Field Notes: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Presbyterian PC (USA) General Assemblies
I’ve been travelling a bit during the past two weeks to spread the word about The Fuller Center at two church gatherings. First, Dianne Fuller and I went to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Charlotte and then up north to Minneapolis for the Presbyterian PC (USA) General Assembly.
The Fuller Center is an ecumenical housing ministry and crossing denominations reminded me of a mantra of Sam Calian, former president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary “When traveling… travel light.” I tend to over pack for these gatherings with pins, and bumper stickers, brochures and of course Millard’s many books. But I do manage to keep my theology baggage light, a practice Millard and David Snell have demonstrated well over the many years and many kilometers. The Theology of the Hammer is a simple one: No profit, no interest. Local leadership. No government tax dollars for building. Volunteer labor. A hand up, not a hand out. And most importantly, “For God so loved the whole world that all of his children deserve at least a simple, decent place to live.” This is why we have such a broad assortment of Christians, who struggle to agree on so many issues, finding common ground on our affordable housing movement.
The theme for the Baptists this year was “God’s mission, your passion.” They strive to help their members be on a “missional" journey which they define as “participating in God’s mission in the world.” I was struck by the diversity of options for engagement represented in the exhibit hall and in the workshop.
To be invited to join the gathering as a participant organization was an honor and a bit humbling, seeing the many different ways God calls people and congregations to service. There were groups working hard to sell crafts made by women and girls who were trying to escape human trafficking. Other groups were focusing on environmental causes, social justice ministries and delivering clean water and medicine and establishing fair trade micro-enterprises. There were representatives from colleges and seminaries, church camps and disaster response efforts. Smyth and Helwys, the publishers that printed Millard’s and Clarence’s many books, was well represented. They were looking forward to the September release of Millard’s first book “Beyond the American Dream” which was hand written but never before published. Keith Gammons, Vice President of Production told me that Clarence’s Cotton Patch Gospel translations are still their biggest selling series.
It was so good to be among friends in Charlotte. I had the pleasure of staying with Allan and Jenny Purtill. Allan was our pastor here in Americus and even though he went to the “younger PTS” (Princeton Theological Seminary) and I went to Pittsburgh Theological, I consider him to be one of my closest buddies. Allan serves on the Fuller Center Board of Advisors and will be hosting the Bike Adventure when they come through Charlotte in a few days.
It was also wonderful to be with Millard and Linda’s daughter-in-law, Dianne Fuller. She has inherited Millard’s “Energizer bunny” spirit and was well connected with many friends and colleagues of her husband, Chris, who serves as a campus minister at Mercer College.
We made many contacts and are overwhelmed by the wonderful potential in these new and renewed relationships. Who knows what wonderful things will happen because of the “Infectious Fulleritis” that is being spread in churches all over the country?