On a More Inclusive CBF

There has been a healthy amount of discussion in the days since the CBF General Assembly about the identity of CBF as well as the term most often applied to baptists in the CBF camp, moderates.

Barry Howard, in his piece “Call me a Cooperative Baptist,” expresses his hope for the future of baptists regarding their recent identity issues.

Whatever those in my portfolio of Baptist partnerships are called, my hope for the future is that the tent grows even larger and more inclusive, and that the matrix of partnerships emerges into a network that outgrows, out loves, and outlives the paradigms of the past.

Here’s my confession: on the one hand I fully support this vision of the future of baptists (and of Christianity), for it is one that supports equality, dialogue, and acceptance. On the other hand, however, I also have difficulty supporting this view because of the very nature of organizations and groups of people. As the tent grows larger and new, different types of baptists are welcomed in to the fold, each contingency (is it too early to call them caucases?) will argue for its position to take priority of those held by other types of baptists and ultimately decisions will be made that affirm one group while marginalizing other groups (CBF’s recent organizational policy statement on homosexuality shows the early realities of this).

My hope for CBF’s future really is in line with Howard’s here but it also includes a leadership that is able to manage the multitude of differing views that will be present as the tent grows larger and larger and will work to appropriately affirm every type of baptist represented in its ranks and not just those with the most money, loudest voices, or most persistent complaints.

As things are currently it seems that certain groups are already enjoying a sort of favortism. Can this be reversed and, if so, can meaningful neutrality be maintained when more baptists and more views enter the picture?

I’m doubtful but I hope CBF proves me wrong.


5 thoughts on “On a More Inclusive CBF

  1. ‘Christianity’ has left egg on Jesus face, all too often. Many have been caused to ‘stumble,’ as they were led by the blind. What matters, is our performance in LOVE, which is the essence of ‘God’/I Am.
    Convenient Christianity is Heresy. It’s not what Yahushua taught.
    HE is the GREAT STUMBLING STONE for the ‘imposter’s’
    I wish folk would lose religion, and gain LOVE!

  2. I’m not a big fan of Cooperative Baptist. That name has really been around for a good long while and it hasn’t caught on any better than the other names Howard mentions. I’m fine w/ no adjective…Baptist will do.

    I’m 28 but I’ve been going to the GA for a long long time. It’s hard for me, when discussing the future of the CBF, to get beyond a couple basic facts: giving continues to decline significantly, down from a 16 million budget to a 12 million budget in just two years and the elimination of 25% of the CBF’s staff back in January.

    Of course, recommendations are to be made for next year’s gathering in Fort Worth. I just wonder if CBF has waited too long to move forward with a restructuring. The decline is terribly steep and happening fast.

    I guess the question for me is not, what is the future of CBF. The question is, what will the CBF even look like in 2012-2013.

    1. “I’m fine w/ no adjective…Baptist will do.”

      I would only challenge one thing, change that to baptist. It’s more universal and represents historic baptist principles as opposed to a specific group of baptists.

      I agree whole-heartedly with your concerns over the future of CBF. I have said, for a few years now, that if they don’t change drastically and quickly they won’t survive. For me, though, it’s only partially a funding issue. That is obviously important to keep the organization running, field personnel supported (the ones that aren’t self-supported, anyway), etc. But I genuinely think that it’s a perspective issue. In so many ways they have copied the 20th century denominational structure that is, frankly, on life support.

      1. I’m in the Baptist history field. I see capital B Baptists as comprising a tradition (a movement that became a tradition) within Protestantism that traces its history back 401 years or so.

        While I’m of course interested in ecumenical engagement with the larger Christian community, I want to celebrate the Baptist tradition just as Catholics and Methodists celebrate their traditions.

        After all, those principles are related to a movement which evolved into a tradition and are rooted in history. I think, for example that there have been enough differences between Baptists and Anabaptists over the centuries that it’s best to not lump both traditions under a small b baptist category.

        There are, as you know, some theologians (McClendon, etc.) who have advocated for the small b baptist label. However, most, if not all, historians have intentionally chosen not to go that route – for good reason in my opinion.

        With regard to the CBF, I can’t blame a denominational structure per se. There are some denominations that have avoided the bloated bureaucracy and successfully streamlined to become effective w/ low-overhead, etc. A denominational structure isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

        The CBF has overextended itself. You simply can’t fund everything. And as reports have noted, the CBF would be in much much worse financial shape were it not for a handful of very large “anonymous” gifts.

        I think 2012 could be a contentious year. I doubt the recommendations for restructuring will receive unanimous approval. A real restructuring means withdrawing support from certain organizations – and some of organizations, specifically the small budget ones, would be severely impacted if CBF stepped aside. And of course, everyone has their own favorite organizations.

        I know that I’d love to see the CBF have a serious dialogue about sexuality. From what I’ve read here, you would too. Yet, talk to a few CBF veterans, and they’ll tell you that the sexuality conversation will cost the CBF dearly, financially-speaking. After all, the overwhelming, overwhelming majority of those 1800 “contributing churches” that CBF counts are dually-aligned and continue to support SBC ministries via the Cooperative Program.

        It’s definitely an up-hill challenge, that’s for sure!

        1. What I mean by the “denominational structure” is just that over-extension, so I think we’re saying the same thing there but with different words.

          I would, of course, like to see an open, honest, respectful, and meaningful dialogue about sexuality within CBF. And I know just how much it would “cost” CBF if it did truly begin to have that conversation. With that said, my personal conviction is that you stand where you feel that you must and you weather the storms that will come (and they will come) when you take a stand on issues such as sexuality. Not taking a stand for the equality of all people because you will lose donors is, in my opinion, poor form and proves that you aren’t actually the moral authority that you proclaim to be.

          Further, while I would love for CBF to be welcoming and affirming, I realize that this is unlikely (and that the Alliance has already done that) any time soon. What is most disheartening, though, is that CBF has already chosen to take a stand on this issue when my understanding was that they wouldn’t take stands on social issues. Moreover, attracting young baptists is going to become increasingly difficult as long as CBF chooses to stand with SBC on this (and other issues). In other words, what’s to make a young baptist who doesn’t want to be SBC choose CBF, which often seems like SBC-Lite and not Alliance?

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