The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) is a Christian fellowship of Baptist churches formed in 1991. Theologically moderate, the CBF withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) over philosophical and theological differences, such as the SBC prohibition of women serving as pastors. A new hiring policy passed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Governing Board at a February 9 meeting lifted a ban on “absolute prohibition” of hiring homosexuals and transgenders.
The Governing Board launched the Illumination Project in June 2016 at the General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C., to seek ways to model unity through cooperation in the midst of cultural change. During their 18-month process, the seven-member committee hosted more than 20 conference calls, a dozen in-person meetings and presentations in 30 cities across the United States while utilizing a collaborative approach to confronting complex challenges called Integrative Thinking.
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said the new policy sets CBF up for a bright future. “CBF is moving from a hiring policy focused exclusively on sexuality to a policy that focuses on Jesus and His work to transform the world,” Paynter said. “We are a Fellowship, a big tent of faithful believers and autonomous, innovative churches in partnership. While we do not agree on everything, we have shown Baptists and others that we can come together in a relatively short amount of time, focus on what unites us and come of out it poised for a bright future.”
On the other side, LGBTQ employees still wouldn’t be allowed to serve as missionaries, at least in a leadership role, and those who serve as missionaries at all will have to be celibate.
The committee emphasized in its report that CBF is a mission-sending organization relying on more than 100 partners around the world, which have “decisively rejected movement toward hiring or supporting LGBT field personnel or the inclusion of LGBT persons in ordained leadership.” To reflect and respect the practices of the overwhelming number of its global partners, CBF “will send field personnel who have the gifts and life experiences required for the most faithful ministry in the particular setting, who exhibit the qualities set forth in our hiring policy and who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man,” according to the procedure. The same commitments will be followed with regard to supervisors of field personnel.
Longtime Southern Baptist leader Dr. Richard Land — currently the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina — says he's saddened by the decision, but not surprised.
He also tells OneNewsNow the issue of homosexuality is a "litmus test" for professed Evangelicals. "Anybody who claims to be an Evangelical and who affirms same-sex relationships is not an Evangelical," he insists." "What makes an Evangelical? A person who believes in the inerrancy and full authority of Scripture and puts themselves under the authority of Scripture." "Once you pull that anchor and you begin to drift, how do you stop?" he asks. "They'll continue to drift."
Photo Credits: The Odyssey