ATLANTA – Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal issued the following statement about recent comments on the Fellowship’s hiring and funding policy related to homosexuality and the upcoming [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant:
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship exists to serve churches not ask them to serve us. We really believe that the center in Baptist life is the local church, not the convention or fellowship, not the parachurch organization, not the denominational institution but the local body of baptized believers. Our mission statement is “to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God given mission.” Except for a small handful of Baptist churches, the vast majority of churches that partner within CBF will not call/hire/ordain a practicing gay/lesbian Christian as pastor or ministering staff member. It is because of our desire both to serve these churches and extend their ministry around the world that CBF does not “allow for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.”
No one speaks for CBF, including me. My own conviction is that the foundation of a Christian sexual ethic is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in singleness. However, there are those in CBF who have a different conviction, and I respect and love them as I hope they do me. I also believe it is possible for Baptists who have convictional differences to cooperate together in missions and ministry, as we honor the freedom of one another’s conscience.
This April CBF will host a [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant in partnership with the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University because we want to create a space for conversation among Baptists on a broad range of issues related to human sexuality. The context of the conference is that churches are facing serious challenges to their prophetic and pastoral witness, including challenges to the institution of marriage, increasing promiscuity and a pervasive permissiveness in American culture. I can think of no more ‘Baptist’ thing to do than to speak freely and lovingly in community as we each seek to define our own Christian sexual ethic. A broad cross section of the Baptist family will be represented at this conference, and all are welcome. CBF seeks to embrace this kind of conversation and not run from it. God expects us to minister to people who are facing these challenges.
I continue to believe that Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a work of God’s grace and a renewal movement within the Baptist family. I also believe that the conversations we are having can be used by God to serve churches as they make disciples and teach them to observe all that Christ taught.
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.