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“Passionate moderate” may sound like an oxymoron, but a call to greater passion has been a recurring theme at this year’s General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. When the group coalesced as an alternative to the increasingly fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention 20 years ago, participants didn’t want to be thought of as “liberals” (as charged by their fundamentalist opponents), so they adopted the unfortunate moniker of “moderates” to indicate that they were basically conservative, but not that conservative.

One problem with the name, as often noted, is that it’s hard to be a flaming moderate. Speakers at the Charlotte meeting have sought to change that. Missions coordinator Rob Nash, both in his message during a missionary commissioning service Wednesday evening and during the opening business session on Thursday, called for greater passion from Fellowship folk. Passion is what you think about all the time, what drives you and motivates you, he suggested. Video clips from mission work that’s changing lives illustrated the passion of CBF field personnel.

In ministry workshops on Thursday afternoon, participants were urged to “find their passion” during the first session, and to “engage their passion” through more detailed presentations in followup sessions.

During worship on Thursday evening, historian Bill Leonard urged CBFers to be audacious, rather than embarrassed, in claiming their Baptist identity. “Let’s stop worrying about our name and start reclaiming our witness,” he said: “let’s quit fretting over the loss of culture dominance and turn loose our consciences.”

Passion is indeed a sore need if Fellowship Baptists are to meet their potential. Contributions are so far behind that the recommended budget for 2010-11 is $1.5 million less than called for in 2009-10. Of the 16 new missionaries commissioned, not one is financed by CBF offerings: all are self-supporting. Earlier in the week, coordinator Dan Vestal told the Coordinating Council that if contributions continue their downward trend, some current field personnel may have to be recalled.

Will CBF folk rise to the challenge and prove that “passionate moderate” is not an oxymoron after all?

Such is our hope.

[CBF photos]

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