I have just returned from gatherings of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and American Baptists Churches in Tampa and San Juan, respectively, beautiful cities to visit (when not attending Baptist meetings!) Being a mostly compliant daughter of the church, I attended all worship services, business sessions, many auxiliary conferences, and helped tell the Central story at every opportunity. (People know that a seminary president worth her salt will not let a conversation go long without mentioning the good things that are occurring at the school. ) I am grateful for Central’s strong partnership with each of these Baptist entities, and we are intentional in finding creative ways to share in mission and ministry together as the hands and feet of Christ (ABC), being the presence of Christ (CBF).
It requires a great deal of financial investment to conduct and attend these gatherings, and I sometimes wonder about this allocation of resources. Yet, I am persuaded that we are strengthened by connecting with one another as branches of the larger Baptist family. Stirring music, witness of missionaries, compelling proclamation, and sharing the bread and cup enliven worship and call us to deepened communion. It is also a time of inspiration as we learn of visionary ministry projects, new educational pursuits, and the ways in which Christianity is truly global. It is also a joy to connect with dear friends, sisters and brothers in Christ.
Can you imagine my joy when I observed a forty-something woman, moderator of CBF, pass the baton to another forty-something woman as the new moderator? (Had I died and gone to heaven, or was the promise of Pentecost about daughters prophesying standing before me?) Perhaps gender barriers are, at long last, really being torn down. There was a palpable sense during the twenty year celebration that while revisiting the past is necessary, the future requires our full attention if we would attract the creativity and energy of younger participants.
The ABC Biennial in Puerto Rico underscored the vibrancy of churches beyond the borders of the continental US. The mix of languages—with English speakers learning to deal with the challenges of translation—reminded us of the cultural richness of the Body of Christ. I was also reminded of North American privilege as I met Baptists serving in challenging Caribbean contexts—Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Their faithfulness amidst catastrophe, disease, and groaning poverty gives stellar witness to their depth of calling and the strength of the Gospel in which they labor.
It is good to be a Baptist—especially when in humility we understand the great grace of God inviting us to be laborers together, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, to the glory of God. May we become harbingers of the Reign of God.
Molly T. Marshall
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