Twenty & Five
Last week (June 20-24) I, along with twelve others from UBC, made my way to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the annual gathering of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) General Assembly. This marked the beginning of CBF’s 25th anniversary and a new chapter in our shared lives, particularly as we join together for the support of global missions.
If you haven’t ever gone to the CBF website (https://www.cbf.net/) I encourage you to do that. Follow the link to “Assembly” and you can watch videos of many of the most important sessions from our meeting. Two major events dominated much of our shared conversation and work.
Just days before our gathering, forty-nine people lost their lives at a club in Orlando, FL. We could not gather as the people of Jesus without acknowledging the deep pain stretching beyond Orlando into each of the communities represented at the CBF gathering. We opened our first service of worship with a time of remembrance, where names of all those killed in mass shootings over the last year were lifted up—from the shooting at Mother Emmanuel in Charleston that happened just days after our last meeting to the Orlando massacre at Pulse.
As we named victims, we also named the hatred and bigotry that has fueled these shootings, especially the continued threat faced by so many of our sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ community. We began in prayer, and we ended by doing a rare thing for CBF Baptists. We do not regularly pass resolutions or make unified statements. But, recognizing that the church’s silence often makes us complicit, as representatives of over one million Baptists, we affirmed together a statement which includes these words:
Admittedly and sadly, the Church has been said to be tacitly complicit in the Orlando attack because some Christians have either spoken in hateful ways about LGBTQ persons or have remained silent when other people spewed hate. No more. We stand united in our belief that every person is created in God’s image and endowed with a sacred dignity that cannot be taken away. We stand united in proclaiming that God loves each person and wants all people to know God through God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. You can read the full statement here.
The second major event dominating our time was the introduction of a new model for supporting our global mission work around the world. I could detail the logistics of funding and support, but what matters most in all of this is that CBF has renewed and re-enlivened our commitment to global missions. You will hear much more about this in months to come—especially as these efforts bring new responsibilities and possibilities to our church.
As the people of CBF, we are bearing witness to the love of Jesus in thirty countries as we seek sustainable responses to systems of poverty that devalue life and diminish the image of God (global poverty), extend hope and hospitality to those who are driven away from their own homes (global migration), and befriend Christians from around the world to share and receive gifts to engage in God’s mission together through worship, fellowship, education, and service (global church). This is our work, and we have much to be thankful for!
I returned to UBC with a full heart—thankful for the love we share in this place, and thankful for our CBF family!