Fellowship Baptists gathered Wednesday night at Broadway Baptist Church, a CBF partner.
FORT WORTH, Texas ‒ The 22nd
annual Cooperative Baptist Fellowship began Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas, with a concert by singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, celebrations honoring retiring Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal and opportunities for Fellowship Baptists to learn and share ideas for ministry together.
At the Wednesday evening concert held at Broadway Baptist Church, Bill Leonard, professor and founding dean of Wake Forest Divinity School, offered a reflection on their friendship and Vestal’s career.
Leonard, who attended junior high and high school with Vestal and his wife, Earlene, in Fort Worth, said Vestal started preaching at a very young age. One story tells of a young “Danny Vestal trying to convert armadillos in the back yard. You can’t get any more Baptist or Texas than that,” Leonard said.
“Danny and I were among just a few guys at the junior high school who didn’t wear leather jackets and ducktail hairstyle,” Leonard joked. “If memory serves, we both carried big King James Bibles to school. And not just to evangelize. They came in handy if you got into a fight.”
Leonard then talked about Vestal’s leadership as a moderate presidential candidate in the Southern Baptist Convention and at the founding of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
“His leadership, strength and character were so strong that there was little doubt who should lead the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship when it began 20 years ago,” Leonard said. “From the seventh grade to this very moment, I am honored to call you friend and to offer you the grateful thanks of a bunch of Texas Baptists.”
Newcomer, a Grammy Award-winning folk singer and songwriter, sang about community, the power of stories and change. A Quaker, Newcomer’s gentle style and thought-provoking lyrics were a fitting tribute to the Vestals.
Also at the Wednesday evening service, Tina Bailey, one of CBF’s field personnel, introduced He Qi, a Chinese Christian artist, who gave CBF a painting in the Vestals’ honor. The painting, titled “The Baptism of Jesus,” was one of many on display in a special exhibition at Broadway during the Assembly.
Broadway’s Chancel Choir performed a new anthem titled “Abide in Me,” composed by Michael Cox, composer in residence at Broadway and recently retired professor of music theory and composition at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Coordinating Council honors retiring and departing coordinators
At the June meeting of the CBF Coordinating Council, members also honored Vestal, along with Terry Hamrick, retiring coordinator of missional leadership, and Rob Nash, CBF global missions coordinator, who will leave his position at the end of the month to teach at the McAfee School of Theology.
“Remember who called you,” said Hamrick, reflecting on the period of transition that he faces in retirement and that CBF faces in the coming year. “Remember the mission to which you are called. Create space so you can hear God calling you.”
The Council then received the following reports:
CBF controller Larry Hurst reported that through May 31, CBF revenues were at $8.7 million, 95 percent of the projected amount for this period. Expenditures were available through April 30. They were at $6.5 million, 94 percent of projections.
Vestal said that in the past few weeks he had joined with other faith leaders in writing a letter to President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, asking both how they would protect the poorest in the nation with their proposed budgets and to engage in a conversation with faith leaders around this subject.
Moderator-elect Keith Herron updated the Council on planning for possible implementation of the 2012 Task Force report, which will be voted on by the Assembly Friday.
“Two years ago we appointed and commissioned a group to take off and run,” Herron said. “We asked them to study us. When you read the report, the last page about implementation is short. And, that means we have some work to do.”
Herron said he anticipated the implementation team would start putting a plan together by October and a final implementation plan would be ready for the Assembly in 2013.
Leadership Institute provides ideas, resource for church leaders
More than 100 Fellowship Baptists attended the Leadership Institute. With the theme “Fixin’ Church: Finding a Way Forward in Crazy Times,” Fellowship Baptists heard practical ideas for living more faithfully and leading churches to a renewed identity in Christ.
Robert Creech, a professor of Christian Ministries and director of pastoral ministry at Truett Theological Seminary, spoke about the future vision of the church for the next 40 years. Trevor Hudson, a pastor and author living in South Africa, talked about missional engagement in the world and emphasized practical ways to relieve suffering. And, Julie Merritt Lee, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., discussed the importance of faith formation for leaders and church members.
Attendees, including CBF Leadership Scholars from partner seminaries, participated in a panel and small group discussions around topics relating to church ministry.
College students focus on prison reform at Fort Worth Sessions
At nearby Camp Broadway on the shoreline of Eagle Mountain Lake, approximately two dozen college students gathered for Fort Worth Sessions, a weeklong event focused this year on a Christian response to prison reform.
“Our prisons and court systems relieve us [as Christians] of the burden of being with those who are suffering. It’s a difficult thing to talk about rehabilitating or transforming someone’s life,” said Andy Watts, a Belmont University professor who led students in two days of experiential education that included visits to the Federal Correctional Institution and a residential re-entry facility.
“I had talked about [prison reform] before but it’s different to go in [a prison] and see it,” said Lauren McDuffie, who just finished her first year at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
This is the fifth year the Fellowship has offered a collegiate gathering at its General Assembly.
“I’ll be 50 [years old and] still going,” joked Chowan University student Kelly Brown, who has attended for three years. After serving through CBF’s Collegiate Congregational Internship program, Brown now serves a youth minister and looks forward to the annual event as a place to “bounce [ministry] ideas with people my age.”
CBF Foundation Board approves budget, launches campaign
At the CBF Foundation Board of Trustees meeting, the board approved a budget of $330,000 and launched a five-year endowment campaign called “Your Influence Can Reach Beyond …”
“We are approaching a time of transition, but it is also a time to affirm the purpose and the future of CBF,” said CBF Foundation president James Smith. “We want to challenge the CBF family to dream more than ever about the future of CBF and its partner ministries.”
The CBF Foundation promotes, receives, invests and manages charitable gifts for the Fellowship and its ministry partners. At the end of the 2011 fiscal year, which, ended September 30, 2011, the Foundation was recorded to have more than $33 million under management.
Baptist Women in Ministry hosts gathering at Broadway Baptist
Also on Wednesday, CBF partner Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) hosted worship and lunch at Broadway Baptist Church. The worship was led by Jana Harwell of Arlington, Texas, and Meredith Stone from the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Stone charged the group to “remember God’s amazing work in the past and God’s promise in the future, so we can see our work clearly in the present as part of God’s redemptive plotline.”
Lunch provided space for small group conversations on topics related to challenges and interests of women ministers. At the luncheon, Pam Durso, BWIM’s executive director, announced the 2011 Addie Davis Award recipients, Angela Fields of Atlanta, Ga., and Erin James-Brown of Abilene, Texas.
The 2012 CBF General Assembly continues Thursday with a report from the 2012 Task Force, state and regional meetings and the commissioning of new CBF field personnel and church starters. Read more about the Assembly at www.thefellowship.info/fortworth
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.
The following writers contributed to this story: Patricia Heys, Ryan Higgins, Emily Holladay, Lance Wallace and Carla Wynn Davis.