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New Cooperate Baptist Fellowship Statement Causes Problems

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  • U.M. Cornet
    CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE From the Associated Baptist Press http://www.abpnews.com/abpnews/story.cfm?newsId=2490 New CBF value statement puts funding of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2000
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      CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE
      From the Associated Baptist Press
      http://www.abpnews.com/abpnews/story.cfm?newsId=2490

      New CBF value statement puts funding of schools in limbo
      November 30, 2000 - Volume: 00-108
      By Craig Bird

      ATLANTA (ABP) -- An anti-homosexual "organizational value" recently approved
      by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is putting the funding spotlight on
      two of the 11 theological-education "partners" that receive partial funding
      from the Atlanta-based moderate organization.
      The Fellowship's key leadership council adopted in October a new policy
      barring financial support of "organizations that condone, advocate or affirm
      homosexual practice" to be used in developing future budgets.

      The policy, described by a CBF leader as "welcoming but not affirming" of
      gays, still would allow funding of scholarships for students at schools with
      an open-admissions policy that includes sexual orientation. It could place
      the future of Baptist-studies programs at two Methodist universities at
      risk, however, because they rely on CBF money for operating support.

      Administrators of "Baptist houses of study" at Duke University in Durham,
      N.C., and Emory's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta have no power to
      change open-admissions policies that govern the universities to which they
      are connected. Nor would it be a simple matter to shift CBF funding to
      scholarships.

      Since churches and individuals would rather give to scholarships than
      operating funds, making up lost revenue through fund raising would be
      difficult. Also, both the sponsoring schools and the law frown on
      scholarships that are "negatively designated" to exclude a certain class of
      people.

      Because of that, questions are being raised about whether a relationship
      that CBF leaders readily acknowledge as beneficial will continue.

      "I certainly agree that the Baptist houses bring a number of strengths to
      the process of theological education and to the community of faith that
      makes up CBF," said Gary Parker, the Fellowship's coordinator for Baptist
      principles. However, he said, Fellowship leaders now must determine how the
      new value statement "applies to each organization or institution with which
      we have a relationship."

      Directors of the Baptist houses at Duke and Emory said they hope the
      relationship continues.

      "The CBF Coordinating Council has been very affirming of Candler," said
      David Key, director of Baptist studies at Emory. "Hopefully the process will
      work out. The loss of CBF funding would devastate us, perhaps shut down our
      program."

      Duke's Baptist house could survive without the operating money from CBF but
      "just barely," said Director Furman Hewitt. "We certainly would not be able
      to expand our program to give students and local churches the assistance
      they require from us."

      The Fellowship funds theological education through a variety of approaches,
      including freestanding seminaries, divinity schools attached to
      Baptist-affiliated universities and Baptist houses in an ecumenical setting.

      Supporters of the Baptist-house approach believe it has distinctive
      benefits.

      A third CBF-supported Baptist house of studies, at Texas Christian
      University's Brite Divinity School in Forth Worth, Texas, uses CBF funding
      for scholarships and therefore would not be affected by the new policy. The
      program's acting director, former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
      professor Jeff Pool, said learning in a diverse setting produces graduates
      with a stronger Baptist identity.

      "At a non-Baptist school like Brite, Baptists share in healthy dialogue with
      people who represent different biblical and theological perspectives," Pool
      said. "That requires our students to think explicitly about their Baptist
      identity. Such a context does not exist in Baptist schools where all-Baptist
      faculties and virtually all-Baptist student populations assume or presuppose
      the meaning of being a Baptist Christian."

      Courtney Kruger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pendleton, S.C., and an
      alumnus of the Duke Baptist house, agreed.

      "My pastor told me I would never serve in a Southern Baptist church if I
      went to Duke," Kruger recalled. "And I went with the thought in the back of
      my mind to become a Methodist. But after the first six weeks I knew I could
      never do that. As wonderful as Methodists are, I realized they were not what
      I was. I was, and am, a Baptist! So I wound up being much stronger in my
      Baptist ideology because I went to Duke."

      Candler graduate Stacey Simpson, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in
      Edison, Ga., said she began her theological education doubting she would
      remain in a denomination that was increasingly telling women they could not
      be called to ministry. Instead, she came out deeply committed to Baptist
      positions and principles.

      "It was incredible, figuring out who I was and why," she said. "I became
      increasingly proud of my Baptist heritage." Rather than viewing her Baptist
      affiliation as an accident of birth, she said she came to see it as a
      "commitment" that had to be continually re-evaluated and challenged by
      comparison with another faith tradition.

      "I learned so much about the historical Baptist emphasis on soul liberty and
      the impact that has had on Baptists and others," Simpson said. "That has
      stayed with me, and I see that in the members of Fellowship Baptists -- they
      are deeply committed to living out the obligations of being accountable to
      God without intercessors."

      Duke's Baptist house director Hewitt, a former professor at Southeastern
      Baptist Theological Seminary, said the programs are good stewardship of
      Baptist dollars. "Quality training of quality leaders comes at a cheap price
      for Baptists, because we are building on the foundation laid by our
      colleagues at Duke," he said.

      Hewitt said the budget for Duke's Baptist house is $100,000, of which CBF
      provides $20,000. "You can't build or operate a new divinity school for
      that," he said. Duke's Baptist-studies program added a record 33 new
      students this year, pushing enrollment to 105.

      Candler's Key agreed: "The Baptist-studies model, the way it is set up at
      Brite, Duke and here, is the best stewardship of Baptist-education money
      going. We don't have to pay the light bill, hire the faculty or acquire
      library books. CBF funds are invested to nurture students in Baptist life,
      and place them in productive relationships with Baptist churches."

      Scott Hudgins, who directed the Candler program 1994-97 and is now director
      of admissions and student services at Wake Forest University Divinity
      School, said another stewardship issue is accountability.

      "The Baptist houses and study programs are the most streamlined and
      accountable [of CBF partner schools,]" he said. "All monies go to
      scholarships or program support of Baptist students. At the larger Baptist
      schools, CBF block grants are utilized for buildings, heat and air, faculty
      support and for reducing or subsidizing tuition for all students -- Baptist
      or not."

      Hewitt said students at Duke benefit from a world-class education. "Our
      students study under faculty members who write many of the textbook
      professors in other divinity schools and seminaries use," he said. "They
      have the opportunity to study, within a Baptist context, at an historically
      great ecumenical divinity school."

      Interaction with other Christian denominations benefits both Baptist and
      non-Baptist students, Key and Hewitt added.

      "It is beneficial for Baptists that we are in a place to help fellow
      believers, in our case Methodists, understand who Baptists are and the
      biblical basis for what we believe," Key said. "We get to help them
      understand some of the things the Southern Baptist Convention does."

      Hewitt noted that "Baptist students learn from colleagues and professors
      about alternatives for doing worship and church life." Enriched by
      traditions and experiences of the wider Christian community, they are better
      equipped to minister because they don't live and learn in a "just Baptist"
      world, he said.

      Added Hudgins: "The only ecumenical dimension of CBF's current list of
      programs and partnerships is its partnership with Duke, Candler and Brite.
      These schools invite CBF in to assist in the guidance of their large Baptist
      student populations. That is a great privilege and lends credibility to
      CBF."

      Directors of the three Baptist studies program said they hope CBF will learn
      from other denominations about handling tough moral and theological issues.

      "Candler understands why this [homosexuality] is an issue with Baptists,
      because it's a big thing for Methodists too," Key said. "The United
      Methodists have been very clear in forbidding the ordination of homosexuals
      and same-sex marriages -- much clearer than the CBF statement. Candler's
      board includes seven bishops from the Southeast Jurisdiction, which is the
      most conservative of the five jurisdictions in the United Methodist Church.

      "But they also are clear on what is the role of the church and what is the
      role of the academy. CBF needs to understand that too. The Methodists have
      taken a clear-cut stand on the gay/lesbian issue, but no one protests
      Candler working with them as students. Part of the academic process needs to
      allow open and honest discussion of differing positions."

      Key said issues surrounding Christian baptism are much more divisive than
      homosexuality when Baptist and Methodist students interact. "Our beliefs
      about baptism go to the heart of who we are as Baptists, he said. "Yet there
      is not a Baptist student at Candler who feels threatened or ostracized,
      because it is accepted and expected that we will argue from our theological
      perspective in a learning environment."



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