Planned merger state cooperative Baptist scholarship groups in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi will benefit poverty, food insecurity and anti-racism ministries far beyond the region, said CBF executive coordinator Paul Baxley.
“The oldest places Together for Hope are located in these states, and these three are already leaders in working around racial justice,” Baxley said. “By coming together, they will not only strengthen that region, but will reinforce those gifts throughout the Society.”
CBF Mississippi Coordinator Jason Coker announced on Oct. 13 that the three state organizations had been discussing the possibility of a merger since the spring, spurred initially by an almost simultaneous change of leadership in all three organizations this year.
Lets Baxley, a research team of four members from each state met from May to August to imagine how such a move would work administratively and how combining and channeling resources could improve ministries such as disaster response and Together for Hope, a multinational initiative for rural poverty in transition soon from the CBF ministry to an independent non-profit organization headed by Coker.
Three state coordination councils have already voted to accept the team’s merger recommendation, and a new steering committee is expected to be formed in the coming weeks or months.
The research process was inspired by a spirit of creativity, not scarcity, Baxley noted. “These people did not have a conversation motivated by the survival of the organization. They saw an opportunity for a more convincing witness. They had two meetings a month because they saw an opportunity. ”
Baxley said the role of CBF is Global in the process it was supposed to provide all the guidelines sought along the way. “Our role was to facilitate and convene these talks so that these three organizations could confirm their joint obligations to the ministry. We considered it important that the elected leadership of the three states approve the formal and superior way in which regionalization can be conducted. ”
CBF Global will provide administrative support to the emerging entity and will cooperate in ministry missions and guidance, as requested, Baxley added. “CBF Global has provided HR services to interested countries and regions.”
A member of the research team, Preston Clegg, predicted that the combination of the three state entities would result in a more efficient local ministry.
“I believe this merger will serve to connect churches that do meaningful work, create missions and partnerships in the ministry that will only strengthen the work of all, and provide a critical mass of congregations, clergy, and lay people to enable strong public testimony, ”said Clegg, former CBF moderator in Arkansas. pastor of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock.
“I fully believe that this merger will strengthen all that is good and right about CBFAR, not dilute it, and I am excited about the opportunity that lies ahead.”
The conditions that led to the transition were so well set that it was impossible to ignore them, Coker said. They included the recent retirement of CBF Louisiana coordinator Kyle Kelley and the recent retirement of CBF Arkansas coordinator Ray Higgins. In addition, Coker will leave CBF Mississippi to work together for full-time hope.
“The providence of the three the things that happened independently were what created the conversation, ”he said. “We all realized this was the perfect moment.”
And the leadership structure with the three states will have no problems functioning efficiently as business at the state level took place almost throughout the pandemic, he added. “Everything that was done was done on Zoom. That is the norm. We know how to work virtually so well that the team that developed on that (research) committee is amazing, and they only met virtually. ”
“We felt like the Holy Spirit was doing something and we were paying attention to it. We felt like this was an opportunity that could only be missed. ”
The merger will be a multiplier of the ministry, Kelley said. “We now have more than three times more resources, people and friendships. This will energize our people. ”
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