“For All: Conversations on Religious Liberty” was the theme for the CBF Arkansas 2016 Annual Gathering, celebrating CBFAR’s and CBF’s 25th anniversaries. The event was hosted by Pulaski Heights Baptist Church in Little Rock.
The Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty staff, based in Washington, D.C., addressed the theme of religious liberty.
Brent Walker, BJC Executive Director, spoke Friday evening about the religious, denominational, and constitutional histories related to religious liberty in America. He spoke about the specific perspective that early Baptists in the U.S., who were a minority group, brought to the formation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Holly Hollman, BJC General Counsel and Associate Executive Director, spoke first Saturday morning about the specific religious liberty issues that are being discussed and debated by individuals, churches and communities, and being worked out through legislatures and the courts. She elaborated on the concepts of religious liberty and religious discrimination that are undercurrents in the different understandings of religious liberty.
Charles Watson, Jr, BJC Education and Outreach Specialist, addressed the issue of African Americans, Black Churches, and Religious Liberty during the second session Saturday morning. He explained the ways that African American Baptists, Christians and churches developed their views of religious liberty in response to the oppression of their rights and freedoms by the majority white Christian culture and its practice of religious liberty.
A Panel which included Walker, Hollman, Watson, and Dr. Hal Bass, Past Moderator of CBF Global and CBF Arkansas and former member of the BJC board, and was moderated by Dr. Preston Clegg, CBFAR Moderator, responded to questions and comments from the audience.
The Friday night session concluded with a recognition of Mollie Palmer, Stacy Henderson and Catherine Bahn who have formed the Together for Hope Arkansas leadership team for the past 4 ½ years. Ray Higgins, CBFAR Coordinator, and Dr. Patricia Griffen, CBFAR Moderator-Elect, spoke about Palmer’s, Henderson’s and Bahn’s history and leadership in Helena and Phillips County.
A $50,000 Fund Raising Campaign for TFHAR was launched in March in honor of Palmer, Henderson and Bahn. As of May 4, over $32,000 had been raised. The campaign goes through the summer.
The Annual Business session on Saturday included recognition of Council members who had completed their three years of service, approval of new Council members, a finance report on CBFAR’s $199,272 annual budget, and remarks from outgoing moderator, Preston Clegg, and incoming moderator, Pat Griffen.
Council members who completed their terms include: Jessica McFadden Bailey of Imboden, Linda Bruns of Little Rock, Suzette Cannon of Little Rock, Rev. Demetria Edwards of Lake Village, Michael Hall of Little Rock, Consevella James of Little Rock, Chris Richey of Helena-West Helena, Mica Strother of Little Rock, Jenna Sullivan of Winston-Salem, NC, and Rev. Steve Sullivan of Little Rock.
New Council Officers include: Dr. Patricia Griffen, Moderator; Mica Strother, Moderator-Elect; Dr. Preston Clegg, Past Moderator; and Suzette Cannon, Recorder.
New Council members include: Charita Futrell of Christway Missionary Baptist Church in Little Rock; Ray Granade of First Baptist Church in Arkadelphia; Joni Lee of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church in Little Rock; Judy Harrison of First Baptist Church in Arkadelphia; and Steve Strickland of Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock.
In her remarks, Dr. Griffen spoke about CBFAR’s values of advocacy, inclusion and diversity related to CBF’s theme verse: “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). She commented that Christ’s love compels us to be inclusive, to celebrate diversity, and be advocates on behalf of the people and issues that are at the heart of Jesus’ teachings and ministry.
To view photos from the Annual Gathering weekend, please visit our online gallery by clicking here.