The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly last week in downtown Atlanta reflected a lot of work accomplished during the past few years, especially during the past 12 months or so.
Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter completed her first full year at the helm of CBF. Many changes recommended by the 2012 Task Force report are well into being implemented to make substantive and innovative changes in governance, representation and staffing of the 20-plus-year-old entity. CBF has a new office location this year especially designed to reflect its changes.
Identity was one of the key components of the new organizational plan, perhaps one with which CBF has struggled the most since its beginning following the battle for control of the Southern Baptist Convention. Leaders have asserted that CBF was not a denomination, even though it was established when so-called moderates left the SBC.
The new leader has coined a new word that she uses to describe the Fellowship. She calls it a “denominetwork,” suggesting it is a hybrid of sorts that enables CBF to be more streamlined and able to respond more quickly and efficiently to the needs of constituents.
This particular meeting had a Midwest flavor to it, and current staffing certainly includes people whose roots are in the Midwest, particularly Missouri.
James “Jim” Smith, former president of the Missouri Baptist Foundation, is nearing five years of service at the helm of the CBF Foundation based in Atlanta.
Among awards the Foundation presented was one recognizing a couple from Jefferson City, Mo., Keith and Jeanie McGowan. Jim presented them with the Award of Excellence in Generous Giving for Community Development. Jeanie is the retired associate pastor of single adults at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City.
The couple “sold their beautiful dream retirement home, bought and moved into and renovated (in that order) two 100-year-old-plus tenement buildings, down the street from the state prison,” he explained.
“Their decision to live on in downtown Jefferson City, Mo., provided comfortable, affordable housing for those in need, brought the presence of Christ into the neighborhood and into the lives of single parents, their children and the wider community,” he said.
“You will want to know the rest of their story — it has led to advocacy through Faith Voices for Missouri and to the McGowans being founding members of Faith Voices for Jefferson City.”
Steven Porter, who grew up in First Baptist Church of Carthage, Mo., was introduced to the audience as the new CBF Global Missions Coordinator.
CBFers had various opportunities to get acquainted with the new leader and to hear his dreams for global missions expression through CBF. He is helping CBF be more innovative and more holistic in approaching the missions task in ways he and other leaders will maximize effectiveness for CBF vocational missionaries and volunteer teams and individuals.
Keith Herron has carried a lot of responsibilities for the past four years of study, reorganization and implementation at the national level, dating from his responsibilities as national moderator-elect to moderator and as past moderator.
Keith, senior pastor of Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., has been graceful in shouldering various loads during these years and said he is grateful to have had a part in all that has been accomplished. His professional and supportive spirit has been a good match for the process. He has been the right person at every juncture to handle adjusting responsibilities during this time.
These are not the only people with Midwest/Missouri connections who were active participants during the General Assembly last week, but all were very visible in their roles.
More changes are afoot as CBF refines its funding procedures and as the elements of the new organization become more fully engaged in implementing the 2012 Task Force recommendations. Attendees saw and felt a good bit of enthusiasm as CBF moves forward with more of its structure in place for its ongoing work.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.