Responses to the adoption by the CBF Governing Board of a new hiring policy and the announcement of the policy’s implementation plan have been mixed. Most seem willing to accept the new hiring policy, but many argue that the implementation plan will simply perpetuate a discriminatory approach in matters of sexuality.
This is a compromise which, in the long run, will make no one happy. If the present implementation plan stands, the CBF “denomi-network” must be prepared to face significant consequences.
First, CBF will continue to lose those young adults who will not accept a discriminatory sexual ethic. In a letter to the editor of Baptist News Global, divinity student Adam McDuffie wrote: “With the implementation procedure as it currently stands, excluding children of God from serving as they are called, the CBF is risking an exodus that is already beginning, and may in fact be irreversible.” The approach adopted by the CBF Governing Board may well assure that CBF will be, at the most, a two- generation movement.
Second, implementation of the hiring process will do nothing to stop the exodus of gifted clergy to other Baptist and non-Baptist groups. They are fed up with the vacillation of CBF. As I wrote in “The Baptist Diaspora” last year, “I wonder what CBF would be like if those who are blessing other denominational groups were leading healthy CBF churches and ministries. Losing these gifted people certainly weakens our cause.” My opinion has not changed as I have seen the continued departure of clergy from CBF life.
Third, some churches who have been committed to the CBF movement will leave, especially those churches that have been courageous enough to have the necessary conversations about sexuality and have become welcoming places for LGBTQ+ persons. It is understandable that they will feel betrayed and disrespected and decide to leave. Several churches have already initiated conversations about departure.
Fourth, CBF is turning its back on parents in our churches who have LGBTQ+ children. Over the last few years, a number of friends have come to me and said some variation of this statement: “My child is gay (or lesbian). I love my child and I want my church to love my child, too.” Hopefully, they are in a church that does this, but CBF is saying, “Your child is a second-class citizen when it comes to significant places of ministry in our organization”
Fifth, in our missionary partnerships, we are abdicating the opportunity to provide a proactive model in dealing with sexuality. In reality, our mission partners overseas are simply parroting the exclusive, condemnatory approach to human sexuality that western missionaries have perpetuated over the years. Our sins have come home to roost in our missional relationships.
Sixth, with the new plan, the CBF movement has lost integrity. We have continually affirmed the phrase in Galatians 3:28 that we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV), but we are failing to practice this truth. Our inconsistency dishonors us.
A friend asked me this question: “With our Baptist polity, should we expect a denomination (or denomi-network) to take a stance that stretches our churches or should the larger entity just reflect the majority opinion?” I would hope for the former but realize that the latter is more likely. At the least, I would hope that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship would not be a stumbling block to those who are actively engaged with LGBTQ+ persons. I fear that the present approach does not further the mission of those churches but inhibits it.