By Bob Allen
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a “different way of being a Christian network,” Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said in a report to the 2014 CBF General Assembly June 26 in Atlanta.
“My elevator word for CBF is ‘denominetwork,’” Paynter said in her second report since taking the helm of the Decatur, Ga.,-based Fellowship in 2013.
“We’re not a denomination,” she said. “We are interconnected. We’re woven together. In a world of religious and institutional denominational decline, friends, we’re vital. We’re alive, and it’s not accidental.”
Fellowship officials expect 1,500 members to attend this year’s General Assembly, held June 23-27 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Atlanta. Featured speakers on program events include former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, anti-apartheid advocate Allan Boesak and Melissa Rogers, special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Meeting planners chose a theme “Woven Together,” to illustrate the network of more than 1,800 partner congregations collaborating to support missionaries, theological education and more than 700 endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors.
“The Fellowship is faithful and intentional and we are developing,” Paynter said in her annual report. “To connect in this Fellowship is to connect with the larger body of Christ.”
“Your membership is not towards CBF, but by forming together with others in CBF we’re becoming the body of Christ,” she said, “not an end in ourselves, but a way of forming together towards the body of Christ we aspire to be.”
Paynter characterized the CBF network as “big tent, federated, cooperative, diverse opinions but generous to one another in our community.”
“We are church and missions, not issue centered, and not constituent limited,” she said. “We have created and we have connected existing networks of missions and ministry, with education, with services, with resources, with responses, a denominetwork.”
“We seek a balanced expression with work in states and regions, globally calling to be reconciled to Christ, and there are a few benchmarks for us this year that are notable and beautiful.”
One, she said, will take shape this week as CBF churches, global missions staff, field personnel and the South Africa global missions church network meet to plan a missions opportunity for Baptists from around the world attending the 2015 Baptist World Congress in South Africa.
“CBF churches and CBF missions will host the mission experience for the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa,” Paynter announced. “This is something that deserves our prayerful support and our cooperation as we look forward to this great event, worldwide, in the Baptist family.”