Saturday, June 26, 2010

What a Fellowship!

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting in Charlotte was a positive, encouraging meeting, but there was an undercurrent of change. Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal alluded to this in at least two ways during his address to the Friday morning business session.

First, he acknowledged that the CBF movement, as it approaches its 20th year, must consider new ways of cooperation and mutual support. This reflects the selection of the “2012 Task Force” to study the organization’s missional and organizational future.

Second, he recognized Christy McMillan Goodwin, the new moderator of the Fellowship. Goodwin, 38, is associate pastor at Oakland Baptist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She attended the initial gathering that led to formation of the CBF as an 18-year-old student at Furman University. She will be the first leader of the organization whose entire adult life has been lived after the Southern Baptist Convention controversy that birthed the movement.

There is a future for the Fellowship movement. The presence at the gathering of many young adults, some with babies in strollers, is a good sign for the future. The attraction for many of these young adults seems to be the various affinity groups that meet in conjunction with the Assembly (seminary alumni groups, Baptist Women in Ministry, Baptist Center for Ethics and so on), the workshops, the Resource Fair, and the chance to reconnect with old friends. Worship sessions are well attended, but business sessions do not seem to be a priority for the younger members of the Fellowship.

The priorities these young adults exhibited should provide some guidance as the Fellowship considers its future. The first priority of these younger Baptists is fellowship. They want to give and receive encouragement in their lives and ministries. The second priority is doing something that will make a difference in the world. They want their churches to be engaged in issues of gender equity, racial inclusiveness, and response to human need. They expect the same of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. If there is a third area of interest, it would be personal and spiritual development for themselves, their peers, and their families.

If CBF wants these participants to continue their engagement in Fellowship life, leaders must place the emphasis in coming days on people rather than programs. In these dynamic and uncertain times, people will be around long after program emphases are forgotten. This means investment in reaching and discipling young adults—both lay and clergy-- and equipping them for ministry within their contexts.


Debbi Grosch said...

Well said Ircel! I was too encouraged by what I witnessed this week in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ircel. This helps a "northerner" know a bit more about his "southern cousins". Arlo