Vestal casts vision for CBF
July 5 2002 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Vestal casts vision for CBF | Friday, July 5, 2002

Friday, July 5, 2002

Vestal casts vision for CBF

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press

FORT WORTH - The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) held its annual General Assembly June 27-29 in Fort Worth, Texas. At the meeting the issue of what CBF is and what it will become was discussed several times.

CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal said his vision for CBF is the same as his vision for the church, to represent Christ in the world.

"The mission given by God to every Christian and every church is to be an embodiment of Christ, an extension of Christ," Vestal said. "We are to be what Christ was while he was on this earth.

"We are to be Christ in the world, the body of Christ, the mystical presence of Christ, the representative of Christ. Our mission is to live as Christ, to act as Christ and, if necessary, to suffer as Christ."

Vestal said the future of CBF lies in serving and equipping "incarnational" churches. Such churches, he said, will be both "prophetic" in their message and "priestly" in service to others.

"The church that incarnates the life and ministry of Jesus will love sinners," Vestal said. "Because it loves sinners, it will serve them."

Rather than casting stones at non-Christians, Vestal said such churches "will make sinners feel welcome because they are welcome."

But turning to relationships within the church, Vestal asked, "How can we love sinners outside the church if we don't love sinners inside the church, that is if we don't love one another?"

"Moderate Baptists are critical of one another," Vestal said. "Cynical and caustic, instead of compassionate and kind. If I were asked to name the single one ingredient of what characterizes the incarnational church, it would be this one: it serves. And because it loves it will be both prophetic and priestly."

Jim Baucom, pastor of Rivermont Avenue Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. and former CBF moderator, gave both an introduction and response to Vestal's message. Baucom said he believes Cooperative Baptist churches "are among the true heirs" of the church's mission of incarnating Christ's spirit.

"I submit to you that CBF is Christ's body fulfilled for the 21st century," he said. "We are the Baptist incarnation of God's love in our world today. That is what defines us. That is what tells us who we are." Baucom completed his one-year term as CBF moderator, a non-paid leadership position, at the close of the General Assembly. He stays another year on the Coordinating Council and leadership team in his capacity as past-moderator.

Delegates at the General Assembly elected a Missouri lay woman as moderator-elect this year. Cynthia Holmes of Clayton, Mo., is a St. Louis-area attorney and a member of Overland Baptist Church. She has served several years on the CBF's Coordinating Council, currently as an at-large member and chairperson of the council's legal committee.

Holmes will serve next year as moderator-elect before becoming the Fellowship's top elected leader in 2003-2004. Phill Martin of Richardson, Texas, elected last year as moderator-elect, takes over as moderator this year from Virginia pastor Jim Baucom.

Holmes will be the sixth woman to assume leadership in the CBF since it organized in 1991. The 1,800-church Fellowship formed out of a split with the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, which in recent years has sparked controversy with stances against the ordination of women in Baptist churches and that wives should submit to their husbands in the home.

At a pre-General Assembly meeting of the Coordinating Council, the CBF's top-paid administrator said he believes his organization provides a good model for churches in including people of both sexes in leadership roles.

"We are a laboratory of shared leadership between men and women," CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal said. "It's in our DNA to have leadership that is shared by men and women."

"We don't have to argue about that," Vestal said. "It is in us. I don't mean to say we're perfect there, but I really do believe we have as one of our core values ... a commitment to leadership that is shared by male and female."

As moderator, Martin, a clergyman who directs the National Association of Church Business Administrators, will preside over next year's General Assembly, as well as at meetings of the Coordinating Council during the next year.

Paul Kenley, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lampasas, Texas, was elected to a third term as recorder.

In a business session, CBF registrants approved a $19.2 million budget for 2002-2003. Fifty-eight percent of that amount, $11.2 million, is earmarked for global missions. The budget anticipates $10.1 million in undesignated gifts and a $6.1 million goal for the CBF's global-missions offering. Twenty-four new missionaries were commissioned during the meeting.

Other expenditures include $1.2 million in institutional support for 11 theology schools and partial support for several other "partner" organizations, including the Baptist Joint Committee, Associated Baptist Press, Baptists Today, the Baptist Center for Ethics, the Center for Christian Ethics and Passport, a youth camping ministry.

About $7 million in the budget supports CBF strategic initiatives -- broad program categories of faith formation, building community and networking and leadership development -- plus communications and marketing, General Assembly expenses and administration.

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7/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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