William Thornton wrote:Couple of questions for the insightful BDW:
1. Is the CBF becoming more like the Alliance?
2. Is the CBF's desire to be a "sizable" organization dead, shelved?
1. No, I don't think the CBF is becoming like the Alliance. I've got friends that are Alliance (one great friend is a Board Member). Spend some time around Alliance/BPFNA folks and then spend time with CBF folks and you'll agree that the CBF is not becoming like the Alliance.
The divide between CBF and Alliance/BPFNA is much more greater than it was 20 years ago. Both politically and theologically (as I believe the two are very related), I think you'll notice some of the same "tendencies" among those on the very liberal Baptist left and those on the fundamentalist Baptist right.
Let me add: my church is both CBF/Alliance (and even BGCT). But, I'm not sure that I'd personally be a great fit among some in the Alliance. For one, I'm not a pacifist. I'm not a universalist, not a pluralist. I'm an egalitarian but definitely not a feminist in the same way that my friend I mentioned earlier is a feminist. I also like to eat lots of cows, pigs, chickens, and - as I'm from south Georgia - I'll eat deer too on the rare occasion that it is served somewhere in these parts of Central Texas. I'm not devoid of food ethics (we shop at the Farmer's Market for our grass-fed beef and steaks and I spend too much money at Chipotle). I've got environmental ethics too but the many diapers I've had to purchase over the last 5 months are not cloth ones, they are at the landfill somewhere.
I probably just stereotyped the heck out of my more liberal Baptist friends. Apologies in advance. I don't think my characterizations are too broad-brush.
I'm just a distinctly Baptist progressive "evangelical" who believes in a bunch of traditional stuff. I am pro-women and gay-friendly too though.
2. I'm not overly optimistic about the CBF's financial future. There is no reason to be overly optimistic. Look at the numbers. Those numbers would frighten any group of leaders in the religious non-profit community.
I think the stats of CBF (and BGCT) speak for itself. Those numbers reveal significant continued struggles. I've heard comparisons to the struggles of mainline Protestants. Mainline Protestants have had struggles for years now. But Timothy's Methodists have not faced a denomination-wide decline like CBF has over the past 5 years. I'd love to see someone find a comparable situation among mainline Protestants with this same level of decline. I'm not sure that there is a good comparison out there.
So, no, I don't see the CBF as some mega-denomination in the foreseeable future. We gotta do some serious growing just to get back to where we once were. Business-as-usual or a tweaked version of business-as-usual isn't going to get CBF on a healthy financial track.
All that said, size is overrated. I'd love to see a thriving HUGE CBF. I'd also be pleased with a smaller but thriving CBF. Are we fulfilling our mission? Are we being wise stewards of our resources? Those should be guiding questions. Size is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.