A Baptist church near my home was without a pastor. A representative called to see if I might help during the transition.
Some members, who once belonged to another church where I was interim pastor, sent them my way. And my calendar was surprisingly open for the weekends ahead.
So a couple of evenings later I met with the delightful committee assigned to this task. They suggested that I fill the pulpit on an upcoming Sunday and then be presented the following Wednesday to be the interim pastor.
It all went wonderfully well until the deacons met on the Monday between the worship service and the church conference. Things turned silent for several days until the deacon chair mustered the courage to give me a call.
“They really liked your sermon,” he said. “But they don’t want you to come back.”
Embarrassingly, he confessed that one of the deacons had done a little digging around on the Internet and discovered that — drum roll, please — I was connected to “that CBF.”
It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to reveal how our publishing ministry, though fully autonomous, collaborates with many other organizations — in particular, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).
I chuckled in an attempt to put the caller at ease, and assured him that free weekends are always appreciated. After hanging up I muttered to myself, “Bless their hearts!” — which is a uniquely Southern way of being dismissive with somewhat concealed hostility.
Personally and professionally, I welcome any resulting identification with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Collaboratively, Nurturing Faith and the Fellowship are doing more good things together now than ever before — including publishing excellent Bible studies, a state edition of Nurturing Faith Journal with CBF of North Carolina, numerous books and other resources for thoughtful Christian living.
CBF is beginning a yearlong celebration of its 25th anniversary. Nurturing Faith is pleased to be the publisher of the commemorative book, CBF@25: Stories of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, edited by Aaron Weaver with dozens of contributors.
The book and the yearlong celebration will be launched with much fanfare at the CBF General Assembly in June in Greensboro, N.C.
For many of us, this still young, ever-evolving Fellowship has allowed us to remain Baptist — connected to our personal and historic roots of faith and freedom.
The Fellowship, which took shape in reaction to growing fundamentalism, remains a work in progress.
At times an issue du jour has taken up more energy than perhaps it should. And at other times various organizational matters have called for different ways of organizing while respecting a variety of viewpoints.
Too often our various, independent yet related organizations compete for audiences and support. But we seem to be learning how to better live up to our designation as partners.
Certainly there is messiness if not chaos in doing business without the heavy-handedness of top-down leadership. But we’ve grown to be more comfortable with such messiness — if it allows for more voices to be heard and for more people to be included.
Persons often excluded by fundamentalism are welcomed into the Fellowship. And a lot of effective missions, theological education, Christian formation, publishing and more have resulted from these good efforts.
Those within and without who pronounced CBF to be a one-generation movement were dead wrong. Gray-haired founders and fresh-faced seminarians are equally present and engaged now.
Perhaps the best testimony comes from those of us who came painfully into this movement with a tremendous sense of loss — yet now have no desire whatsoever to go back to what we once knew as our denominational home.
We have our Baptist home — and it is that CBF.