|ATLANTA (CBF) -- A year-long spiritual discernment process culminated Oct. 10 in the unanimous approval by its governing Coordinating Council of the re-prioritizing of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's work.
In addition to the vote to adopt new strategic priorities and bless the discernment process findings, the fall meeting of the CBF Council included good news – through Aug. 31 the Fellowship had an excess of revenues over expenditures of $525,870. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30, and leaders hope that this trend continues for the final month. The full financial details will be released at the February Council meeting, after the Fellowship's audit concludes.
"This was, without a doubt, one of the most important meetings for the Fellowship during my tenure as executive coordinator," said Daniel Vestal, CBF's executive coordinator since 1996. "I believe the Spirit has been present in every step of this discernment process. We now have a clearer sense of what God is calling us to do together as a fellowship for the next five to seven years."
After 13 months of discerning through feedback sessions with the CBF staff, Coordinating Council, state and regional CBF organizations, Current young leaders network, and other CBF groups, 47 specific activities grouped into seven categories emerged:
• Interacting with the world community
• Honoring race, gender and generations
• Missional engagement
• Training and development
• Spiritual formation
• Resource utilization
• Broadening the CBF community
A survey was developed in consultation with J. Michael Webber, marketing professor at Stetson School of Business and Economics of Mercer University, which was presented to participants of the 2008 General Assembly in Memphis in June. The Assembly devoted six hours to praying over the discussions, giving time to respond to the survey and conducting feedback sessions to gather insights not included on the survey instrument.
"Throughout the past year we have moved from a qualitative, subjective process to a quantitative, objective process," said CBF Past Moderator Harriet Harral, principal and founder of the Fort Worth, Texas,-based Harral Group leadership consulting firm. "We have heard from this Fellowship movement about what they are discerning are the priorities for us in the next three to five to seven years. I think we can be confident in the direction we are being called at this time in our history to be the presence of Christ."
The results of the survey, which the Council affirmed with its vote, were that the top 15 actions as ranked by the participants at the Assembly fell under three priorities of the seven. These top three in priority order were "interacting with the world community," "honoring generations, gender and race" and "missional engagement." The top 15 actions were as follows:
• Interacting with the world community
• Support and promote the Millennium Development Goals (#2)
• Expand advocacy efforts for human rights, religious liberty, and social justice (#3)
• Develop a national framework to address poverty in the United States (#4)
• Honoring generations, gender and race
• Invest in young Baptists (#1)
• Model racial, gender and generational inclusion in hiring and leadership (#5)
• Heighten understanding of women in leadership (#13)
• Missional engagement
• Increase funding for global missions efforts (#6)
• Educate and develop missional leaders (#7)
• Increase awareness of global missions efforts (#8)
• Provide training for indigenous church leaders and pastors (#9)
• Facilitate short term mission engagement opportunities for churches and individuals (#10)
• Provide missional resources (#11)
• Facilitate long term relationships among churches, individuals, and field personnel ministries (#12)
• Expand communication of CBF's mission and vision (#14)
• Increase the number of field personnel (missionaries) (#15)
"God has blessed our Fellowship in its early history," said Moderator Jack Glasgow, pastor of Zebulon Baptist Church, Zebulon, N.C. "Now, God has been with us in this prayerful process of discernment. These priorities will support our fundamental principles. Under a vision to be the presence of Christ to one another and to the world, we will continue to strive to fulfill our mission of serving Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. And, we will continue to live out our core values."
Glasgow then appointed a five-member committee of the Council to begin working on a re-organization of the Council to match the priorities. That work group will be chaired by Tom Siddle, of Rocky Mount, Va., and includes Sylvia McQuaig, of Jacksonville, Fla.; Don Horton, of Zebulon, N.C.; Lynne Smith, of Burlington, Ky.; Jeremy Colliver, of Georgetown, Ky., and CBF staff members Connie McNeil, coordinator of administration, and Ben McDade, coordinator of advancement. The results of their work will be presented to the full Council at its July meeting in Houston.
"The officers, staff and Coordinating Council should engage in cooperative effort to develop outcome statements based on these strategic priorities and recommended actions," Glasgow said. "We are partners together in a process to determine what CBF will look like in its near future, engaging in planning that will determine the next chapters in the CBF story."
Glasgow said the 2010-2011 CBF budget should reflect these priorities and encouraged the autonomous state and regional CBF organizations as well as churches affiliated with CBF to consider how these strategic priorities could inform their planning processes.
In his global mission update, Rob Nash, the Fellowship's coordinator for global missions, talked about the future of global missions engagement. He talked about CBF Global Missions' three primary teams – field ministries, missional church and bridge. The field ministries team, directed by Jim Smith, facilitates the work of 145 field personnel. The missional church team, directed by Harry Rowland, facilitates the engagement of congregations around the world. And, the bridge team, facilitated by Grace Powell Freeman, supports and facilitates the work of other two teams in the areas of finance, personnel recruitment and selection, training, rural poverty and student missions.
"We need to keep the best of what has been – field personnel, movement-wide engagement, pooling our financial resources to share the good news of the gospel with the rest of the world," Nash said. "We must also open ourselves up to what can be done, including full partnership with congregations and the global church – where congregations and field personnel sit together at the table to determine where God is calling."
In other business, the Council took up the following items:
Voted to authorize the Leadership Development Initiative Team to convene a group of young CBF-related Baptist pastors to respond to the question: "What does it mean to CBF to invest in young Baptists?"
Recognized the service of Tom Prevost, who will retire as the Fellowship's poverty initiative and projects specialist at the end of year. Prevost has served on the CBF staff since 1995 and helped facilitated Together For Hope, the Fellowship's rural poverty initiative.
Named moderator-elect Hal Bass as chair of the Council's United Nations' Millennium Development Goals task force, along with Colleen Burroughs of Birmingham, Ala., and Debbie Ferrier of San Antonio, Texas.CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship's mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.