Frequently Asked Questions
Browse this compilation of the most Frequently-Asked-Questions about the Fellowship. If you have additional questions, you can send an e-mail with your specific question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s the history of CBF?
The Fellowship’s loose formation in August 1990 at a meeting of moderate Baptists in Atlanta was the culmination of more than 10 years of public controversy between conservative and moderate members of the Southern Baptist Convention. The tipping point had come only a couple of months prior, when moderate candidate Daniel Vestal lost his bid for the Convention’s presidency, capping a decade of defeat by conservative candidates who had slowly appointed other conservative-minded people to leadership at key Convention institutions.
After his defeat, Vestal and Jimmy Allen – the last successful moderate SBC president – called for the Consultation of Concerned Baptists, a meeting that more than 3,000 attended. At the meeting, Vestal was elected chairman of an interim steering committee that organized a second meeting – the Fellowship’s inaugural General Assembly in 1991. The Fellowship was officially constituted in May 1991 by more than 6,000 attendees. Download the founding document Address to the Public
Later that year, Cecil Sherman assumed role as the Fellowship’s first coordinator. In 1992, the Fellowship appointed its first missionary couple and in 1993 hired Keith Parks as global missions coordinator. In 1994, the Southern Baptist Convention stopped accepting funds from the Fellowship – whose constituents had continued to channel portions of its financial collections to the Convention. With that separation from the Convention, the Fellowship further solidified, adopting a formal mission statement in 1995 and a strategic plan in 2000. In 1996, Daniel Vestal became the Fellowship’s second coordinator. In 2003, the Fellowship was accepted into the Baptist World Alliance. In 2013, Suzii Paynter became the Fellowship's third coordinator.
How do I become part of CBF?
According to the Fellowship’s by-laws, a person can vote at the General Assembly if they give any amount of money to CBF.
Individuals can further their involvement in a variety of ways: serve as a volunteer with CBF Global Missions, attend Fellowship-sponsored events, utilize resources developed or made available by the Fellowship, giving financially to the Fellowship and its Offering for Global Missions, and pray for CBF Global Missions field personnel and CBF-endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors.
How does a church become part of CBF?
The Fellowship’s constitution and bylaws state that any church that contributes at least $1 is considered a supporting church. This allows any of its members to vote during business sessions at the Fellowship’s annual General Assembly.
Additionally, a church can partner with CBF in whatever way it chooses. Churches can send volunteer teams to assist in the Fellowship’s Global Missions ministry efforts. Churches can utilize the many resources, events, networks and programs offered by the Fellowship’s congregational life and leadership development areas.
Why does CBF exist?
CBF is a renewal movement among Baptist Christians. CBF exists because of the belief in historic Baptist principles of soul freedom, Bible freedom, church freedom and religious freedom. Soul freedom is the belief in priesthood of the believer and the affirmation that every person has the freedom and responsibility to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed or control of clergy or government.
Bible freedom is the belief in the authority of scripture, which under the Lordship of Christ, is central to the life of individuals and churches. Every Christian has the freedom and right to interpret and apply scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Church freedom is the belief in the autonomy of every local church as free, under the Lordship of Christ, to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whomever they perceive as gifted for ministry, and to participate as they deem appropriate in the larger body of Christ.
Religious freedom is the belief in freedom of, for and from religion, as well as separation of church and state.
CBF’s other core values include biblically-based Global Missions, the resource model of discovering and providing resources to empower churches and individuals to their mission and calling, a commitment to justice and reconciliation, a belief in lifelong learning and ministry for both laity and clergy, trustworthiness and effectiveness.
How big is CBF?
CBF is a fellowship of approximately 1,900 churches who have contributed financially to the Fellowship.
CBF has more than 120 field personnel serving among the most neglected people groups in the world.
More than 600 chaplains and pastoral counselors are endorsed through CBF. A partner with 15 theological schools with a combined enrollment of more than 2,000 students, of which 80 are supported through CBF scholarship funding. An annual budget of approximately $12.4 million, with more than $33 million under management through the CBF Foundation
How is CBF funded?
CBF’s annual budget of approximately $12.4 million is funded through financial gifts from individuals and churches. Churches often direct a portion of their offerings to their state or regional CBF organization, which then sends a percentage of funding on to national CBF.
CBF Global Missions collects an annual Offering for Global Missions to provide additional funding for Global Missions field personnel and ministries around the world. The annual goal varies each year but is approximately $5 million.
Individuals and churches can also designate money to specific Global Missions ministries or other areas of CBF. In times of national or world crisis, CBF often establishes a special account through which individuals and churches can contribute to recovery efforts.
What does CBF believe about the Bible?
The Fellowship believes in the divine inspiration of the Bible and its authority in the lives of Christians, who are free to follow and interpret it under the Lordship of Christ. Christians are responsible under God for their interpretation of Scripture. In regards to scriptural inerrancy, the founding document of the Fellowship states:
We want to be biblical – especially in our view of the Bible. That means we dare not claim less for the Bible than the Bible claims for itself. The Bible neither claims nor reveals inerrancy as a Christian teaching. Bible claims must be based on the Bible, not on human interpretations of the Bible.
What does CBF believe about women in ministry?
Affirmation of women in ministry was one of the founding principles of the Fellowship. In the founding document of the Fellowship, the New Testament is acknowledged as providing two views of the role of women – a literal approach of submission to men or an inclusive approach. The document cites Galatians 3:27-28, “As many of you as are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (NRSV).”
The founding document continues to read:
We take Galatians as a clue to the way the Church should be ordered. We interpret the reference to women the same way we interpret the reference to slaves. If we have submissive roles for women, we must also have a place for slaves in the Church.
In Galatians Paul follows the spirit of Jesus who courageously challenged the conventional wisdom of his day. It was a wisdom with rigid boundaries between men and women in religion and public life. Jesus deliberately broke those barriers. He called women to follow him; he treated women as equally capable of dealing with sacred issues. Our model for the role of women in matters of faith is the Lord Jesus.
In addition to a number of partner churches with women pastors, the Fellowship’s emphasis on equality in leadership is seen by the intentional diversity of in its highest elected office – moderator. Nominations alternate between male and female, clergy and laity.
What does CBF believe about homosexuality?
CBF does not issue “official” positions on homosexuality or other social issues because it violates the Fellowship’s mission as a network of individuals and churches. CBF values and respects the autonomy of each individual and local church to evaluate and make their own decision regarding social issues like homosexuality.
In 2000, the Fellowship’s national coordinating council did pass a personnel and administrative funding policy, which applies only to the CBF organization – not partnering churches. It states:
As Baptist Christians, we believe that the foundation of a Christian sexual ethic is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in singleness. We also believe in the love and grace of God for all people, both for those who live by this understanding of the biblical standard and those who do not. We treasure the freedom of individual conscience and the autonomy of the local church, and we also believe that congregational leaders should be persons of moral integrity whose lives exemplify the highest standards of Christian conduct and character.
Because of this organizational value, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organizations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice. Neither does this CBF organizational value allow for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.
What does CBF believe about evangelism and missions?
CBF engages in biblically-based global missions, believing that each person is called to help fulfill Christ’s Great Commission. Furthermore, CBF Global Missions believes the Bible teaches that God is the one triune God who created people in God’s image. People are separated from God by sin but for which Christ is the Savior and Redeemer for all people. The Holy Spirit is instrumental in convicting, teaching and empowering individuals and churches to the mission of Christ in the world. Each believer and every church is responsible for sharing the gospel with all people through redemptive ministry to spiritual, physical and social needs of individuals and communities.
Read the full "Core Values" page
What’s the difference between the Southern Baptist Convention and CBF?
Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention, CBF is a fellowship of churches and individuals, not a convention.
CBF also does not own or operate institutions or elect trustees that govern those institutions. Rather, the Fellowship partners with like-minded institutions that operate autonomously. Examples of this are the 14 theological schools supported by the Fellowship as well as independent agencies like the Baptist Center for Ethics, Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty and the Baptist World Alliance – all of which the Fellowship supports.
There are also a number of philosophical and theological differences. For example, in its 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, the Southern Baptist Convention has stated women should not serve as pastors. However, the belief that God calls both men and women into ministry – including that of pastor – was one of the founding principles of CBF.
Is CBF a denomination?
CBF is not a denomination but rather a fellowship of churches and Christians. There are many individuals who are part of the Fellowship but who are in churches that do not partner with CBF. Valuing autonomy and freedom, CBF does not have or exercise authority over its partnering churches and individuals. Consequently, the Fellowship does not have a statement of beliefs nor does it provide an official stance or statement on social issues. Because the Fellowship does not have a named doctrine, partnering churches can vary greatly on their theological beliefs, nonetheless working together through their shared unity in the Fellowship.
Furthermore, the Fellowship does not seek to own ministries, agencies or institutions but rather partners with those entities as providers of meaningful resources and ministry.