An open letter to young CBF leaders

It’s time for young leaders in CBF to stop focusing on our movement’s failures and roll up our sleeves to build on what the Fellowship has accomplished so far.

By Sara Hunt

Young CBF leaders, I’m one of you. We’re on the same team, you and I. Our stories are woven with similar threads.

You and I, we’re passionate, alive and ready to see the good news of our Jesus lived out in our churches in ways we haven’t seen before. We’re bright-eyed, energized and ready to embrace this refreshing Spirit that is blowing.

Our entire lives, or at least the majority of our years, have been lived in a world where the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was in existence. I, too, grew up knowing very clearly what kind of Baptist I was not — and not quite as sure on what that meant I was.

As a young CBF leader, I resonate with a lot of the thoughts in the recent open letter to our Fellowship published by Associated Baptist Press. We have come a long way in the area of empowering women in ministry, but there is still deeply needed work to be done here.

We, as a Fellowship, have spoken truth toward systems and voices of oppression, but there is still great work to be done (including the continuation of dialogue on the intersection of faith and sexuality.)

I, too, have been one of the voices speaking up, calling for a deeper understanding of our identity as a Fellowship, calling out for something more. But friends, we have been talking long enough. It’s time to shut up and do something about it.

We say that the generation of CBF before us has overplayed the “women in ministry” card. While this may be true, our generation is on the verge of overplaying the card of “we want something more!”

I’m weary of our generation begging CBF to claim an identity, to “get over the women in ministry business,” give us something more to hold on to and tell us “who we are.”

It is dangerous to speak from such a place of entitlement. We cannot keep acting like CBF “owes” us something. She really has already given us so much, and for that we should be thankful.

We are Baptists. The beauty in that is that our identity isn’t handed to us or decided by some supreme higher authority in our organizational structure. We are here. We are called. Our generation has a role to play in bringing forth this Fellowship’s identity as much as any generation before us. So let’s stop whining and get to work, or better yet, join in on the work already being done.

A year ago I moved to an area of the country where CBF isn’t as prevalent as others to attend a seminary full of students who have no clue what CBF is. When people ask about my tradition, I often receive blank stares when I say to them “Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.”

I get excited when I get to tell them about this Fellowship of ours. It means I can tell them of my community that is passionately seeking to be like Jesus — to love and care for the forgotten in our world.

I beam as I tell them of my Fellowship that is taking seriously the call to love our neighbor and working with all of God’s children to welcome in God’s kingdom together. That is an identity I can hold onto for now.

Today, I am excited to say “I’m a CBF Baptist” for all that it means. I hope we, as young leaders of this Fellowship, can stop looking to someone else to tell us who we are.

We are CBF: May we continue to seek our God’s direction as we live and minister together.

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