Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

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Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Sandy » Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:50 pm

Two state conventions which have been sympathetic to and supportive of CBF have taken the option of supporting CBF financially off the record, so to speak, those being the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Now at least one state convention is citing CBF's illumination project and the resulting hiring policy regarding LGBT persons as their reason for disfellowshipping churches in their convention which continue to support CBF.

https://www.baptiststandard.com/news/ba ... -churches/

I see this sort of thing moving pretty rapidly through other state groups. We may be coming to the end of the days of dually affiliated Baptist churches that support both CBF and the SBC.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Nov 24, 2018 4:32 pm

Well, ultimately, thank God for SBC conventions kicking out CBF churches. The CBF is better off shed of its past affiliation with the eternally backwards SBC. The waters warm outside the SBC. Let it go.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Sandy » Sun Nov 25, 2018 4:58 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:Well, ultimately, thank God for SBC conventions kicking out CBF churches. The CBF is better off shed of its past affiliation with the eternally backwards SBC. The waters warm outside the SBC. Let it go.


I wholly and completely agree with that statement. I felt that way as part of a church affiliated with CBF years ago. Many of the churches that originally committed some of their budget contributions to CBF did so because they had sympathetic pastors or in deference to respected members of the church who wanted that option. As time has passed, things have changed. CBF is no longer the safety net, job rescuing agency for moderate leaders displaced from prominence in the SBC. It has developed some very characteristic and unique cooperative ministries and as a result, most of its financial support comes from those churches that are pretty much "all in," rather than those who were giving to keep the peace in the local body. I've always thought that it was hard to be "A new way to be Baptist" while hanging on to most of the old ways and depending on dually affiliated churches to pay the bills.

CBF's current leadership has allowed the Illumination Project to further define the structure of the organization. Whether they intended to do so, or knew in advance that it would and went ahead, I believe that will sort out the fence sitters in a relatively short period of time and most of the dually affiliated churches will either decide on their own, more than likely based on the hiring policy changes, or be prompted by state convention action like Kentucky. Even among the 200 or so churches that are uniquely affiliated, there will be some who distance themselves because of the project's findings and actions. If it does nothing else, it will give them a long-sought identity and maybe its leaders can all become comfortable with being Baptist, but not SBC.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Dave Roberts » Sun Nov 25, 2018 5:20 pm

I don't get excited about what is happening because I see in it the continuing fracture of Christian fellowship. Somewhere Jesus gets lost in all this and especially his prayer "that they may be one." Most churches in CBF are not any more "gay friendly" than a lot of SBC churches where I have met staff leaders and others who are known to be gay. The Kentucky action does not hurt CBF or the 28 churches who were identified as dually aligned. I can't speak to the action of the BGCT, but I can speak to the BGAV situation which was basically a response to 3 large SBC churches who threatened to take away over $1-million a year in contributions to the state body. I'm afraid the action was a response to blackmail, not to a considered theological position, which I fear will haunt the BGAV in the future. The overwhelming response of the churches who were part of the giving plan that included CBF has been to continue to support the BGAV without sending funds through the BGAV to any national body, and continuing to give CBF about the same amount of money directly that they were receiving through the BGAV. I wrote a model for this that is being used by CBF churches in VA to keep a relationship with the BGAV but to separate their CBF support through direct giving. In CBFVA, we will not have full figures on how this has worked until we reach the end of the CBF and CBFVA fiscal years. BGAV voted to decrease its next annual budget by $900,000 for 2019, possible evidence that the BGAV has been impacted more by its decision that CBF, but that is preliminary at this time.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Nov 25, 2018 5:39 pm

Dave Roberts wrote:I don't get excited about what is happening because I see in it the continuing fracture of Christian fellowship.


Dave, I'm all for Christian unity. But real Christian unity is found in intentional alliances between groups that like each other and want to work together. I can't imagine the continued headache for churches with one foot in the CBF and one foot in the SBC to then only be treated like red headed step children (to use my Grandmother's phrase) by SBC entities. The CBF related congregations I know are good churches that deserve better. They can now send all their mission money to agencies that actually want their support and can treat them like partners.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby William Thornton » Sun Nov 25, 2018 6:20 pm

Dave, how many va CBF churches are uniquely aligned and how many dually?
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Sandy » Sun Nov 25, 2018 8:33 pm

Dave Roberts wrote:I don't get excited about what is happening because I see in it the continuing fracture of Christian fellowship. Somewhere Jesus gets lost in all this and especially his prayer "that they may be one." Most churches in CBF are not any more "gay friendly" than a lot of SBC churches where I have met staff leaders and others who are known to be gay.


I agree with the first couple of sentences, and can point to examples illustrating that point. I also agree with your analysis that most churches in CBF are not any more "gay friendly" that most of those in the SBC, though I can't say that I am aware of any that have staff who are "known to be gay" since that would require a conclusion I don't have the information to make. I'm sure there are individuals serving in SBC churches who are gay and still in the closet but that's really not the point so I'll leave that alone.

I have to assume that CBF's leadership is as aware as you are that most churches partnering with CBF are not "gay friendly". I read through the whole report of the Illumination Project committee, and noted that they did find a pretty diverse collection of views about all aspects of their work, not just the hiring policy changes. But their point was to present the views equally, not in proportion to the church membership that held them. They knew that this particular issue had the potential to be divisive and that the implementation of any change in policy perceived as being "LGBT friendly" (for lack of a better term) had the potential to become an issue which "fractured" the Christian fellowship within the group. They can certainly observe the "fracturing of Christian fellowship" that has occurred in denominations which have opened the door to the ordination of LGBT clergy, including staggering membership and financial losses and departures of entire congregations. The adoption of the Illumination Project report, which was done without having to get the approval of a general assembly, was a deliberate step in the direction of establishing an identity for CBF that it previously didn't have.

I understand that CBF doesn't set doctrinal or practice boundaries for its churches. Churches are still free to decide on their own how to handle this issue. But that was true for the LGBT friendly congregations prior to the adoption of this report and policy change and some of them were threatening to withdraw support if their position wasn't officially recognized by the hiring policy change. Someone fractured Christian fellowship and I didn't see anyone taking the initiative to restore it, or the responsibility for causing it.

My experience with CBF is not as long as Dave's and my connections are now limited to those individuals with whom I went to seminary, or served with during the time I was involved with CBF up through 2004. I'll mention that when I first became involved, I was serving in Missouri, not Texas, and from there went to Kentucky where I was in attendance at a state convention meeting where the subject of not allowing dually affiliated CBF/SBC churches to seat messengers was first raised. It was voted down the first time it came up. From those with whom I still have contact who are in CBF, including a few in Texas, a couple in Missouri and Kentucky and one in Tennessee, I would say my view of what is coming is less optimistic than Dave's. It will give CBF a more discernable identity than it has now and it will provide a clear path down which it can go. It has worked to secure a shaky, unpredictable financial situation with an endowment and development plan that doesn't have to completely depend on church gifts and ultimately, once the dust has settled so to speak, it will be more unified because it will have churches that are committed to cooperative ministry through CBF regardless of their position, or that of the fellowship, on a divisive issue.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Dave Roberts » Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:40 am

First for William, in VA, there are some 300 churches who contribute to CBF. As to the question of unique and dual alignments, I have no knowledge of these. Also, because the BGAV maintains multiple giving plans (3 in the past) and permits churches to create their own plans, I can only be certain that there were about 100 churches using the now altered WM-3 plan that sent 28% of what a church contributed in the plan to CBF. Those would be unique alignments, but how many more is uncertain.

Then for Sandy, the most vocal criticism I have heard toward the Illumination Project has come from two sources. The first, as was expected, came from SBC groups. The second, which was not expected, came from those in CBF who felt that the Illumination Project was entirely too limited and did not fully take any position on the issues except to allow CBF to remove the question of "sexual orientation" from its employment questionnaire for those serving in the Decatur offices, but not for missions or ordained personnel. Losses to CBF up to this point appear to be among churches who were headed toward the Alliance.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:48 am

Dave Roberts wrote: Losses to CBF up to this point appear to be among churches who were headed toward the Alliance.


As the UMC is going to be making big decisions about same sex marriage, LGBT inclusion, etc. in February, I notice the above that people tend not to think about. I have church members who are quite concerned that conservatives in my church will leave if the UMC take a more progressive stance on human sexuality. And, they are probably right.

But, what there is no way to get statistics for are the people who didn't join my church because we couldn't be more progressive. I know, just in the time I've been here, a family who didn't join my church because we weren't progressive enough on marriage issues.

We also will lose progressives who are tired of the lack or slowness of change (in their minds lack of progress) on issues of human sexuality.

All that is to say, is that the CBF keeping a policy that discriminated in employment of LGBTQ persons wouldn't have been any kind of solution either. This is one of those topics where Christian groups have to take the stand they believe in knowing that there is no way to avoid losses on either side depending on the decision. That's sad, but it is the reality.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Dave Roberts » Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:55 am

I do not envy those in the UMC orb who must deal with this set of issues. There is not a good answer because of the entanglement of church and state in marriage laws in conveying state authority to ministers to perform wedding under a license from the state. In Virginia, I had to be sworn before a circuit court judge to uphold the laws of the state. We would be far better off being able to bless marriages than to execute them under state authority, but that is how we got to this place.

My larger concern is how we are going to respond to the future. The constellation of LGBTQ issues is not going away, and the causes of these trends among us are still up for debate. There are obviously behaviors from "gay bars" and similar meeting places that have more in common with the heterosexual hook-up culture than with the questions of gay commitments to each other. I have read a good bit of psychological material across the last forty years, and I think the jury is still out on why same-sex attraction exists. However, I am firmly convinced that God loves each person who may be LGBTQ just as much as he loves me. Official church positions become problematic because either they fail to express love or fail to grapple seriously with many of these issues. I don't expect to solve them in my lifetime, but I am also convinced these are not the most critical issues facing humanity or facing the church.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:12 pm

Dave Roberts wrote:
I have read a good bit of psychological material across the last forty years, and I think the jury is still out on why same-sex attraction exists. However, I am firmly convinced that God loves each person who may be LGBTQ just as much as he loves me. Official church positions become problematic because either they fail to express love or fail to grapple seriously with many of these issues. I don't expect to solve them in my lifetime, but I am also convinced these are not the most critical issues facing humanity or facing the church.


Dave, one of the advantages of teaching Christian Ethics for several years is that it forced me to do a lot more reading about same sex orientation, gender, etc. I'd agree with you that the jury is still out on just all the causes of how and why people are attracted to the people they are attracted to. I'd say that is even true in the heterosexual world. The interplay of science/genetics, psychology, nature/nurture, etc. is very complicated.

What I've come to believe in all the reading I've done is that human sexuality is much more complicated than we ever thought it was and even the conversations we have in church about gay versus straight are a good twenty years behind where the conversation is in society since much of the current study sees sexuality as a spectrum rather than a binary, gay or straight.

All that being said, my own experience with LGBTQ+ people is that no one I've talked to in that community chose their sexual orientation, gender identity, whom they are attracted to etc. any more than any straight person I know chose to be straight and chose whom of the opposite sex they would and would not be attracted to. (I've always been partial to brunettes. So far science has been unable to tell me why. )

So I honestly don't believe it is a matter of choice. It is more ontological than psychological. Believing that, I also can't help but believe we need to fully welcome LGBTQ+ people into our churches in all the ways we can.

Will we all lose money, power, influence, churches, church membership, denominational structures, etc. for choosing to be more welcoming? Probably. But as far as I can tell none of those are things that matter to Jesus.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Sandy » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:27 pm

Dave Roberts wrote:However, I am firmly convinced that God loves each person who may be LGBTQ just as much as he loves me. Official church positions become problematic because either they fail to express love or fail to grapple seriously with many of these issues. I don't expect to solve them in my lifetime, but I am also convinced these are not the most critical issues facing humanity or facing the church.


I am also convinced of the same thing, as well as being convinced that the church needs to learn how to love the way Jesus did, and follow his example in this regard. I believe genuine love requires actually knowing and understanding someone who holds a different view so that a genuine discussion can take place. I also believe it means continuing to love even if you can't agree on a particular issue.

CBF has successfully maintained what I call a "non-position" with regard to how it influences its affiliated congregations theologically and through conviction of faith, at least it has up to this point. I think it is much more beneficial for cooperative ministry to simply avoid "taking a stand" and respecting what local churches decide to do without any comment or influence.Had it maintained a consistent perspective in spite of the pushing of the issue by what appears to be a relatively small minority within the fellowship, I don't think it would have a problem.

LGBTQ issues, particularly centering on ordination of clergy, have become big issues for the "liberal" mainline denominations where they have taken root, perhaps not intentionally, or perhaps because the clergy leadership misread love and compassionate ministry to LGBTQ persons as "we don't believe homosexuality or sexual orientation issues are sin." Leaders of groups like the Episcopal Church USA, PCUSA, ELCA, Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ have all but admitted the acceleration of their membership and attendance losses in recent years is directly connected to their stance on the ordination of LGBTQ persons. Even among liberal Protestants there is a clear distinction between "welcoming" and "welcoming and affirming." Those who are "welcoming and affirming" are not numerous enough to make up for the losses. The key to keeping this from being a divisive issue is to keep it at the local church level. Otherwise, you'll never get beyond the point where avoiding some kind of stand is seen as favoring the "other side."

I was a member at a CBF affiliated church for over a decade, a church which is consistently among the top ten in overall giving to CBF causes, and which has had several members on committees and in CBF leadership. Its current pastor was a member of the committee that drafted the Illumination Project. It is a church which could easily count up to 50 LGBTQ persons in its two Sunday morning congregations that average over 700 in attendance between them, and I'd say that at least half of those are members of the church. The congregation is clearly welcoming. But during the time I was a member there, while it stretched the boundaries on ordaining women to the ministry, and had been ordaining women as deacons since the 60's, the congregation would not have seriously considered a female senior pastor, nor would it have ordained any of its LGBTQ members to the ministry. Perhaps, after fifteen years of ministry of its current pastor it might now consider the latter but up to this point, the answer would have been a firm "no."
And while it is anecdotal evidence, none of the people I'm still in contact with who are in CBF belong to churches that would ordain LGBTQ persons. At least one of those individuals, in a Kentucky church, tells me their church will leave CBF.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:38 pm

Sandy wrote: The key to keeping this from being a divisive issue is to keep it at the local church level. Otherwise, you'll never get beyond the point where avoiding some kind of stand is seen as favoring the "other side."


This is very like the solution that our Bishops are backing in the UMC. Its in some ways moving in a congregationalist direction, but the proposed middle of the road solution is to let local churches decide if they will allow same sex marriages to be performed in their churches. Clergy would also be able to decide if they will or won't perform same sex weddings and individual conference Boards of Ordained Ministry would decide if they ordained self-avowed LGBTQ folks or not.

That being said, I don't think any path leads to this not being divisive. It just decides if the divisions happen in a denominational structure or in the local church when the local church has to decide which way to go.
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Re: Long Term Effects of the CBF "Illumination Project"

Postby Sandy » Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:56 pm

At the local level, though it isn't a guarantee, there's a greater chance that a congregation is already unified around a particular view, or in agreement that they won't let it be divisive. It requires respect for those with whom you disagree. You have to get away from thinking that just because you support the same missions cause that another church does, you have to buy into all of the other church's doctrinal views.

Some of the best friends I've made over the past eight years have been individuals who come from religious based schools of different religious backgrounds--Catholic, Jewish, Quaker, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant--who came together regularly to advocate at the state level for all of the issues private education has in common. We had four quarterly meetings and one annual gathering in Washington, DC. The advocacy went hand in hand with the fellowship in spite of the doctrinal and religious differences. A year ago next month I served on an accreditation team led by a Catholic Priest, and with a Jewish Rabbi and a Quaker school principal in addition to one other Evangelical who was Assembly of God. There is something to be said about unity around a common cause, the almost insurmountable job of getting through an accreditation team visit in three days, along with sharing three meals a day and working into the night back at your hotel that causes a level of respect to develop. That's the sort of thing you already have in a local congregation.
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