An Open Letter to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,
We have read of your recent anniversary and would like to give you our sincere congratulations. Undoubtedly, there were many in the early 1990s that said such a thing as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship would never last. Who would have thought that a small group of dissenters from the largest Protestant denomination in North America would have managed to survive for twenty years? We resonate with your story. Even though we were not alive to see the events that led to your establishment, they alienate us from Southern Baptist life (and life in other denominations!), as well. We were stunned when we began to learn of the events that defined Baptist life in the latter half of the twentieth century. It is in many respects a tragedy. We have seen brochures and catalogs from our seminaries before the fundamentalists’ rise to power. We were poised to do great things, but something happened. But while we understand your exilic narrative, there are things that simply get in the way of people like us flying the CBF banner.
We are the children of the events that spawned the CBF, not a participant in its origins. Our new generation of young Baptists may know the story of what happened with the SBC (although many do not), but we did not live it. We do not have the same wounds and scars that you have. We stand eager to get something started. We want to define and drive a movement, not simply comment from the margins at conservative swings in evangelical life. We love dissent, but we also love organized, systematic efforts toward creating new things. We want something different, something new. Invitations to golf matches and pictures of white males on the green in Tampa are not exactly projecting that message to us. We want revolution, a new kind of Christianity that takes justice seriously again. Sometimes when we sit in CBF circles, all we hear are war stories of a conflict we lost before we were even born, so to speak (or maybe not). It is for these reasons that we were excited to read the news coming out of this year’s gathering.
When we saw that you were talking about your identity separate from your origins, we were elated. Alan Sherouse wrote in the Huffington Post that the CBF longs to move from being “reactive” to being “proactive.” He could not be more right. You cannot remain in the shadow of the Southern Baptist Convention forever. You cannot be defined merely as the anti-SBC. You cannot continue to be known only for being against a juggernaut of fundamentalist theology. You need to be known for something, as something. Something new, something different.
When we read of Kyle Reese’s words in the Associated Baptist Press and almost cheered. “Ministry to the least of these has been at the heart of this Fellowship,” he said. He spoke of the activity of the local congregation and the necessity to pursue these ends. “We will be at our best when we are willing to risk,” he continued. Yes! That is exactly what we want you to be!
The words of Colleen Burroughs resonate with us, as well. We want to be part of “Baptists who love, love, love Jesus, and love, love, love people. All people.” We are tired of a Church polity of exclusion. We are tired of a Church bound by politics. We are tired of a Church not known by its love. We want a Church that listens to Jesus before the latest theological fad. We want a Church that follows Jesus before the latest economic whim. We want a Church that knows that “the next chapter in our book [is] less about a fight and more about something that children will run to read because it is a beautiful story of love.”
We want a Church that loves, loves, loves people.
If you give that to us, we will come and come in droves. There are countless numbers of us out there, silently working in the margins. We feel homeless in so many branches of the Church because we just want to love others and are told that is simply not what we do anymore. We want to embrace our history and intellect without fear of inquisition. We want to promote a politics of justice and mercy, not the so-called pragmatic doctrines of injustice and retribution. We are tired of being told that our understanding of the Kingdom is impractical and naive. We are ready for a wider imagination, a greater vision for the future. We are dispersed across the country, waiting. Are we waiting for you?
The Next Generation of Baptists
Posted on 28 June 2011, in Church, Current Events and tagged Baptist, Southern Baptist Convention, SBC, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Annual Meeting, Associated Baptist Press, CBF, 20th Anniversary, Tampa, Alan P. Sherouse, Kyle Reese, Colleen Burroughs. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.