REPORT


CBF Governing Board receives Illumination Project recommendation, adopts Christ-centered hiring policy

February 9, 2018

By Aaron Weaver and Jeff Huett

DECATUR, Ga.— Cooperative Baptist Fellowship employees will be Christians committed to the Great Commandment and Great Commission upholding the highest moral character and ethical standards lived out in Christ-centered relationship both inside and outside the workplace, says a new hiring policy passed by the CBF Governing Board Friday.

The Christ-centered hiring policy (see full text below) states that “CBF will employ only individuals who profess Jesus Christ as Lord, are committed to living out the Great Commandment and Great Commission, and who affirm the principles that have shaped our unique Baptist heritage.” Preference in hiring will be given to active members of CBF churches. CBF employees will also be committed to the denomi-network’s mission of “serving Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission” as well as its Trinitarian global missions distinctives of bearing witness to Jesus Christ, cultivating beloved community and seeking transformational development.

The new policy was adopted as a two-part recommendation from the Illumination Project Committee, which has been working over the past 18 months to explore how Cooperative Baptists can strengthen their unity in the face of different beliefs and practices in matters of human sexuality. During the course of its work, the committee gave specific attention to CBF’s hiring policy adopted nearly 18 years ago in October 2000. That policy was passed by the CBF Coordinating Council (renamed Governing Board in 2013) on a 35-23 vote and prohibited “the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.”

The Governing Board voted to receive the committee’s report, which included an “implementation procedure,” and voted to adopt the new hiring policy. Per the CBF Constitution and Bylaws, the CBF Executive Coordinator is responsible for implementation of all policies, and in making implementation decisions, the Executive Coordinator will consider the nature of the position, its context, and will seek candidates who most fully exhibit the ideals set forth in the hiring policy.

Read the report of the Illumination Project Committee—titled “Honoring Autonomy & Reflecting the Fellowship”—at www.illuminationproject.net. The comprehensive report features the committee’s findings, personas, recommendation and the biblical and theological foundations of its work and proposal.

CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said the new policy sets CBF up for a bright future.

“CBF is moving from a hiring policy focused exclusively on sexuality to a policy that focuses on Jesus and His work to transform the world,” Paynter said. “We are a Fellowship, a big tent of faithful believers and autonomous, innovative churches in partnership. While we do not agree on everything, we have shown Baptists and others that we can come together in a relatively short amount of time, focus on what unites us and come of out it poised for a bright future.”

To reflect the practice of most of its congregations, the procedure states: “Among other qualifying factors, CBF will employ persons for leadership positions in ministry who exhibit the ideals set forth in our hiring policy, have gifts appropriate to the particular position and who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man.” For other positions on the CBF staff in Decatur, applicants will be considered who meet the qualities set forth in the new hiring policy, including Christians who identify as LGBT.

The committee emphasized in its report that CBF is a mission-sending organization relying on more than 100 partners around the world, which have “decisively rejected movement toward hiring or supporting LGBT field personnel or the inclusion of LGBT persons in ordained leadership.” To reflect and respect the practices of the overwhelming number of its global partners, CBF “will send field personnel who have the gifts and life experiences required for the most faithful ministry in the particular setting, who exhibit the qualities set forth in our hiring policy and who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man,” according to the procedure. The same commitments will be followed with regard to supervisors of field personnel.

The Governing Board launched the Illumination Project in June 2016 at the General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C., to seek ways to model unity through cooperation in the midst of cultural change. The project was created to shed light on the qualities that have built unity in CBF and, through discernment, to design and develop models of dialogue and decision-making by which the Fellowship can grow through cooperation—now and in the future. This goal to seek intentional community in spite of differences with a commitment to Scripture has been a strong witness of CBF since its founding in 1991.

During their 18-month process, the seven-member committee hosted more than 20 conference calls, a dozen in-person meetings and presentations in 30 cities across the United States while utilizing a collaborative approach to confronting complex challenges called Integrative Thinking. An extensive series of in-depth interviews was conducted with approximately 30 individuals deeply engaged in CBF life resulting in the development of 11 “personas” used to help the committee fulfill its charge. A group of 50 senior pastors and CBF state/regional coordinators provided additional feedback in the final stage of the process.

Illumination Project Chair Charlie Fuller said the committee sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit to strike a balance and find a new faithful way forward. Their desire for CBF to live into all three words of its name—cooperative, Baptist, fellowship—was informed by Scripture, rooted in a deep love for the local church and kept Christ at the center, “pulling us toward him and toward each other,” he said.

“Over the past 18 months, the Illumination Project Committee has sought to double-down on being Baptist,” Fuller said. Baptist bodies who are true to our rich heritage don’t dictate the beliefs of individuals and churches in a top-down fashion. Rather, Baptist organizations and networks such as ours must find their direction from listening to churches and listening to individuals in all their diversity. We believe we have done exactly that, and we believe the Holy Spirit has spoken as the Illumination Project Committee worked through our unique process of listening and reflecting the voices of the Fellowship.”

CBF Moderator Shauw Chin Capps expressed gratitude for Fuller and the committee’s transparent and deliberate approach and intentional process.

“What I have witnessed is a reflection of what I love about my CBF family—a desire to find unity with our diverse Fellowship and a principled path forward that leads us back to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” Capps said. “The committee has faithfully listened to the breadth of voices on matters of human sexuality, and I believe we have done our best to reflect and respect the practices and convictions of CBF congregations and our global partners. We now have an opportunity to be a witness to the rest of the world, showing that Christ is our center and can hold us together for the sake of sharing the Gospel.”

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Illumination Project Committee Members:

- Paul Baxley, Senior Minister, First Baptist Church, Athens, Ga.
- Shauw Chin Capps (CBF Moderator, 2017-2018), CEO, Hopeful Horizons, Beaufort, S.C.
- Doug Dortch (Former CBF Moderator, 2016-2017), Senior Minister, Mountain Brook Baptist Church, Mountain Brook, Ala.
- Charlie Fuller (Committee Chair), Executive Pastor, First Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
- Kasey Jones (Former CBF Moderator, 2014-2015), Associate Coordinator of Strategic Operations and Outreach, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Decatur, Ga.
- Steve Wells, Pastor, South Main Baptist Church, Houston, Texas
- Rebecca Wiggs, Attorney, Watkins & Eager, Jackson, Miss.

CBF Governing Board Members:

- Jason Callahan, Vice President, Human Resources and Risk Management, TruckPro, LLC, Memphis, Tenn.
- Shauw Chin Capps (Moderator), Executive Director, Hopeful Horizons, Beaufort, S.C.
- William L. Coates, Jr., Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Gainesville, Ga.
- Stephen Cook, Senior Pastor, Second Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn.
- Gary Dollar (Moderator-Elect), Partner, EMD Consulting Group, Glen Carbon, Ill.
- Doug Dortch (Past Moderator), Senior Minister, Mountain Brook Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.
- David King, Karen Lake Buttrey Director, Lake Institute of Faith and Giving, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, Ind.
- Bill Leonard, Professor of Baptist Studies and Church History, Wake Forest University Divinity School, Winston-Salem, N.C.
- Bill McConnell, Layperson, Knoxville, Tenn.
- Carol McEntyre, Senior Minister, First Baptist Church, Columbia, Mo.
- Maria Monteiro, Chair of Music, Baptist University of the Americas, San Antonio, Texas
- Katie Sciba (Recorder), Medical Social Worker, AARN Health Services, Stafford, Texas
- Jim Somerville, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Richmond, Va.
- Kristen Tucker, Minister of Spiritual Development and Communications, Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C.
- Steve Wells, Pastor, South Main Baptist Church, Houston, Texas
- Rebecca Wiggs, Attorney, Watkins & Eager, Jackson, Miss.

CBF Hiring Policy (Adopted February 9, 2018)

CBF employees serve as co-laborers with the Holy Spirit in God’s mission, striving to be Christ-like, innovative, authentic, globally focused, committed to hearing and respecting diverse perspectives and to pursuing excellence. Employees will also be committed to CBF’s mission of serving Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission while working together to renew God’s world by cultivating beloved community, bearing witness to Jesus Christ and seeking transformational development in the contexts of global poverty and global migration and in partnership with the Global Church.

Because of our compelling mission and vision, CBF will employ only individuals who profess Jesus Christ as Lord, are committed to living out the Great Commandment and Great Commission, and who affirm the principles that have shaped our unique Baptist heritage. Preference in hiring will be given to applicants who are active members in good standing of CBF churches as well as those who have demonstrated an active participation and contribution to the missions, ministries or other initiatives of the Fellowship and its partners.

CBF employees are expected to have the highest moral character, displaying professionalism and a commitment to the highest ethical standards. These include: acting with integrity, being a faithful steward of resources, speaking truth in love, embracing accountability, facilitating fairness, supporting and encouraging peers, nurturing a community of respect, and establishing collaborative relationships. CBF employees are expected to live out their Christ-centered relationship both inside and outside the workplace, serving as active members of their local church as well as through service to their community.