ATLANTA (BP)–Wishing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship a “happy 10th birthday”, CBF coordinator Daniel Vestal paused for sustained applause as participants to CBF’s tenth annual assembly stood in closing the first general session of a three-day event that began June 28 at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.
Vestal, from Atlanta, leads the denomination-like organization that began in Atlanta a decade ago as a new way to organize for Baptists disgruntled with the conservative direction of the Southern Baptist Convention.
According to event coordinators, nearly 3,250 participants had registered by early evening for this event where CBF leaders remain critical about the conservative direction of the Southern Baptist Convention and of its leaders. In 1991, 3,000 were estimated at the first meeting. At the 2000 annual meeting in Orlando, Vestal called for 10,000 participants to gather in Atlanta this year.
“Thank you for being a God who brings good out of bad,” said Vestal, after reciting a litany of thanks for CBF leaders and others by name. “What have we experienced in ten years?” Vestal asked. “We have experienced the pain of suffering and of being hurt and excluded, the pain of being lost.
“We have experienced a deep yearning, a yearning for that we cannot sometimes fully explain or define — a longing,” he continued. “We experienced out of that the beginning of hope, an anticipation that God is really working among us to bring renewal and reconciliation in relationships and ministry.”
Vestal said a benefit of the last decade has been the experience of “new friendships” with others who have “embraced us and loved us.”
As for the future, Vestal predicts pain, but also love.
I believe we will experience more pain, there will still be costs, it will not be easy,” Vestal said. “We will still experience longing and yearning for that which is not yet complete.
“We will experience hope and most of all we will experience the future. We will experience the past. We will experience the love of God and we will experience love for one another.
“Happy 10th birthday Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Happy birthday,” Vestal said.
Earlier in the program a duo performed a theme interpretation to Thursday’s session “Following Jesus: The Call.”
Kyle Matthews, a Christian Artist from Nashville, Tenn. and Jeffrey Rogers, pastor, FBC, Greenville, S.C. spoke and sang of looking “for a place to call our home.”
“Some of us on the CBF road are asking, ‘Are we there Dad?'” recited Rogers. “It has been a ten year trip. Some of us are still tripping.”
Reading from Luke 9, Emmanuel McCall, pastor, Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, College Park, Ga. said, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.”
A video presentation introduced four new missionaries. The women will work with children, youth and adults in a variety of settings to include English as a Second Language.
Another diverse video presentation entitled “A Decade of Promise” featured short testimonies by CBF leaders and partners, both men and women pastors, and Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States. Carter spoke of coming home to CBF. He is scheduled to bring the message at the evening general session June 29.
Prior to collecting the offering, Lavonn Brown, retired pastor, First Baptist Church, Norman, Okla. said he would approach giving by just telling the truth.
“If this group responded to guilt, it would still be in the loving arms of the SBC,” Brown said, explaining the process by which the CBF only partially budgeted for the cost of the assembly which is estimated at $243,000.00. Expenses not covered by the offering, he said, will have to be made up with money already earmarked for Global Missions and faith formations.