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Seeking oneness

Trinity Baptist Church choirTrinity Baptist Church in Raleigh hosted a full house of Cooperative Baptists both Friday evening and Saturday morning as about 1,150 supporters gathered March 23-24 for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina's (CBFNC) annual General Assembly.

Enthusiastic participants dug into more than 80 workshops scattered over three sessions and enjoyed fellowship over meals as they perused exhibits, joined in worship, and conducted business. 

Neville Callam"The Heart of Jesus: That they all may be one" was the assembly theme, carried out in carefully crafted worship services that featured readings, music, congregational activities, testimonies, and sermons designed to emphasize Christian unity, with a special emphasis on racial reconciliation. Neville Callam, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, preached at both services. On Friday night, Callam challenged worshipers to seek closer communion with other Christians around the world. "God bless you if you do," he said: "God help you if you don't." 

Larry HovisIn a short business session Saturday morning, participants learned that 365 congregations currently provide financial support to CBFNC, and that budget income for 2011-2012 was slightly below the previous year's record pace. Attenders voted to adopt an operating budget of $1.5 million for 2012-2013, less than three percent below last year's figure. The budget anticipates an additional $2.3 million in income through the Mission Resource Plan, which supports higher education, social ministries, new churches, and a variety of ministry partners, in addition to the basic work of CBFNC and the national CBF organization. Total estimated expenditures will be nearly $3.9 million.

Participants also approved a report from the Coordinating Council on a process for organizational review that was first commissioned in 2007. A task force was appointed to review CBFNC's identity statements, which dated from the early 1990s. Over a two-year period, the task force drafted a proposed revision of the statement and presented it to the Coordinating Council. A series of listening sessions were held in the fall of 2010. Some aspects of the document were well received, but it also drew criticism for adding the Apostle's Creed and recommending other creeds for study while downplaying popular Baptist distinctives such as the priesthood of the believer and church autonomy (clearly stated in the original statement) in favor of the authority of the broader church community. The task force made some revisions and hosted a discussion at the March 2011 General Assembly in Asheville, then brought a new version to the Coordinating Council in May 2011. 

After considering the report, the Coordinating Council recommended that: (1) the body should express thanks to the task force for its work, (2) that CBFNC should make no changes in its current identity statement at this time, (3) that interested persons would be encouraged to post resources relative to Christian and Baptist identity in a special section to be created on the CBFNC website, and (4) that a process would be developed for continued conversation. 

Students from partner divinity schools received an offering for a school and community center in Santa Elena, BelizeWith the 20th anniversary of CBFNC's founding approaching in 2014, executive coordinator Larry Hovis announced the formation of a Celebration Team and a Vision Team to prepare for the occasion. He also introduced a "20/20" giving campaign designed to seek contributions to CBFNC from individual members as well as from churches. 

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