What votes did the CBF Governing Board take regarding the Illumination Project?

The Governing Board took two votes on February 9.
• The Board voted to approve the Hiring Policy (http://illuminationproject.net/hiring-policy). It is now officially CBF policy.
• The Board also voted to receive the Report (http://illuminationproject.net/report) of the Illumination Project Committee, and with that vote signified the committee had concluded its work.

What were the results of the two votes?

The vote to approve the Hiring Policy was unanimous.

14 Governing Board members voted “yes” to receive the Report. One member voted “no” and one member chose to “abstain” from the vote.

Did the Board vote to adopt the “implementation procedure” (pp. 21-22 of Report)

No. The implementation procedure was not voted on by the CBF Governing Board and therefore does not rise to the level of a policy. The Board voted to receive the report of the Illumination Project Committee — the implementation procedure is one recommendation contained in the Report.

Policy vs. Procedure — What is the difference?

Per the CBF Constitution/Bylaws (www.cbf.net/constitution), the Governing Board is responsible for developing policies to guide the Fellowship. The Executive Coordinator is responsible for implementation of policy through operating procedures.

According to the CBF Bylaws, the Governing Board has the responsibility and authority “to employ and to terminate the Executive Coordinator and to provide supervision of the Executive Coordinator, provided that the Executive Coordinator shall have authority to employ and terminate employees of the Fellowship and to delegate their employment and termination to other members of the Fellowship staff.”

On significant matters, the Executive Coordinator works collaboratively with the CBF Officers and CBF Governing Board in the development of implementation procedures. Such was the case in the recent restructuring of CBF Global Missions and it is true in this case. This implementation procedure resulted from active collaboration between the Executive Coordinator, the Illumination Project Committee and CBF Officers, and was thoroughly discussed by the CBF Governing Board.

How is the new hiring policy different from the old hiring policy?

Because local congregations are the ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice in Baptist life, it is proper for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to reflect and respect those autonomous local congregations in carrying out our shared life and ministry together. CBF’s new hiring policy has embraced that tenet of our Baptist life. As such, preference in hiring under CBF’s new policy will be given to active members of CBF churches.

Also, the new policy explicitly requires employees to be professing Christians committed to the Great Commandment and Great Commission as well as CBF’s mission statement and Trinitarian global missions distinctives of bearing witness to Jesus Christ, cultivating beloved community and seeking transformational development.

The previous hiring policy, adopted 18 years ago, focused exclusively on sexuality and prohibited the hiring of LGBTQ employees. The new hiring policy does not mention sexuality.

What changes as a result of the vote to adopt the new hiring policy?

Under its previous hiring policy, CBF was not free to employ Christians who were LGBT to work in any capacity. Under the new hiring policy and implementation procedure, the absolute prohibition is lifted and now there will be more openness for some positions at the CBF Global Office in Decatur. These positions are across departments and levels of the organization.

As presented in the implementation procedure: “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 (see pp. 21-22 of Report).

How does this impact CBF field personnel?

The implementation procedure reflects and respects the practices of an overwhelming number of CBF’s global partners and congregations. To this end, 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 the new CBF hiring policy and who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man. CBF follows the same commitments in employing supervisors of field personnel. (see pp. 21-22 of Report)

What role do CBF’s global partners have in the sending of field personnel?

While our global partners have no formal role in the field personnel selection process, CBF committed several years ago to a mission of cultivating beloved community, bearing witness to Jesus Christ and seeking transformational development in contexts of global poverty and global migration and in partnership with the Global Church. We embraced this partnership vision for Global Missions as a decided step away from approaches to mission that often perpetuated cultural imposition.

We send field personnel to work in concert with national Baptist conventions, Christian unions and indigenous partners; those bodies are our hosts for securing visas and for helping to define our common task. Those unions have decisively rejected movement toward inclusion of LGBT persons in church leadership and ministry in general. None of the global partners with whom we currently partner would receive a married LGBT field personnel. Furthermore, were CBF to send married LGBT field personel, the overwhelming majority of our global partners would decline partnership altogether, requiring us to bring home field personnel.

How does this new hiring policy and implementation procedure affect CBF’s process of awarding scholarships for theological education?

Because of our commitment to encourage the most outstanding leadership for all of our congregations, CBF will gladly consider scholarship applications for any Cooperative Baptist student who senses a call to ministry, receives a recommendation from one of our churches, and shows promise for exceptional ministerial leadership in the Fellowship.

What is the impact on CBF chaplains and pastoral counselors?

CBF will continue to endorse chaplains and pastoral counselors who are members of CBF churches and active participants in missions and ministries of the Fellowship. Other requirements include: ordination by a Baptist church, completion of a 72-hour Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary, written statement of Christian beliefs and understanding of CBF, high moral character and ethics, personal interview. Sexual orientation and marital status are not considerations for endorsement. Learn more about CBF Chaplaincy at www.cbf.net/chaplaincy.

How does this new policy affect my local congregation?

CBF's new hiring policy is not a policy for any congregation. By adopting a policy that focuses on Jesus Christ and his mission to transform the world, however, we believe the new hiring policy is reflective of the mission of an overwhelming number of CBF churches.

CBF is resolutely committed to the autonomy of local congregations. In Baptist life, each local congregation has ultimate responsibility for identifying persons who show evidence of a call to ministry, recommending them for seminary education, and then later prayerfully seeking ministers who can best serve in their congregation. CBF will welcome the active participation of any church led to join in our shared life and mission, and will work gladly with the ministers called by those congregations.

Why did the Illumination Project Committee choose to publish the "implementation procedure"?

The Illumination Project Committee, along with the Executive Coordinator and the Governing Board officers, believed strongly that honesty and transparency were absolutely necessary if CBF is to move forward together. The nature of the committee’s Report strikes a balance that reflects the autonomy of congregations with strong but differing convictions and also reflects the practice of these same congregations. Because of the listening done throughout our work, we knew that some in our Fellowship would take issue with the implementation procedure in different ways, but the committee members and the Executive Coordinator believed it was their obligation to communicate clearly with the entire Fellowship about how the policy would be implemented.