CBF committee to propose homosexuality policy in Feb.

DECATUR, Ga. (BP) -- A committee charged with recommending how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship can remain united despite diverse opinions on homosexuality within the Fellowship has said it will make specific policy proposals in February, according to a Sept. 29 CBF news release.

Charlie Fuller, chairman of the CBF's Illumination Project Committee, presents a report to the CBF General Assembly June 29.
Screen capture from CBFblog.com
Meanwhile, nearly 600 people, including former CBF moderators, have signed an online petition calling the Fellowship to "remove its discriminatory hiring policy," which, according to CBF governing documents, forbids "the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual."

Though the six-member Illumination Project Committee did not present any specific recommendations at a Sept. 27-28 CBF Governing Board meeting in Decatur, Ga., chairman Charlie Fuller said, according to a paraphrase by CBF communications manager Aaron Weaver and CBF communications specialist Carrie McGuffin, "The committee has sought to faithfully hear and feel the Holy Spirit moving among the priesthood of all believers and focused on holding opposing viewpoints on matters of human sexuality in tension to develop a third way forward."

The term "third way" has been used by some evangelicals to describe a policy of allowing individuals within an organization to hold varying perspectives on same-sex marriage. A so-called "third way" church was disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention in 2014.

The committee -- through the release of six personality profiles depicting the types of individuals who participate in CBF life -- seemed to suggest the possibility of division in the Fellowship over homosexuality. The committee had released five separate profiles previously at June's CBF General Assembly.

Of the six new personality profiles, all but one reflect concern within the CBF that a forthcoming decision on homosexuality could divide the Fellowship.

"A positive stance on homosexuality," the profile of a 37-year-old missionary stated, could "be very bad, burning bridges with local believers worldwide." According to the profile of a 56-year-old female pastor, "A prophetic stand" affirming those in a homosexual lifestyle could bring about "possible demise of a fragile cooperative construction."

A section added to a profile originally read orally at the CBF General Assembly stated, "On this issue, some churches will leave. If you change the hiring policy, some people won't support sending missionaries who are in sin."

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

The CBF was founded in 1991 as a fellowship of churches that objected to the ideology and methods of the SBC's Conservative Resurgence.

In related news, the petition calling the CBF to permit hiring of open homosexuals appealed to "the cherished Baptist principles of soul-competency and local-church autonomy." It garnered 592 signatures by midday Oct. 2.

"We, the undersigned, believe it is now imperative for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to remove its discriminatory hiring policy," the petition stated. "As it stands, this policy infringes on the autonomy of local churches to seek the mind of Christ regarding sexual and gender diversity. It also disenfranchises one particular social minority. This calls into question CBF's stated commitments to 'offer radical hospitality' and 'transform oppressive structures.'"

Both the Illumination Project Committee's latest CBF personality profiles and the news release about its report are available at the CBF website.

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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