WakeDiv travels to Baptist Sexuality Conference
Five students and a host of divinity school alums from Wake Forest braved the dangers and hazards of I-85 to attend the much safer Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Conference on Sexuality and Covenant last weekend. The First Baptist Church of Decatur graciously opened their doors to host a series of plenary presentations and small-group breakout sessions discussing human sexuality and the roles of covenant in churches. The attendees were challenged to think about these topics as conversation pieces that can inform the dialogue of local churches and communities. For the CBF, it signaled the beginning of the discussion and an opportunity for growth.
Personally, I found this conference to be extremely beneficial and a positive step forward. The conference began by seemingly tempering expectations for change, but two speakers on Saturday night in particular, Roz Nichols and Cody Sanders, made the entire conference worth attending by sharing personal stories and ideas that challenged congregations to move beyond traditional barriers. Progressive and conservative voices were both represented in the plenary sessions, which provided a good representation of the variety of views found in the Baptist world. Overall, the conference did a nice job starting a conversation that has been needed for many years. My hope is that we haven’t started too late.
Two pieces missing throughout were an understanding of historic Baptist principles and a dialogue about the CBF hiring policy which, arguably, was the catalyst for the entire event. From the lens of a Baptist student at the only welcoming and affirming divinity school represented there, some of the presenters would have benefitted from a better understanding of local church autonomy and soul freedom. The more conservative voices pushing traditional Catholic values, as well as the authors of the hiring policy, need to first decide whether this was, is or will be a Baptist discussion.
I am excited to see what doors may be opened and where CBF can grow from here. This conference was extremely helpful for Baptists and really became an ecumenical conversation that extended beyond a Baptist context. I would encourage watching some of the presenters on the CBF website and joining the conversation.
John Callaway is a musician and will serve as Youth Minister at First Baptist Greenville, SC after graduation in May.