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Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Reverend Angela Yarber on the CBF...

In Saturday's Faith & Values section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Reverend Angela Yarber recounts what the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship means to her life and ministry. Once my Youth Minister at First Baptist Church of Lyons, Georgia, Angela and I have been the best of friends for years. Angela recently graduated from Mercer's McAfee School of Theology. In the Fall, she will begin working on her Ph.d at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

I particularly like the first line of her article. But if you don't - feel free to join the growing list of angry SBCers and shoot her an email. Don't forget to tell her that Big Daddy Weave sent you...

Baptist organization moves beyond stereotypesAngela Yarber - For the Journal-ConstitutionSaturday, July 1, 2006

Open-minded. Affirming of women. Socially minded. Educationally oriented.

These are not typically qualities the average person would associate with Baptists. But June 21-24, I joined with more than 4,000 Baptists who care about these very issues --- defying the stereotypes about Baptists.

At the 16th annual Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Atlanta, defining ourselves for who we are rather than who we are not was a recurring theme.
We embraced the Baptist principles of freedom of conscience, the priesthood of every believer, soul competency and separation of church and state. We joined together to stand for justice, raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and fight for religious liberty. While we hold many qualities in common, we also celebrated the diversity in each individual's heart regarding social, moral and political issues.

We affirmed that there can be unity of heart without uniformity in doctrinal theology. In worship services, workshops and panel discussions, participants could "be the presence of Christ" --- proclaiming liberation, freedom, peace, hope, and justice, in our world.
The assembly began with the HIV/AIDS Summit, where concerned and open-minded Baptists gathered to discuss how the church can minister to and support individuals and communities affected by HIV/AIDS. The fellowship has taken a stand on an issue that proves controversial in religious life.

Most people are shocked to discover that I am both a Baptist and ordained, because many Baptist groups do not support ordination for women. But the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does. For me, the Baptist Women in Ministry service proved especially encouraging. To hear the sermons of women called of God, to sing and dance surrounded by voices united in calling and cause, and to worship with women and men who affirm that any person can receive a call from God makes the tough days in ministry worthwhile.

The misconception that all Baptists want to unify church and state also was addressed at a religious liberty luncheon. Because Baptists began in the midst of severe persecution from the state, they hold fast to the idea of religious liberty. We were reminded that faith, to be genuine, cannot be forced and that we should remain involved in maintaining the wall of separation between church and state.

Ultimately, though, the General Assembly wasn't simply a meeting or a worship service. It served as a call to action in an unjust world. Hearing voices in need of religious liberty reminds us that we have an obligation to provide liberty and justice for all. Joining with other Baptist women called to be agents of peace and reconciliation affirms that any person can be a minister.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship reminds us that not all Baptists are the same, but all have the same calling: to be the presence of Christ in our world.

The Rev. Angela Yarber is a graduate of Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology and minister of students at Parkway Baptist Church in Duluth. She grew up in Woodstock.

Email: ang0081@hotmail.com

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