Cooperative Baptist Fellowship makes some progress on LGBT equality, but continues to ban the community from leadership roles.
The Georgia-headquartered Cooperative Baptist Fellowship had announced on February 23 that it has removed the self-imposed 18-year-old ban on hiring homosexuals when it came to a few roles. The Baptist fellowship, however, made it clear that gays and LGBTs continue to be debarred from the organization's leadership roles. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or CBF has about 1,800 churches under its umbrella. It has sent missionaries to more than 30 nations all over the globe.
The new policy on hiring and the implementation that was adopted on February 9 at the meeting of the CBF Governing Board in Decatur, Ga., effectively replaced the older CBF hiring policy. The older rules strictly told the staff not to hire any staff person or send a missionary who can be described as a practicing homosexual. The Governing Board is made of 16 members. Whatever decision it makes can be construed as a binding one. There is no need for further approval by the yearly CBF General Assembly. This change in policy started as a recommendation of an Illumination Project Committee which as appointed in 2016. The committee is made of seven members. The objective is to chart a single path forward for CBF in the middle of mixed views concerning human sexuality.
The CBF was established in 1991. It is a fellowship of churches which objected to the methods and ideology of the conservative resurgence of Southern Baptist Convention. Suzii Paynter, the CBF Executive Coordinator highlighted the intent of CBF leaders to unify this fellowship.
The new policy does not mean sweeping changes at the CBF. Homosexuals will continue to be disallowed to hold leadership positions. Non-key positions, however, can be held by LGBT applicants. The new hiring policy stated that leadership positions will be offered to individuals who practice a standard Christian sexual ethics linked to celibacy or a faithful marriage between members of opposite sexes. The CBF said that the new hiring policy was adopted after the previous hiring policy was found inadequate to meet the requirements of the Cooperative Baptists.
Many conservative Christian leaders, unsurprisingly, found these even a step too far. One of them is Dr. Richard Land, President of the North Carolina situated Southern Evangelical Seminary. He said those who support same-sex relationships cannot be termed evangelical. He defined the latter as one who believes the scripture to be true in all senses and place themselves under its authority. Those who condone homosexuality are clearly not so.