Christian denominations & homosexuality
The Cooperative Baptist
Fellowship and homosexuality
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) is a quasi-denomination
that split from the
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 1991. The driving force for the
schism was a
long-standing fundamentalist-moderate battle within the SBC. The
Fundamentalist takeover of the SBC is now essentially complete. Some moderates
left to form the CBF. Since the schism, the SBC has gone on to create a
boycott of the Disney Co., to ban the future
ordination of women, to
promote male authority among married couples, to issue increasingly harsh statements about homosexuality, etc.
Members of the CBF consist of "individual Baptists, Baptist churches
and members thereof who contribute annually to the ministries and
operations of the Fellowship." A Coordinating Council of 83
members is elected at the annual General Assembly. The council meets three
times a year to plan CBF missions and ministries. The CBF Resource Center
is staffed by approximately 35 persons. They sponsor about 140
missionaries. They have 11 partner seminaries and theology schools.
The CBF and the homosexual issue:
Like most conservative faith groups, most of the leadership in the CBF:
||Describes homosexuality in terms of behavior rather than as an
||Generally refers to homosexuality as a lifestyle, not as a sexual
||Rarely refers to bisexuals or a bisexual orientation.
||Believes that homosexual behavior is incompatible with Christianity,
and condemned by God.
However, the CBF supports the historical Baptist principles of:
soul freedom -- individual freedom of conscience, and
||granting autonomy to the individual congregation.
In contrast, the SBC has violated these centuries-old principles by
expelling any of its congregations who have thoroughly studied the homosexual issue and
which have become welcoming churches.
The issue of ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians is a very
active concern to the CBF. In spite of the wishes of its leaders, it simply
will not go away. It, and the issue of gay and lesbian civil union church
rituals, are criteria that people use to judge the alignment of a
denomination along the conservative - liberal axis.
On 2000-NOV, Coordinator Daniel Vestal commented:
past two years, I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the
homosexuality issue. As an organization, we have invested time and financial
resources responding to critics in the Southern Baptist Convention who have
misrepresented and maligned us, while at the same time reiterating our
commitment to freedom of conscience and local church autonomy with regard to
positions on social and ethical issues. Even so, CBF found itself being
defined on the issue of homosexuality by our critics on the right and by
some of our supporters on the left." 1,2
Vestal has visited more than 250 churches that are members of CBF. He
found that only a small minority will
||Ordain a sexually active homosexual,
||Call an ordained sexually-active homosexual pastor to serve in a
leadership roll, or
Perform same sex unions for its committed gay couples. 1
CBF statements on homosexuality:
2000-JUL-25: Statement by the coordinator on homosexuality: Coordinator Daniel Vestal responded to an
article in the Baptist Press about "the emotionally-charged issue of
homosexuality." He regarded the article as inflammatory and in
error. With an apparent reference to the Baptist Peace Fellowship
and Baptist Women in Ministry, the Baptist Press article
stated that the CBF "will continue funding a pro-homosexual organization whose booth
was prominently featured at the CBF?s General Assembly and another group
whose immediate past president suggested that homosexuals can be called
to the pastorate..." Coordinator Vestal denied the connection and
referred to a question-and-answer brochure that the CBF has published. In
it, he had written: "I believe the practice of homosexuality violates
the teaching of Scripture...But I will not throw stones at those who
live a homosexual lifestyle ? or any other lifestyle I believe to be
outside the will of God. As a follower of Jesus, I should offer them my
love and friendship. I should do this in a spirit of humility that grows
from my own need for forgiveness and grace." 3|
||2000-OCT-14: Statement by the Coordinating Council on
homosexuality: During 2000-Spring, the pastor of a CBF partner
church decided to bring a specific motion to the General Assembly that would have
the CBF withdraw funding from Wake Forest Divinity School because they
admitted gays and lesbians to the school. Many divinity schools are
affiliated with a university which has regulations opposing
discrimination on the basis of gender, race and sexual orientation. This motion did not
materialize. In its place, the Coordinating Council decided to issue a
general statement on homosexuality. They approved, by a 35 to 23 vote, a
statement which said, in part:
They "believe that the foundation of a Christian sexual ethic
is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in
||God loves all people.
In an apparent exclusion of sexually active homosexuals from
its leadership positions. they wrote that "leaders should be persons of
moral integrity whose lives exemplify the highest standards of
Christian conduct and character."
They do not fund "organizations or causes that condone,
advocate or affirm homosexual practice."
Sexually active homosexuals are not eligible for a staff position
in the CBF or for an assignment as a missionary. 4
According to the Associated Baptist Press, the CBF leaders
described this policy as "welcoming but not affirming" gays.
2001-APR-26: Alliance of Baptists criticizes CBF policy: The
Alliance is an umbrella group which has about 110 liberal Baptist
congregations as members. 6 At their annual
convocation, the new CBF policy towards homosexuals came up for
discussion. A majority of conference delegates approved a request that
the CBF "...rescind this action and to develop ways to continue
discernment of the church's response to homosexual persons in our day."
They also decided to seek clarification of the CBF policy before
deciding whether to have an exhibit at the next CBF General Assembly.
CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal released a statement rejecting the
request, saying "...it disturbs me that one Baptist group would
attempt to intrude in the affairs of another autonomous Baptist
organization. To express a difference of opinion is one thing, but to
formally 'urge support for the motion to rescind' CBF's policy crosses
the line in terms of fraternal relationships between Christian
2001-JUN-29: CBF General Assembly votes to retain modified
homosexual policy: Dixie Lea Petrey of Knoxville, TN introduced a
motion that would have rescinded the CBF policy on homosexual behavior
and funding of partner organizations. She felt that the policy had "redefined
the Fellowship." Her motion said, in part: "For a decade, we have
had too much respect and appreciation for one another as brothers and
sisters in Christ to be wiling to cast one another as winners and losers
by voting upon those matters of conscience about which we all care
passionately and on which we each are earnestly seeking God's will but
on which we have by no means come to a consensus." The CBF
Coordinating Council defeated her motion by a vote of 38 to 13.
However, the Council made one significant change to CBF policy: the
statement was originally described as an "organizational value."
It is now a "personnel and administrative funding policy." This
clarifies that it is an internal document for the CBF Resource
Center, and does not speak for the CBF movement as a whole.
Our predictions about the future:
As society increasingly accepts homosexuality as a normal and natural
sexual orientation, it is highly probable that an increasing number of
CBF affiliated churches will accept sexually active gay and lesbians in
committed relationships, as pastors and other staff. We predict that an
increasing number of congregations will conduct civil/holy unions for
their lesbian and gay couples. Because of the Baptist's historical
policy of local church autonomy, the conversion to a welcoming and
affirming fellowship can proceed gradually on a church-by-church basis.
Eventually, we expect that sufficient support will build up so that
affirming statements about homosexuality will be passed by their General
"Rationale for homosexuality statement," 2000-NOV-15, at:
Coordinator Vestal listed a number resources in order to arrive
at his own perspective on the homosexual issues:
Daniel Vestal, "CBF and the issue of homosexuality,"
"Council adopts stance on homosexuality," 2000-OCT-23, at:
Bob Allen, "CBF council adopts value statement 'welcoming but not
affirming' of gays," 2000-OCT-13, at:
The Alliance of Baptists has a web site at:
"Alliance opposes CBF stance," 2001-APR-26, at:
"2001 Assembly: Council votes to keep homosexuality policy,"
Copyright © 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-JUL-3
Latest update: 2001-JUL-3
Author: B.A. Robinson