Grapevine, Texas (ABP) -- The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship July 1 affirmed a long-awaited proposal for how the moderate group relates to its "partner" institutions and organizations - one of several key actions taken during the Fellowship's annual general assembly in Grapevine, Texas.
The moderate Baptist group also approved revisions to its constitution and bylaws, but only after some unexpected debate. Nineteen missionaries were appointed and CBF officers were elected. A total budget of $21.6 million was adopted for the next 12 months. A new offering for religious liberty and human rights brought in about $45,000. Participants received training and inspiration in 91 workshops. And CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal challenged the Atlanta-based Fellowship to respond to global poverty and suffering.
The assembly, which drew 2,823 registered participants and about 400 others, overwhelmingly affirmed the report from a committee studying CBF's "partner" relationships, despite concern the plan favors the strongest partners and harms the most vulnerable.
Rather than owning its own agencies and institutions, CBF channels local-church and individual contributions to support the ministry of more than 100 organizations, including 14 theological schools.
The new plan caps funding for partners at 25 percent of an organization's previous year's receipts, and it establishes a three-tiered approach to relationships with theological schools -- identity partners, leadership partners and global partners.
During the two-day assembly north of Dallas, participants approved constitution and bylaws revisions after turning aside a move to make a commitment to Jesus Christ and evangelism explicit in the CBF purpose statement.
The old statement said, in part, the Fellowship's purpose is "to bring together Baptists who desire to call out God's gifts in each person in order that the gospel of Jesus Christ will be spread throughout the world in glad obedience to the Great Commission."
The first sentence of the revised statement says the CBF's purpose is "to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission."
Bob DeFoor of Harrodsburg, Ky., alluded to the Southern Baptist Convention's "Baptist Faith and Message," which was criticized by moderate Baptists in 2000 for deleting a reference to Jesus Christ as the criterion for biblical interpretation. DeFoor said the CBF was in danger of a similar omission.
Dick Allison of Hattiesburg, Miss., chairman of the CBF legal committee, said the intent was to bring the language in the Fellowship's governing documents in line with its publicized mission statement.
Two motions, to refer the entire document or just the purpose statement back to committee, failed before the revisions were adopted.
In other business, assembly participants approved a $16.47 million operating budget for 2005-06, a slight increase, and total expenditures of $21,580,058, which includes more than $5.1 million in designated gifts, mostly for missions.
During the closing session, 19 new CBF missionaries were commissioned for service, including five career field personnel.
Participants elected Joy Yee, pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in San Francisco, as moderator and Emmanuel McCall, retired pastor of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in Atlanta, as moderator-elect. Yee is Asian American and McCall is African American.
The assembly donated $45,000 to a new annual offering for religious liberty and human rights, named for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, who are CBF supporters.
In the closing sermon, Vestal told CBF members global poverty is "the moral issue of our day," and how Christians respond is "the acid test of our faith." (07-13-05)