The number of registered participants is off from previous years, but the spirit was positive as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) members gathered in Memphis for the organization's General Assembly June 20-21.
Primary emphasis was given to a process of spiritual discernment as CBFers met twice in state or regional groups to pray and complete survey forms designed to provide input as leaders map out suggestions for CBF's future direction. Moderator Harriet Harral, a business consultant from Fort Worth, explained that the process is designed to help set priorities for the organization.
The discernment groups met both Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. CBF supporters who were not able to attend the General Assembly can also participate in the process by filling out the survey, which can be found at this link. The survey is supposed to be "live" from 10:00 a.m. June 21 until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 24.
Moderator-elect Jack Glasgow (above left), of Zebulon, N.C., reported on ways CBF is cooperating with the United Nations and other bodies to achieve a series of "Millenium Development Goals." Glasgow said CBF has identified more than 100 ways in which the organization is already working toward the same goals, which are mainly designed to promote economic development and improved human rights.
Participants heard from coordinator Dan Vestal, who talked mainly about spiritual formation and the practice of discernment, and human rights proponent Lauran Bethell (right), who related case studies of women who have been rescued from human trafficking, and how churches can assist in reaching out to others. Chuck Poole, pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, MS, led a series of theme interpretations on bridge building.
By Friday evening, 2,033 persons had registered for the event, down from the 2,498 who attended last year's meeting in Washington, D.C. Officials said they many CBF supporters had indicated that economic difficulties and the rising price of gas kept would limit their travel. The area also has a relatively small base of CBF supporters in easy driving distance, unlike cities like Atlanta and Charlotte, where CBF has posted record attendances. Some persons who usually attend the CBF annual meeting but have limited travel funds may have chosen to attend the New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta Jan. 30-Feb. 1, which had a strong CBF representation.
Although the meeting was held in the far western reaches of Tennessee, near the borders of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Missouri, the greatest number of registered participants came from North Carolina (261) and Texas (259). Tennessee had 229 representatives registered, followed by Georgia (217), Arkansas (148), Virginia (141), Missouri (117), and Kentucky (115). Alabama (83), Mississippi (86), and South Carolina (76) had similar numbers present. Florida registered 70 participants, and the Oklahoma/Kansas delegation counted 52. The West Region had 43 representatives, and Louisiana had 32. Thirty-two international representatives registered, along with 28 from the North Central region, 28 from the Mid Atlantic region, and 16 from the Northeast region.
Musical artists for the meeting included the African-flavored group Krystaal (above) and contemporary artist Bethany Dillon (left).
Participants approved a $16.5 million budget and a new slate of officers and committee members with no opposition or debate.
More news, observations, and pictures to come in a later post.