had hoped for an increase in interest with the recent election of Vestal as CBF coordinator, but the largest crowd at the three-day meeting — Thursday evening, which included a message by Vestal — was estimated at 4,000.
A similar crowd on Friday night saw four career and seven short-term missionaries appointed, bringing the CBF total to about 150 missionaries throughout the world. However, it was announced there are 16 approved candidates awaiting appointment by the CBF but without sufficient funding to appoint them. In fact, the missions unit of CBF will dip into its reserves for $586,487 during the year to meet its budget.
Appointed at the Friday night service, and their destination: Luis and Patricia Ancarola, Homestead, Fla.; Philip and Shantel Vestal, Charlotte, N.C.; Larry and Laquita Wynn, Miami; Matt and Miriam Wallace, Arlington Texas; David and Robbie Young, Arlington, Va.; and Pam Light, Miami.
John Tyler, member of Kirkwood Baptist Church, St. Louis, was elected moderator-elect, which means he will assume that position following next year’s annual meeting in Houston. Tyler is a regional manager for a telephone company in St. Louis. Carolyn Dipboye, Oak Ridge, Tenn., was elected recorder.
Leading the CBF as moderator for 1997-98, and elected last year, is Martha Teague Smith of Gastonia, N.C.
The CBF also amended its bylaws to allow its Coordinating Council, which directs the CBF between annual sessions, to “alter the budget if the Council by three-fourths vote finds it necessary to maintain the financial integrity of the Fellowship,” in the event of a “financial shortfall.”
In adjusting its geographical representation on the Coordinating Council, the General Assembly approved a plan which keeps one representative from Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas even though those states would have lost all representation under regular guidelines. The bylaws state a minimum requirement for contributions from those states which wasn’t met. Florida and Virginia also were reduced by one representative on the council.
Texas leads all the states with eight council members, North Carolina with seven and Georgia with six.
Although CBF bylaws prohibit motions and resolutions from the floor of the General Assembly, requiring them to be submitted in writing before the meeting begins, two motions were brought by officials to the floor in the closing business session. One, a motion to simplify the Coordinating Council representation guidelines was ruled failed by moderator Lavonn Brown, Norman, Okla. pastor, because it did not have a sponsor when presented. The second recommended a plan to create a fund for famine relief for North Korea. It was approved.
Vestal, following his first address to the CBF General Assembly, met with media and said he had been “converted” to a pro-women in ministry position following a long process. He said he had been helped by his involvement in CBF which supports women’s ordination and women in pastorates.
Also, Vestal said he personally wouldn’t do anything to encourage homosexuality. “I don’t believe it is in accordance with Scripture,” but he also said he doesn’t want to “throw stones at anybody.” He said marriage, between a man and woman, is “holy before God.”
In another matter, Vestal was asked why CBF would not make public the names of churches which support the group. SBC churches’ contributions through the Cooperative Program are regularly published in state Baptist papers. Vestal said he did not know why and would check into the matter but presumably the churches would have to give their permission for the information to be made public.
CBF claims about 1,500 churches have contributed to the CBF although it was announced about 1,300 is a three-year average. Less than half that number actually include the CBF in their budget, officials have said, and a contributing church could mean simply passing on the gifts as directed by a single church member to the CBF.
Registration for the General Assembly includes any person who has given a contribution to the CBF during the past year or any person who is a member of a church which “contributed financially to the ministries of the Fellowship during the past year.” CBF officials said 2,300 individuals contributed in the last three years.
The General Assembly also heard reports from various entities its supports, held several worship services and finished with an address by Carolyn Knight, assistant professor of homiletics, Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta.
Elected to the 80-plus member Coordinating Council were Chin Kim, clergy, Asian Network; Nancy Burke, clergy, David Burroughs, laity, Phill Martin, clergy, and Hugh McElrath, clergy, all at-large; David Wilson, laity, central region; Jimmy B. Lewis, clergy, Mark Sander, laity, and Ann Blair Roebuck, laity, Georgia; Aleida Ruano, laity, Hispanic Network; Cheryl Rash Jones, laity, and Steve Abbe, clergy, Mid-Atlantic network; Rick Lay Jr., clergy, Missouri; Jo Godfrey, laity, David M. Hughes, clergy, and Sandy H. Smith, laity, North Carolina; Bob Stephenson, laity, Oklahoma; Ruth Lawrence, laity, South Carolina; Mike Smith, clergy, Tennessee; Babs Baugh, laity, Kyle Henderson, clergy, Paul Kenley, clergy, and Dean Dickens, clergy, Texas; and Joyce Reed, laity, west region.
Elected to the CBF Foundation board were Pat Ayres, Austin, Texas; Tommy E. Boland, Atlanta; Os Chrisman, Dallas; Bill Owen, Ardmore, Okla.; and Bill Turnage, Liberty, Mo.

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  • Herb Hollinger