TUCKER, Ga. (ABP) – A blue-ribbon task force studying the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s organizational structure suggests a smaller governing board than the current 63-member Coordinating Council, along with creation of two new councils to focus on cooperation and global missions.
After gathering input in more than 100 listening sessions, individual conversations, in writing and results of an online survey over the course of a year, a CBF 2012 Task Force shared initial findings Oct. 21 at the Coordinating Council’s regular fall meeting at First Baptist Church in Tucker, Ga.
David Hull, chair of the 14-member task force appointed in 2010 to better align the movement’s organizational structure with its stated mission, vision and values, termed the report “a conceptual drawing that may one day end up being a blueprint for our future.”
“We are recommending that we create a governing body that is considerably smaller than the current Coordinating Council,” said Hull, pastor of First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala. “The first question is ‘How big?’ Well, we’re not to the numbers yet.”
A second component is creation of a new Global Missions Council that could be two or three times as large as the current nine-member global missions committee on the Coordinating Council.
“We suggest that a Global Mission Council will give a higher priority and prominence to global missions throughout the organization,” Hull said. “It will also allow people from every area and region to be involved in global missions.” Hull said the council would help develop vision and strategy with global missions staff and advocate for missions in CBF churches.
A third component is a Cooperative Ministries Council to work with staff in areas of collaboration and networking with churches, state and regional CBF organizations and partners.
“We found there are some assets we didn’t know we had,” said task force member Ruth Perkins Lee, minister of students at Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala. “There are people that are doing great things all over this country.”
By collaboration, she said the task force means “to work together to create resources for churches.” The second task, to network, means “to be able to point other organizations and churches to resources that already exist.” That includes CBF staff assigned to “working the assets that we already have, helping churches and state and regions and partners so that everyone is getting the resources that they need.”
Hull said recurring themes in the listening process included identity — who CBF Baptists are and why they exist — community and ministry.
He said task force discussion has focused on eight areas:
— Governance, restructuring the CBF Coordinating Council to make it a more effective governing body.
— Finding the best way for autonomous regional and national organizations to relate together for a common purpose.
— Simplifying and streamlining funding. “Can something be done to our system of funding that might actually cause an increase in giving?” a bullet point on a handout asked.
— Elevating global missions to the “highest priority of CBF life.”
— Articulating CBF identity while looking to the future.
— Determining the relationship between CBF and ministry partners.
— Being intentional about developing future CBF participants and leaders.
— The General Assembly, looking for “the best plan for the Fellowship community to gather together.”
Task force members met with Coordinating Council members in small groups for feedback, which will be used in developing formal recommendations due at the council’s next regular meeting, Feb. 22-24. If approved, they then would come as recommendations to the 2012 General Assembly, June 21-23, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Hull said the overarching principle in the whole process is to better meet needs of the local church. “Our life in CBF begins in the churches, ends in the churches,” he said. “They are the hub of what is going on in CBF life. They are what is most important.”
The task force also suggested qualities for the next CBF leader after Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal retires next summer to include someone who is a “global Baptist leader” capable of leading both the internal organization and the CBF movement as a whole, and a strategic planner who is adept at networking.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.