DALLAS — “Women need to be able to fulfill their God-given callings and serve in every capacity of ministry,” said Rev. Jewel London, campus minister and pastoral assistant for The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas.
London’s message came during the opening night of the 2018 CBF General Assembly in Dallas, focused on highlighting the ministry work of Fellowship Southwest and its partners.
“As Pastor Bob Browning of First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky, once said, ‘No walls, no ceilings; it’s God that calls, not people,’” London told the gathered Cooperative Baptists.
Noting the good work of CBF-partner Baptist Women in Ministry, London challenged the Assembly to do better and be better about advocating for women called to ministry, noting that the support of CBF is paramount to affirming, inspiring, connecting and advocating on behalf of women.
“Outside of San Francisco, in Muir Woods, there are thousand-year-old redwoods, and you’d think those trees would have deep roots,” London said. “But the way those trees stand is that all of their roots are intertwined together—they hold one another up. It is a great image of Cooperative Christian work.”
London called on Cooperative Baptists to become like redwoods—“men and women together, whose roots are intertwined together for the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
But in these forests of redwood trees, London noted, there are sometimes fires. Forest rangers used to fight them, but learned that fire actually kills a threatening fungus, so they now allow the fires to burn.
“Sometimes in cooperative work, we face fires,” London said, “but those fires kill the fungus that threatens. Grow not weary in well-doing. There is fire in the Christian work.”
Practicing a loving ecuemnicity
Marv Knox, coordinator of Fellowship Southwest, brought a welcome to the Assembly on behalf of the new network formed in 2017 to strengthen joint mission and ministry efforts among Baptists and other Christians in the southwest region of the United States.
“We’ve only been rolling since last August, but already Fellowship Southwest has pitched in to help folks along the Texas Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Harvey,” Knox said. “Our churches adopt schools in their neighborhoods, so they can help kids learn to read and make sure they don’t go to bed hungry. This summer, our volunteers will minister alongside Native Americans in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. We will serve children and families in rural colonias along the Mexican border. …We’ve administered scholarships for seminary students who lost their financial support because of their churches’ convictions.”
Knox said he is excited about “extending CBF’s multicultural and ecumenical relationships.”
“We intend to help the Fellowship look like the faces and sound like the voices of the people who populate our delightfully diverse region. And an important note—our name is intentional, it’s Fellowship Southwest, not CBF Southwest. While we’re proud of the ‘B’ for Baptist in CBF, we’re engaging a host of sisters and brothers and folks of faith whom we can bless and who will bless our Fellowship as we practice intentional, loving ecumenicity.”
Privileged to serve
Jesse Rincones, executive director of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas (Convención), spoke about the challenges faced by Hispanic pastors, who are not privileged to concern themselves with denominational battles, theological firestorms and trending topics on social media.
“[The average Hispanic Baptist pastor] is trying to figure out how to lead the families in his church to ministry and missions when those same families face the daily threat of harassment, separation and devastation due to the nation’s failure to act on immigration reform,” Rincones said.
Other privileges are available for Hispanic pastors, Rincones emphasized, including the “privilege of collaborating with Convención and Fellowship Southwest to serve the Hispanic Church.”
“What a privilege to provide leadership and ministry training to Hispanic leaders along the border from Brownsville, Texas to San Ysidro, California,” Rincones said. “What a privilege to engage pastors and churches in healthy connections, free from the political baggage that sometimes marks Baptist work. The privilege to just help and serve…to invest in those impacting the Hispanic community. We truly are privileged ones.”
Translations and transformations
“When I think about ‘language’ and the word ‘code,’ I am particularly aware of another language considered ‘Holy’ because it was imparted directly to people who spoke this language by the Holy One,” said Greg Long, who serves as director of Selah Ministries in Flagstaff, Ariz., and is currently translating the Bible from the original languages into Navajo.
Connecting the people of Israel to the Navajo Nation, Long described both as “a struggling and beleaguered band of non-descript nomads attempting to eke out a living despite inhospitable odds decked against them.”
Both the Hebrew and Navajo languages are considered Holy, both are read right to left, both a “code.” Long asked the question, “combined, can it work? The answer is a resounding yes!”
Together, Long and his wife, Sheila, demonstrated the translation of Genesis 1:1 done in partnership with Navajo members of their congregation, and shared a Navajo chanting song with those gathered.
Supporting public education
In a video message, Charles Johnson, executive director of Fellowship Southwest-partner Pastors for Texas Children, spoke about the importance of supporting public education, noting PTC’s mission of connecting local congregations to their local neighborhood school and providing spiritual support for teachers as well as school supplies, nutritious food for children on weekends and one-one-one mentoring and reading partnerships.
The 2018 CBF General Assembly in Dallas continues Thursday (June 14) with workshops, worship and partnership opportunities exploring the theme of “Local Church. Global Church.” During the Assembly on Friday, CBF will commission new field personnel, church starters, chaplains and pastoral counselors.