CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–More than 4,300 participants at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s general assembly in Charlotte, N.C., June 26-28 discussed the organization’s financial difficulties and listened to speakers who consistently criticized the doctrinal stands of the Southern Baptist Convention.
CBF attendees approved a $19.7 million budget for 2003-2004 during a June 28 session. But according to Chuck Moates, chairman of the CBF Budget Priorities Task Force, it is unreasonable to expect that the CBF will generate sufficient revenue to meet that budget.
“At this point we do not think it is reasonable to expect — based on what has happened since our February meeting when we voted on this budget — it is not reasonable to expect that we are going to be able to give that budget,” Moates told the CBF Coordinating Council June 25.
Because of the funding shortage, the Budget Priorities Task Force recommended to the Coordinating Council that:
–CBF-funded missionaries should begin to prioritize work areas and people groups to determine where funding can be delayed or terminated.
–Staff growth should be halted, and attrition should be used to remove staff positions.
–CBF should use a percentage of all designated gifts to cover any administrative costs required to implement the gifts.
Of the 4,357 registered CBF attendees, fewer than 500 were present at the vote to approve the 2003-2004 budget. At a breakout session to discuss the budget, only four CBF attendees, excluding media and CBF staff, were present.
One of the only mentions of the organization’s budget difficulties at the general assembly came during CBF Moderator Phill Martin’s report to the assembly.
“There is one point I need to communicate. Things really are great with CBF, but there is one thing that is of concern. … There is an insider story that I am fearful many of you are not paying attention to. Our corporate vision and dreams for CBF are greater than our commitment to funding,” Martin said.
“Funding is not an easy question or an easy subject in a movement. There are many parts and ministries to fund, but if we are to continue to say, ‘Things are great at CBF,’ we must all examine the funding of the national CBF organization.”
Speakers at the general assembly included Tony Campolo, sociologist and popular speaker; Sarah Jackson Shelton, pastor of Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham, Ala.; and Daniel Vestal, CBF Coordinator.
Speaking in a June 26 session, Campolo implicitly referenced the Southern Baptist Convention’s stance on women pastors, saying that anyone who resists the notion of female preachers is functioning as a tool of the devil.
“It’s one thing to be wrong, but that isn’t wrong, that’s sinful. The Bible says, ‘neglect not the gift that is in you,’ and when women are gifted with the gift of preaching, anybody who frustrates that gift is an instrument of the devil,” Campolo said.
Campolo also referenced the SBC’s position on homosexuality when he said that “another group” has “drawn the line” and said it would “fight out” the issue of homosexuality.
Regardless of what one believes theologically, the church must stand up for homosexuals, Campolo said.
“When in fact we live in a society that makes life hell for gays and lesbians, this community has got to stand up and say, ‘We’re on your side as you struggle for dignity,’ and, ‘Yes, we will defy anybody who says otherwise, even if we have to go to Disneyland to prove it.'”
Speaking in a June 27 session, Shelton told the general assembly that the CBF must not allow “other watchful conventions” to usurp its joy and inhibit its actions.
Comparing the CBF to King David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant, Shelton said that many would not understand the actions of the CBF faithful.
“Sitting in Charlotte, surrounded by friends within the CBF, we find it wonderful to be carried away by the music and we are more than willing to do a quick ‘two step,'” Shelton said. “In other words, we find the companionship enabling us to be brave and bold about who we are and what we believe. But when we return home and we are faced with the realities of our congregations, our communities and other watchful conventions it is all too easy for the music to wane and for our dancing to be inhibited, stilted and, ultimately, to cease.”
Vestal told the general assembly that the CBF must strive to be the presence of Christ together despite the Fellowship’s theological diversity.
“CBF can be a place where we affirm each other’s gifts and also recognize that none of us is the Body of Christ by ourselves. No one of us stands alone. No one of us has a corner on the truth. No one of us has a complete understanding of the Gospel. We will be the presence of Christ together,” he said.
In other business:
–The CBF announced an agreement with the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas to plant 400 Hispanic churches in the United States. Albert Reyes, president of the Hispanic Baptist Theological School in San Antonio, Texas, said that within the next 50 years “the center of gravity for Christianity in the world will be in the southern part of the globe, that is, Latin America.”
Under the agreement between the CBF and the HBCT, the CBF will identify its affiliated churches that are interested in ministry to Hispanics and encourage them to partner with the HBCT. The CBF will also encourage the support of HBCT churches by churches outside Texas.
The HBCT will identify churches within its convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas that desire to reach Hispanics and encourage them to partner with Baptist churches affiliated with the CBF. HBCT leaders also will conduct workshops on evangelism among Hispanics.
Vestal and Martin of the CBF, Antonio Estrada and Jimmy Garcia signed the agreement. Estrada is a Houston-area pastor and immediate past president of the HBCT. Garcia is director of Hispanic ministry with the BGCT.
–Baptist Women in Ministry President Karen Massey, also associate professor of Christian education and faith development at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, presented a report on her organization’s 20 years in existence. She said that that “women will continue to be called into ministry.”
“The percentage of women enrolled in our moderate Baptist seminaries is higher than ever before. … There are more women involved in all areas of church ministry, even the pastorate,” Massey said.
–The CBF collected an offering of $128, 210 for its rural poverty initiative.
–Vestal announced the appointment of 18 global missionaries this year. He said that the appointment of the missionaries would not have been possible without an anonymous $2 million donation.