"Our goal is to have a major demonstration of harmony and a common commitment to personify and to accomplish the goals that Jesus Christ expressed in his sermon to his own hometown of Nazareth," said former President Jimmy Carter.
Planners announce the theme of this historic gathering will be Unity in Christ. The Biblical basis for the meeting is cited as Jesus’ reading of scripture in the Synagogue as recorded in . In these verses, Jesus reads from Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the release of the captives, and the recovering of sight of the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
This call by Jesus to pursue both evangelism and ministry to “the least of these” is said to be the Biblical foundation for the New Baptist Covenant.
The outcome of the meeting was a document called A North American Baptist Covenant and preliminary plans to hold a major gathering of Baptists from throughout North America in 2008.
The initiative stems from the adoption of the "North American Baptist Covenant" in which leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Baptist values including evangelism, helping the needy and promoting religious liberty. It will be the first time since 1845 that there has been a major effort to bring together Baptists from diverse racial, theological and regional backgrounds. Most US Baptists met in 1814 to form a missionary society known as the Triennial Convention. Southern Baptists broke away over the slavery issue in 1845. Since then, Baptists have splintered even further, most recently due to the Conservative Resurgence/Fundamentalist Takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the last two decades of the twentieth century.
The 80 representatives at this meeting are leaders of 30 Baptist organizations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. This meeting was termed by one of the organizers "a historic demonstration of Baptist unity by deciding to focus on concerns shared by attendees as followers of Christ rather than dwell on obvious differences. Most participants at the Atlanta meeting are members of the 20-million-member North American Baptist Fellowship, part of the 102-year-old Baptist World Alliance. The Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention decided in 2004 to pull out of the Baptist World Alliance.
While individual Southern Baptists were involved in the announcement, no current leaders of the 16 million-member denomination attended the meeting. For a list of attendees, see http://www.abpnews.com/1604.article.
The general secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA said this vision of Baptists coming together could encourage American Baptists soured by their denomination's fragmentation over homosexuality. The national coordinator of the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), a quasi-denomination that emerged from the recent moderate/fundamentalist controversy said the Carter initiative fills a need for "a broader Baptist witness that is committed to social justice as well as evangelism."
The New Baptist Covenant will be a "re-claiming of Baptist heritage," according to a statement from the Baptist Joint Committee. Further, it will be "a commitment to working cooperatively, being agreeable in our disagreements, and honoring historic Baptist tenets of soul freedom and religious liberty.
The 2008 "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" is not expected to create a new denomination or political coalition. However, planners hope it will inspire collaboration around evangelism and social causes, drawing together an even larger coalition of Baptists from the North and South, the U.S. and Canada, and predominantly black and predominantly white conventions and fellowships. Advocates of the New Baptist Covenant predicted it will help heal the racial divide that has separated Baptists in America since before the American Civil War.
Carter and Clinton—both raised Southern Baptist—announced the groups had committed to put aside more than a century and a half of social and theological differences to unite behind an agenda of compassionate ministry. Though the former presidents are both Democrats, Republican Baptists are expected to attend next year's nonpartisan gathering as well. The program chairman said there would definitely be Republican speakers in the plenary session.
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is not involved in the New Baptist Covenant, have dismissed the event as merely another chance for disgruntled moderate and progressive Baptists to express their disapproval and contempt for the more conservative SBC. Some also have pointed to the event’s election-year timing and Clinton and Carter’s involvement as evidence it is designed to stir up Baptist support for Democrats—and especially the presidential bid of Clinton’s wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Former President Jimmy Carter's "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" Was Launched in Atlanta, with Thousands of Folks Showing Up, Including the Leaders of the Four Major Black Baptist Conventions and Former President Bill Clinton, along with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Al Gore
Apr 01, 2008; Former president Jimmy Carter's "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" was launched in Atlanta, with thousands of folks showing...