The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a group of churches and pastors that broke away from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in the early 1990s when conservatism re-surged and once more controlled the SBC. Those who considered themselves “moderate” Baptists decided to separate and form their own fellowship, which they do not refer to as a denomination. The key factors in this decision revolved around the SBC’s non-negotiable stance on the inerrancy of Scripture and the ordination of women.
While the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship affirms most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, they depart from traditional Baptist values in their ordination of women as pastors and, most recently, their decision to affirm openly gay and lesbian members, installing them in leadership positions within many of their key churches such as the First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina. At the time of this writing, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship still maintained its original stance against the affirmation of the homosexual lifestyle, but Dr. Albert Mohler, then president of the Southern Baptist Convention, warned of a future falling away: “A younger generation of leaders is pressing forward with the full normalization of homosexuality, acceptance of same-sex marriage, and ordination of gay ministers. The CBF, however, while embracing many churches that have taken such actions, does not hire openly-gay staff” (“When ‘Discernment’ Leads to Disaster,” http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/08/18/when-discernment-leads-to-disaster/, accessed 8/16/2017). At the same time, “the CBF has no argument against homosexuality on biblical terms, so it is only a matter of time before it changes its policy” (ibid.).
Based upon its history and current slide toward a liberal view of scriptural authority, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship could be classified as part of the accelerating trend toward progressive Christianity. Progressives pride themselves upon being the true champions of Christianity in their focus upon social justice and equality for all. However, they amplify the Bible’s instructions about caring for the poor (Deuteronomy 27:19) at the expense of minimizing its many commands against moral sin, especially as it pertains to sexuality (1 Corinthians 6:7–11, 18–20). Progressives see the Bible as an ever-evolving guideline for life that must be continually reinterpreted in light of changing culture. But such a view makes the Bible little more than a helpful handbook for the self-righteous, not the authority for life as it presents itself to be (Matthew 4:4; John 17:17). Sadly, recent decisions by influential Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches indicate that the entire organization may be headed the way of many Protestant denominations that have denied the authority of God’s Word to the extent that they scarcely resemble Christianity at all.