Great Rivers Fellowship, a new Cooperative Baptist Fellowship regional organization formed by the merger of CBF units in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, has elected its first staff leaders.
Mississippi native Brittany Caldwell, a program coordinator and pastor who most recently served Nobles Chapel Baptist Church in Sims, N.C., will be coordinator of community engagement. Arkansan Shane McNary, a CBF missionary in Eastern Europe, will be coordinator of ministry.
Both coordinators have deep roots in the region and genuinely long for the work of God to flourish in the three states, said Preston Clegg, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., and leader of the council that guided the merger of the Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi affiliates.
Caldwell will be based in Mississippi, and McNary will work from Arkansas.
“Brittany’s experience both inside the church, serving as a pastor, and outside the church, serving in a variety of community ministries, makes her the perfect person to help churches engage their communities with missional work outside of the church’s walls,” Clegg said. “And Shane’s long and effective work as CBF field personnel in Slovakia speaks for itself and makes him the perfect person to walk alongside congregations and clergy as they seek to do ministry in an ever‐changing ecclesial landscape.”
“The church is in need of broad-scale transformation if it is to continue to fulfill the command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations,” said Caldwell, a graduate of Baylor University’s George W. Truett Seminary. “In a post‐COVID, post‐Christian world, the disconnect between the message of Jesus and its concrete action in the world is often felt most profoundly in the Deep South, where poverty, healthcare disparities, patriarchy and racism exist alongside the largest population of evangelical Christians in the nation.”
As a woman born and raised in Mississippi, Caldwell has encountered this disconnect over and over again, and now “find within myself a God‐given passion to journey with the church of the Deep South to bridge the gap between hearing the gospel of Jesus and living it out in creative and innovative ways,” she said.
“To that end, I believe that CBF, with its advocacy for female church leadership and its emphasis on diversity of thought and interpretation, will be instrumental in the days ahead as the church moves into a new day of ministry.”
McNary and his wife, Dianne, were commissioned as CBF field personnel in 2004. They minister among the Roma people in Slovakia and Czechia, where he has helped develop holistic ministries and fought for religious freedom and justice through work with the Baptist World Alliance and the European Baptist Federation. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Truett Seminary.
McNary appreciates Great River Fellowship’s vision to call co‐coordinators and to be able to work alongside Caldwell. “She is a spring of hope whose diversity of experience and deep knowledge of the region are essential,” he said.
“I want to see GRF begin in a healthy way with a firm grounding as a community of churches, ministries and ministers who exercise a mutuality and support to engage in the calling we all have of being the transformative presence of Christ in our communities,” he said.
“The heritage of the region’s involvement in Together for Hope (CBF’s rural development coalition), the heartbeat of justice issues resonating throughout the region, and the honor of participating in nurturing a supportive network of churches, ministers and ministries are tributaries of God’s Spirit renewing the region.”
“What most interests me about the position is that GRF is at the growing edge of collaboration and cooperation in CBF life,” he added. “Birthing a new CBF regional organization is something to celebrate.”
Paul Baxley, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and a facilitator of the team that explored the merger, congratulated Great Rivers Fellowship for selecting two gifted leaders.
“Brittany and Shane both bring important experiences, convictions and personal qualities to this work,” Baxley said. “I look forward to working closely with them and the other leaders of Great Rivers Fellowship to further strengthen the collaboration that already exists between this new region and CBF Global and look forward to the leadership this region will provide across our Fellowship.”
Laura Ayala, coordinator of CBF Global Missions, thanked McNary for his years of service to CBF.
“We bless our brother Shane McNary as he moves into his new leadership position at Great Rivers Fellowship,” she said. “We thank God for his contributions to CBF life as field personnel, among other roles, and we look forward to what the Holy Spirit will continue to do through his leadership to touch many lives.”
Great Rivers Fellowship has prioritized connecting individuals, churches and partners across its three states and beyond for collaborative mission and ministry.
The organization has stated it intends to:
- Promote congregational collaborations through relationship‐building and shared learning.
- Engage young Baptists in ministry.
- Combat rural poverty through Together for Hope.
- Support racial justice initiatives.