By Vicki Brown
Word&Way News Writer
Trust and religious liberty are the themes that have guided Cynthia Holmes of St. Louis as she has served the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship at both state and national levels.
"I want to be a good steward of the trust people have put in CBF," she said during a brief interview at the national CBF General Assembly in Birmingham, Ala., on June 25.
A general practice attorney in St. Louis, Holmes served as national moderator for 2003-2004. She turned those duties over to moderator-elect Bob Setzer Jr., pastor of First Baptist Church, Macon, Ga., at the end of the assembly's business session.
Holmes did not want to focus on individual accomplishments. Instead, she pointed to strides the national organization had made in the past year. "We accomplished getting the message out that you can be cooperative and collaborative, and that financially it's been a good year," she said.
CBF has helped churches become more mission focused, she added. The national organization also has almost doubled the number of counties being served through its rural poverty initiative, one of Holmes' personal concerns.
Another personal goal, Holmes said, is a focus on religious liberty. "I wanted to keep it in the forefront," she said, particularly for young people in this post-denominational age.
During her report to the general assembly on June 25, Holmes focused on thankfulness for what CBF had accomplished during the year. She is thankful, she said, for financial strides, including 226 churches that had given to CBF for the first time, for special gifts of $1 million and $5 million and for a Lilly Foundation grant.
She is thankful that CBF partners with theological schools and that the organization financially assists 77 leadership scholars, Associated Baptist Press and "Baptists Today" magazine.
Holmes said she also is thankful for the new ecumenical coalition, Christian Churches Together in the USA, and for ethics partners.
She pointed to the national organization's commitment to ministry, particularly as a chaplain-endorsing agency and through Seeds of Hope, its rural poverty initiative. "It is imperative that all people of faith unite their voice for the least of these," she said.
During her remarks, Holmes emphasized soul competency and the separation of church and state. The Fellowship will recognize the autonomy of local churches, she said, and "will never...tell a church that they should only baptize certain categories of sinners."
She reminded listeners that "many who call themselves Baptist have forgotten they were once a chastised minority."
Holmes will serve the national body as past moderator for 2004-2005. That role will include service as chairman of the nominating committee. She began service with the national organization as a member of the Coordinating Council in 1998, chairing the legal committee.
She said she may again help with legal matters as CBF begins revising its bylaws.
Holmes has been active in mission projects in the past and hopes to step up her involvement now that her year as moderator has ended. "I'm a hands-on person," she said in the interview.
She has participated in Habitat for Humanity projects, and has been involved with Bosnian outreach and other projects through Overland Baptist Church, where she is a member.
She also has participated in mission trips to the Rio Grande River Valley with Buckner Baptist Ministries, something she would like to do again.
Holmes has been a member of the CBF of Missouri Coordinating Council since 1995. She served as CBFMO moderator from 1997 to 1999.
She now serves as a trustee for the Baptist Joint Committee and for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
She was chairman of the order of business committee for the Missouri Baptist Convention in 1996, and has served on the board of Baptist Charities. She was a trustee for Missouri Baptist University from 1991-1998.
As she completed her year as national moderator, Holmes said she hoped that others recognized that CBF "stayed true to our principles...and that we were willing to speak out."