Julie Merritt, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., spoke at Thursday evening’s worship service. J.V. McKinney photo
ATLANTA – The 19th annual Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly began Thursday, focusing on the theme “Embrace the World: Welcome to Your Neighborhood.”
On the Assembly’s first full day, 1,485 registered attendees were introduced to the 2009-2010 budget; participated in more than 30 ministry workshops; attended auxiliary events for such CBF partners as the Baptist Center for Ethics, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Associated Baptist Press; and during worship explored the ideas of diversity and hospitality as Christian practices.
With music from around the world, the evening worship session was inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. A video featuring people from all walks of life quoting the passage served as a visual theme interpretation. Two Baptist pastors offered reflections and speakers addressed the theme of “Go and do likewise,” including biblical, theological and practical aspects of being a neighbor.
“The question ‘Who is my neighbor?’ is really the question of who they’re not,” said Taylor Sandlin, pastor of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas. “The young man [in the biblical story] basically wanted to know ‘Where does my neighborhood end? Where is that line that separates us from them? That distinguishes those for whom I am responsible from those for whom I am not?’ For if someone isn’t my neighbor then they’re pretty much a stranger. And we all know that strangers aren’t that far removed from being enemies. And no one would be expected to love their enemies, would they?”
The second speaker, Julie Merritt, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., described love as an action. She urged the audience to move from what they know to do to actually doing it.
“What Jesus is calling us to is living with and among people that are different from us, actually getting to know them – meeting their needs but not seeing them as a need, but one of us,” said Merritt. “In short, we are to love in particular not in general. Loving in general is easy and cheap. But loving in particular requires more of us. We don’t just feed the hungry. We sit down with those who are hungry, and recognize our own hunger. We sit down and share a meal together, share a conversation and thus share a holy space.”
In addition to the state and regional meetings, the first day of the Assembly also featured two time blocks of workshops. Topics related to church resources, Baptist history, tools for congregational leadership and communities of missional practice.
Fellowship Baptists give to Carter Offering for fifth straight year
In its fifth year, the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Offering for Religious Liberty and Human Rights funds ministries and initiatives that work to perpetuate the ideas and practices of religious liberty and to promote human rights.
One-third of the offering is used by the Baptist World Alliance and two-thirds is designated for CBF-sponsored ministries and partners. One of this year’s recipients on behalf of CBF is the European Baptist Federation. CBF will also designate a portion the funds to support the ministry of CBF field personnel Rick and Lita Sample, who work with women church starters in the Middle East. The Offering was collected at Thursday evening’s worship session and will be collected at the Friday morning session.
Moderator Glasgow reflects on ministries of Fellowship Baptists
In the morning business session, CBF moderator Jack Glasgow, pastor of Zebulon Baptist Church in Zebulon, N.C., reflected on the Fellowship’s past year, which included the relocation of the CBF Resource Center and the recognition of new strategic priorities.
“Let us celebrate our connections, strengthen our partnerships, step up our encouragement, accelerate our commitment, and rejoice in our relationships,” Glasgow said. “Like the post exilic community in Jerusalem, there is joy that can be found in a work of renewal and rebuilding. Let us find that joy and passion and renew our commitment to one another. The joy we find will be the strength for our future.”
At the conclusion of the General Assembly, Glasgow will begin a year of service as immediate past moderator, and Hal Bass, a professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., assumes the role of CBF moderator.
Whitsitt Society honors Shurden with Courage Award
The William H. Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society honored its founder, Walter “Buddy” Shurden Thursday with the Whitsitt Courage Award, given to individuals who have shown courage in applying Baptist principles in their lives and ministry. Shurden, along with CBF founding coordinator Cecil Sherman, were responsible for organizing the first document outlining the purpose of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Shurden thanked the Society for the award and said being a Christian means taking seriously what Jesus of Nazareth took seriously.
“It’s not about signing the creed, that’s easy church,” said Shurden, minister at large for Mercer University. “It’s not about identification with institutions. That too easily becomes idolatrous. Jesus wanted people to be included instead of excluded, respected instead of exploited. He wanted us to share instead of hoarding, live on less so others can live on more. He wanted us to love rather than hate.
“I don’t want to minimize Baptist ideals of freedom. I want very much for us to embrace the Jesus ideals of freedom. Our institutions and very souls depend upon this.”
Pastors pray for Assembly, the Fellowship
As the Assembly began with various breakfast and auxiliary events, a group of pastors gathered to pray for the Assembly, CBF partner churches, pastors, the Fellowship and the entire Baptist movement.
“We are all living in a testing time,” CBF executive coordinator Daniel Vestal told the pastors. “I believe in the providence of God. We only have one hope. That’s all we need. God is our shield, our strength, our hope.”
The prayer gathering was hosted by Ron Lyles, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Pasadena, Texas.
Friday’s schedule includes more workshops, worship and the votes on the new slate of officers and budget. For more coverage, visit www.thefellowship.info/houston
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.