Southern Baptist Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Seeks Direction Amid Diverse Views on Homosexuality

Charlie Fuller, chairman of the CBF’s Illumination Project Committee, presents a report to the CBF General Assembly June 29.
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A committee charged with recommending how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship can “strengthen [its] unity” despite “differing beliefs and practices in matters of human sexuality” has said it hopes to propose in the next six months “a more faithful path forward” in the CBF’s discussion of homosexuality.

The six-member Illumination Project Committee was appointed in June 2016 by then-CBF moderator Doug Dortch to, among other tasks, recommend whether the CBF Governing Board should amend the Fellowship’s hiring policy. The policy currently “does not allow … for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.”

The CBF was founded in 1991 as a fellowship of churches that objected to the ideology and methods of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence.

The committee’s interim report, delivered June 29 during a session of the CBF General Assembly in Atlanta, did not include any specific policy recommendations but noted the committee’s general thoughts as it prepares a final report to be delivered in September 2017 or January 2018.

The Governing Board, which has full authority over the hiring policy, must then decide whether to amend that policy.

The Illumination Project — an emphasis broader than the committee — was launched in June 2016 by the Governing Board “to create a framework to seek out unity on issues where we may not all be of one mind,” according to a video shown as part of the report.

The committee said its work thus far has consisted largely of listening to the stories of Baptists involved in CBF life through a series of 31 two-hour “extensive interviews.” The report noted five personality profiles representing some types of people who participate in the fellowship:

— Those who hold traditional views of human sexuality but want the CBF to emphasize other matters.

— Those who believe “God defined marriage very clearly in Genesis” and the CBF should not allow practicing homosexuals as employees or missionaries.

— Those who self-identify as homosexual and want “peace through affirmation” in the CBF.

— Those who sense tension between the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and its command to love our neighbors. Fellowship Baptists with this personality profile are not comfortable with advocacy by either side in the homosexuality debate and want churches of differing views to cooperate.

— Those who believe the homosexual lifestyle is morally legitimate and think changing CBF policies to permit that lifestyle among employees and missionaries “will be hard, but it has to happen.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach