The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Coordinating Council on Wednesday endorsed a global Christian campaign to deepen engagement with impoverished and marginalized communities and challenge international leaders to achieve the Millennium Development Goals to cut poverty in half by 2015.
In May the CBF Global Missions Initiatives Team announced a two-year partnership with Micah Challenge U.S.A. for a two-year period at a funding level of $10,000 a year beginning in 2008. On the eve of the group’s General Assembly in Memphis, Tenn., the leadership council voted unanimously to endorse The Micah Call, joining hundreds of Christian development organizations in advocacy for the poorest of the poor.
Tom Prevost, specialist for missions and global poverty, said the goals of the Micah Challenge are consistent with the CBF mission strategy of focusing on marginalized people groups. But Prevost said leadership for the Micah Challenge has come mainly from Christians in the Southern Hemisphere.
Australian Baptists brought the initiative to the Baptist World Alliance, which endorsed the Micah Call in 2004. “We may be in a sense Johnny-come-latelies,” Prevost said, “but we are here.”
The Micah Call commits followers of Jesus “to work together for the holistic transformation of our communities, to pursue justice, be passionate about kindness and to walk humbly with God.” It calls “on international and national decision-makers of both rich and poor nations to fulfill their public promise to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and so halve absolute global poverty by 2015.”
Signers of the call also urge “Christians everywhere to be agents of hope for and with the poor, and to work with others to hold our national and global leaders accountable in securing a more just and merciful world.”
In 2006 the Baptist Center for Ethics collected signatures on a clergy letter supporting the Micah Challenge and pledging to preach and teach about it in churches and to encourage politicians to support the Millennium Development Goals.
In his report, Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal read letters from individuals from various walks of life that work alongside CBF. “Somebody said it’s amazing what we can do if we don’t get the credit,” Vestal said. “If we will stay focused on being faithful to our mission really not worry about who gets the credit, God’s hand will stay on us.”
The General Assembly kicked off with service projects. More than 60 attendees arrived early to work at local ministry sites such as stocking boxes at the Memphis Food Bank and working at a community garden in West Helena, Ark.
“For years, the Fellowship has been gathering at annual assemblies,” Chris Boltin, the Fellowship’s short-term and partnerships manager who organized the mission projects, said in a news release. “We felt it was time we actually got out there and worked in the community we were visiting. Memphis is a convention city. The people are used to having people come and go. I wanted us to leave a positive touch on the city and to be the presence of Christ.”
The 18th annual CBF General Assembly convenes today and Friday at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. This year’s program features sessions of prayer, discernment and dialogue about the organization’s priorities for the next five years.
Also on Wednesday, the Atlanta-based Fellowship commissioned 18 new field personnel at a service at First Baptist Church in Memphis.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.