BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) — The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship voted to help start a national ecumenical organization, approved a $16 million budget, and elected new leaders June 25 during its annual general assembly in Birmingham, Ala.
During the business portion of the three-day meeting, CBF participants agreed without debate or dissent to become a founding member of Christian Churches Together in the USA, a new organization that is expected to encompass denominations from across the spectrum of Christianity.
The movement to create Christian Churches Together began in 1991, as leaders of various groups began to “explore the need to expand fellowship and unity among all expressions of Christian faith,” noted John Finley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., and co-chair of the CBF's ecumenical task force.
Christian Churches Together will involve evangelical, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, historical Protestant, and racial and ethnic Christian churches in America, added Sonja Phillips, the other chair of the task force and co-pastor of Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Membership will include churches that “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior” according to the Scriptures, who embrace the historic understanding of God as Trinity, and who “seek ways to work together to present a credible Christian witness” to society, Phillips said.
The idea of helping to start a broad ecumenical group is biblically sound, Finley reported.
Christian ecumenism follows after Jesus' prayer that his followers would be unified, Phillips stressed, noting, “this is a visible manifestation of Christ's presence in unity.
Participation in Christian Churches Together also is consistent with the CBF's identity as ecumenical Baptists who “embrace other Christians,” Finley said.
Already, the American Baptist Churches-USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Methodist Church have affirmed the new organization.
It will be launched when 25 denominations and religious organizations vote to join, Finley said. That is expected to happen by May 2005.
The CBF's $16 million 2004-05 budget will begin July 1 and gained approval without discussion or negative votes.
The budget total is almost the same as the current budget, which was cut back last year after the CBF failed to meet its 2002-03 budget, said Philip Wise, chair of the CBF finance committee and pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas.
Noting the end of the 2003-04 fiscal year was only days away, Wise told general assembly participants, “We're on track to finish in the black.”
The new $16,008,123 budget is $46 more than the 2003-04 budget. It is divided into four program sections and a fifth section of support.
The goal for the “faith formation” section is $509,782. It will fund evangelism and outreach, spiritual growth ministries and the “CBF Store,” which provides products and materials.
The “building community/networking” section is targeted to receive $923,924. Those funds will support efforts to support congregational health, reconciliation and justice, marriage and families, and community-building, as well as grants to help build Baptist identity and relationships.
A total of $1,939,211 is earmarked for “leadership development.” It will include funds allocated to affiliated seminaries, divinity schools and Baptist studies programs. Portions of that amount also will help support congregational leadership development networks, collegiate ministry and other leadership development programs.
The largest component of the budget, $9,044,566, will be allocated to “global missions and ministries.” It will fund about 150 career missionaries, church-planting and missionary-training efforts, missions education and promotion, curriculum to support the missions endeavors, and “church mobilization.”
The support section, $3,550,640, underwrites the annual general assembly, communications and marketing, administration and the work of the CBF Coordinating Council.
New CBF officers are moderator Bob Setzer, pastor of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Ga.; moderator-elect Joy Yee, pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in San Francisco; recording secretary Susan Crumpler, of Mason, Ohio.
Representatives to the Baptist World Alliance are CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal and retired pastor Emmanuel McCall, both of Atlanta.