We’ve more or less gotten into our new house and church, but it remains to be seen whether we are “settled” in. It’s hard to believe that the Chisholms have been in Springfield a month, and yes I know it has been “only” a month but that is still an accomplishment considering the journey we have been on. Slowly but surely we are getting adjusted to new people, places, streets, and surroundings. It has been a good adventure thus far.
I’m looking forward to another journey of sorts this week as the CBF General Assembly is held in Washington D.C. I’ll be flying out of here mid-week and returning sometime Sunday, so hopefully this will be enough time to get a taste of what is going on in Baptist life of a more traditional bent. It will be nice not having to debate and pass resolutions that aren’t even binding on local churchs anyway. Here are a few modest expectations I have for the event:
1. I expect to get reaquainted with some of my friends from around the CBF landscape. It’s one thing to keep in touch throughout the year, but there is something special about seeing folks in person and hearing what has gone on in their lives the previous year. In particular, I look forward to touching base with Dr. Joe Trull, Editor of Christian Ethics Today. He went through quite a scare with the health recently and I’m glad he’s back in the lineup. I might catch up with some TN and MS people along the way too. I’ll try to track down Ircel Harrison and Buddy Shurden along the way too. I’m always surprised to find someone I’ve met before in attendance at the Assembly.
2. I expect to make new friends as well, especially since I am new to Missouri and will be attending their state meeting at some point along the way. It’s important to me to know who our state CBF reps are and how I can lead our church to be supportive on their ministries. I’m always looking for ways to network with like-minded Baptists.
3. I expect to hear good speakers and good messages from the Word of God and focused on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. CBF folks are missions-minded, and a high point of the gathering will be hearing from our new Global Missions Coordinator, Rob Nash, about his vision for reaching people for Christ and how the local church can be part of that (UHBC hosts a reception for Rob this October on his tour through MO). The breakout sessions offer enough variety so that almost anyone can find a subject to peak his/her interest. I do regret not being able to attend the pre-assembly meeting sponsored by Christian Ethics Today about being prophetic without being political. That information should be especially helpful, but time wise I can’t work it in.
4. I expect a good introduction to the work of the American Baptist Convention. One unique feature of UHBC is that we are dually aligned: ABC/CBF. The former isn’t an organization I know much about, primarily because there aren’t that many ABC churches (if any) in LA, MS, or TN. I have checked out their website and confessional statements and already feel a kinship with them, especially their high regard for local church autonomy. The big draw for the ABC this year is their Centennial anniversary, and I’ll be around that Saturday to enjoy that experience. The CBF and ABC will share a worship experience one evening, and that definitely looks to be a highlight.
5. I expect to hear less about what is happening in the SBC and more about what is going on with the mission and ministry of the CBF. The farther away from 1990 we get, the better off we will be as far as turning our attention forward to new ways of partnership and service. It’s getting better each year, I think, as those who are supporting the Fellowship (not “joining”) do so out of an appreciation for its emphasis on Baptist distinctives rather than a reaction to fundamentalism. There will always be this dynamic, but I hope the Fellowship can be more than a home for disgruntled Baptists. I have to remind myself that the younger guard of Baptists do not know about “the Controversy” except through their reading. They haven’t lived through it, so the infusion of younger Baptists and energy is a good thing.
6. I expect to have a greater appreciation for being a Baptist. The freedoms we enjoy in our way of doing church are truly precious, and rubbing shoulders with other traditional Baptists will be a blessing. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is far more important than being a Baptist, and I will always identify first and foremost with the former before the latter. CBF people (and ABC I expect) have this mindset, and any effort to focus on what we have in common more than what we don’t is welcome. Our uniqueness as Baptists can be celebrated without quenching the ecumenical spirit that unites all of us as believers in Jesus Christ.
That’s not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start. I hope to find that my expectations will be met in a few days. There are a lot of things taking place in Baptistland these days, and these are not always positive and honor the God we are called to serve. The CBF and ABC are not perfect organizations by far, but I believe they are closer to what Baptists have historically been and stood for through the years. I’ll find out whether this viewpoint is validated in a few days.