The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship recently updated their hiring policy based on 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.”
Here’s the text of the updated policy:
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.
The policy also contains an implementation procedure which 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.” This statement makes clear that leadership positions are reserved for celibate singles and monogamous heterosexual married individuals. The article on the CBF website goes on to state they for other positions within the CBF applicants will be considered who identify as LGBT Christians. Missionary appointments will be reserved for those who “practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man.” The rationale given for that is the practices of the overwhelming number of CBF’s global partners.
This updated policy created a predicament for two of our state conventions, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Both served as intermediaries for funds given to the CBF in much the same way that they have historically passed along Cooperative Program dollars to the Southern Baptist Convention. BGCT and BGAV are the only SBC state conventions that related to the CBF in this way.
But the practice of sending along funds to the CBF has now changed for both the BGCT and BGAV.
The BGCT Executive Board voted on Tuesday, February 20 to remove the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from its church giving forms. BGCT President Danny Reeves said, “I am very grateful for the consistent, steady way in which the BGCT has held to God’s Word. We lovingly say to all people the truth that marriage is to be between one man and one woman.” BGCT Executive Director David Hardage added, “Texas Baptists have consistently held to Biblical truth on marriage and human sexuality while at the same time loving and caring for everyone.” Chairman of the Executive Board Dennis Young said, “While we love all people, our love is governed by the Word of God.”
Then yesterday the BGAV released this statement from their Executive Board:
The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) at numerous annual meetings has affirmed and acted on its commitment to its orthodox and traditional view of biblical marriage and sexuality. The BGAV remains committed to respecting, welcoming, and loving all persons in the name of Christ while affirming an orthodox view of marriage between a man and a woman.
The Virginia Baptist Executive Board regrets it has had to address the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s (CBF) approval of the Illumination Project Committee’s report permitting the hiring of LGBT personnel for certain staff positions in the organization. Though the BGAV respects CBF’s right to change its hiring policy, such a decision has had a direct impact on the BGAV. The Executive Board has sought to respond in the most prayerful and prudent way to the effects of this impact.
Therefore, the Virginia Baptist Executive Board believes it must take action on behalf of the General Association to have all of BGAV’s CBF contributing churches send their CBF gifts directly to the CBF National Office as soon as this is feasible. The Executive Board believes this action serves the BGAV, while respecting CBF.
Executive Director John Upton said, “I want to express appreciation to the Executive Board for the spirit and heart with which they made this decision.”
Though my knowledge of Texas Baptists is limited, the response from the BGCT is not particularly surprising. They have seemed to be trending in this direction for a while now. It is nonetheless encouraging to see their commitment to the authority of Scripture reflected in this decision.
As a lifelong Virginian, I have quite a bit more knowledge concerning the BGAV. The church I pastor is no longer affiliated with the BGAV, but my previous church was. In fact, I proposed the original version of the resolution concerning homosexual behavior and the sanctity of marriage that was approved at the 2015 BGAV annual meeting. Despite the BGAV’s past position on marriage, I must admit that I am a bit surprised that they have taken this action. I truly expected them not to respond and to appeal to the autonomy of the local church. I am thankful that is not the course of action they have taken, and I commend them for this decision.
While these two decisions are important, this is likely still a developing story as individual churches will still have to make decisions concerning their relationship to the CBF and SBC. In fact, a prominent BGAV church’s pastor serves on the CBF board that made the hiring policy change. How will Richmond’s First Baptist Church relate to the BGAV going forward? These are certainly interesting days.