Great Rivers Fellowship selects first co-coordinators

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — The council guiding the merger of three Cooperative Baptist Fellowship state organizations into a single Great Rivers Fellowship has selected two people to lead the organization into the future.

Brittany Caldwell, a pastor and program coordinator, and Shane McNary, a CBF field personnel serving in Slovakia and Czechia, were selected yesterday by a council vote as co-coordinators of Great Rivers Fellowship. Caldwell will serve as coordinator of community engagement, while McNary serves as coordinator of ministry.

Great Rivers Fellowship connects individuals, churches and partners across Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and beyond for collaborative mission and ministry.

GRF will work across the region to:

  • Promote congregational collaborations through relationship-building and shared learning
  • Engage Young Baptists in ministry
  • Combat rural poverty through CBF’s Together for Hope rural development coalition
  • Support racial justice initiatives

Preston Clegg, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark., led the council and said both coordinators have deep roots in the region and genuinely long for the work of God to flourish in the three states. McNary will work out of Arkansas and Caldwell from Mississippi.

“Brittany’s experience both inside the church, serving as a pastor, and outside the church, serving in a variety of community ministries, makes her the perfect person to help churches engage their communities with missional work outside of the church’s walls,” Clegg said. “And Shane’s long and effective work as CBF field personnel in Slovakia speaks for itself and makes him the perfect person to walk alongside congregations and clergy as they seek to do ministry in an ever-changing ecclesial landscape.” 

Caldwell combines ministry passion with community development experience, including volunteer coordination, program oversight and budget management. She has most recently served as senior pastor of Nobles Chapel Baptist Church in Sims, N.C. She earned a Master of Divinity Degree from Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

“The church is in need of broad scale transformation if it is to continue to fulfill the command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations,” Caldwell said. “In a post-COVID, post-Christian world, the disconnect between the message of Jesus and its concrete action in the world is often felt most profoundly in the Deep South, where poverty, healthcare disparities, patriarchy, and racism exist alongside the largest population of evangelical Christians in the nation.”

Caldwell said that as a woman born and raised in Mississippi, she has  encountered this disconnect over and over again, and now “finds within myself a God-given passion to journey with the church of the Deep South to bridge the gap between hearing the Gospel of Jesus and living it out in creative and innovative ways.”

“To that end,” she said, “I believe that CBF, with its advocacy for female church leadership and its emphasis on diversity of thought and interpretation, will be instrumental in the days ahead as the church moves into a new day of ministry.” 

Shane McNary and his wife, Dianne, were commissioned as CBF field personnel in 2004. They minister among the Roma people in Slovakia and Czechia. There, Shane has helped develop holistic ministries and fought for religious freedom and justice through work with the Baptist World Alliance and the European Baptist Federation. Shane has earned a Master of Theology Degree in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity Degree from Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

He said he appreciates GRF’s vision to call co-coordinators and to be able to work alongside Caldwell. “She is a spring of hope whose diversity of experience and deep knowledge of the region are essential,” McNary said.

“I want to see GRF begin in a healthy way with a firm grounding as a community of churches, ministries, and ministers who exercise a mutuality and support to engage in the calling we all have of being the transformative presence of Christ in our communities,” McNary said. “The heritage of the region’s involvement in Together for Hope, the heartbeat of justice issues resonating throughout the region, and the honor of participating in nurturing a supportive network of churches, ministers and ministries are tributaries of God’s Spirit renewing the region.

“What most interests me about the position is that GRF is at the growing edge of collaboration and cooperation in CBF life,” he continued. “Birthing a new CBF regional organization is something to celebrate.”

Paul Baxley, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and a facilitator of the original exploratory team that met starting in May 2021 to consider the possibilities of the merger, congratulated the leadership of GRF for selecting two gifted leaders.

“Brittany and Shane both bring important experiences, convictions and personal qualities to this work,” Baxley said. “I look forward to working closely with them and the other leaders of Great Rivers Fellowship to further strengthen the collaboration that already exists between this new region and CBF Global and look forward to the leadership this region will provide across our Fellowship.”

CBF Coordinator of Global Missions Laura Ayala thanked Shane for his years of service to CBF on behalf of CBF Global Missions.

“We bless our brother Shane McNary as he moves into his new leadership position at Great Rivers Fellowship,” she said. “We thank God for his contributions to CBF life as field personnel, among other roles, and we look forward to what the Holy Spirit will continue to do through his leadership to touch many lives.”

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