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Vestal laments lack of aggressive evangelism efforts in CBF ranks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Neither the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship nor the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., are “aggressively evangelistic,” the CBF’s top leader, Daniel Vestal, stated Aug. 29 in Kansas City, Kan., according to a report in Associated Baptist Press.

Vestal, coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a denomination-like group founded in opposition to the Southern Baptist Convention, made the comment during a panel discussion included in events marking the 100th anniversary of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Also on the panel was the president of the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., Trinette McCray, a campus minister and director of multi-cultural relations for Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

ABP reported that Vestal’s assessment of the evangelistic temperature of the CBF and ABC was part of his response to a Central Seminary professor’s question, “What is a concern, problem or weakness unique to ABC and CBF, and what is one that you think you have in common?”

Vestal, addressing a challenge shared by the CBF and ABC, said, according to ABP, “To be honest, as I look at ABC, I guess I don’t see ABC churches and folks being really aggressively evangelistic. They don’t win a lot of people to Jesus. However, having said that, I don’t see most moderate Southern Baptist churches being aggressively evangelistic. We’re not really passionate about the gospel changing people’s lives. We’re … more oriented to political correctness and relevancy. To be candid, I see that as a problem that both ABC and moderate Southern Baptists share.”

CBF and ABC churches share “an awful lot of affinity,” Vestal said, according to ABP. “There’s a tremendous amount of identity, such as commitment to theological education, to racial inclusivity, to gender balance, to the local church.”

The CBF is being assisted by the ABC through the creation of a CBF retirement plan for ministers and church employees through the American Baptist Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board.

“There are some very practical, structural, tangible ways that partnering has started” between the CBF and ABC, Vestal said, also citing the two groups’ mutual support for Central Seminary.

The CBF also will find a partner in the Baptist General Convention of Texas, according to comments by David Currie, leader of Texas Baptists Committed, a key anti-SBC organization in Texas, spoken in an interview with Baptists Today.

“Out of its [BGCT’s] independence, it will partner with CBF, it will partner with other state conventions,” Currie said in the journal’s September edition. Baptists Today, on its Internet site, did not provide any further comments from the interview with Currie about his prediction.

In the Central Seminary panel discussion, the ABC’s McCray said her denomination could learn about courage from the CBF — “what it means to see the need, to seize the moment, to find perhaps that time that God decided, either through controversy or otherwise, to cut into our affairs and have the courage to strike out onto a new path,” ABP reported. “From CBF we can see that when you walk out into deep waters, it’s good to walk out, when you just have a vision and hope that there is something in that next place that you see the hand of God directing you to.”

Vestal, meanwhile, said, “What energizes me personally and causes me some degree of envy with the ABC is the diversity they have — it’s black, brown, white; it’s male, female; it’s laity, clergy — in a much more distinct way.

“At CBF gatherings, it’s pretty much all white folks,” ABP reported Vestal as saying. “I do think we are breaking through in clergy-laity and male-female in terms of leadership, but we have so much to learn in CBF about reflecting the richness of the body of Christ.”

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