Carter, Clinton Meet With Baptists to Plan for New `Covenant’

Leaders from 40 Baptist organizations are joining forces with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to hold a gathering … Continued

Leaders from 40 Baptist organizations are joining forces with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to hold a gathering next January that will emphasize their common goals.

The “Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant” was announced Tuesday at The Carter Center in Atlanta during a meeting between the presidents — who were both raised Southern Baptist — and dozens of leaders who together represent 20 million Baptists in North America.

“This has been what may turn out to be one of the most historic events, at least in the history of Baptists in this country, and perhaps Christianity,” said Carter, who left the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000. “We believe it will bear fruits.”

The gathering, planned for Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008, most likely in Atlanta, is expected to bring together more than 20,000 Baptist participants, including Carter and possibly Clinton, who called himself a “cheerleader” for the efforts.

“Those of you who don’t follow the ins and outs of various denominations in America, or did not have both the privilege and the burden to be raised in the Baptist church, cannot possibly appreciate how different this meeting is from what has gone on in our denomination the last 30 years,” Clinton said at the news conference.

The initiative stems from the adoption of the “North American Baptist Covenant” last April, in which leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Baptist values including evangelism, helping the needy and promoting religious liberty.

“We decided that day in April that the most important things were things that we agreed on, and we also decided that we could accomplish more on these imperatives working together than any one of us could alone,” said Bill Underwood, president of the Baptist-affiliated Mercer University in Macon, Ga., who worked with Carter to bring the disparate groups together.

Two years ago, four historic black Baptist denominations met in Nashville, Tenn., to move beyond old divisions over leadership and civil rights. Now, the 2008 gathering aims to draw 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. Underwood said the groups also include theological perspectives ranging from conservative to moderate to progressive.

Underwood said individual Southern Baptists, including himself, were involved in Tuesday’s announcement but not current leaders of the 16 million-member denomination.

Most participants at the Atlanta meeting are members of the North American Baptist Fellowship, a regional group that belongs to the Baptist World Alliance. The Southern Baptist Convention pulled out of the global body in 2004.

Underwood said he hopes the 2008 gathering will launch other collaborative ventures such as evangelism, disaster relief and “many other tangible projects that these organizations will work on together.”

He expects the support of Carter and Clinton, two of the country’s best-known Baptists, can only aid the plans.

“They are two lifelong Baptists,” Underwood said of the presidents. “It’s critically important that they be involved.”

While Carter has made several efforts to build bridges between Baptists, Clinton’s participation is more novel.

“I think, certainly, President Carter has invited President Clinton to be a part of this at the urging of a number of the Baptist organizations who are participating,” Underwood said.

He added that Republican Baptists “who also happen to be public servants” are expected to attend next year’s gathering as well.

“We will be addressing issues in nonpartisan ways but in prophetic ways,” said the Rev. William J. Shaw, president of the predominantly black National Baptist Convention, USA.

Carter recently reiterated his commitment to building denominational relations when he spoke at the Jan. 3 funeral of former President Gerald Ford, an Episcopalian, in East Grand Rapids, Mich.

“We both felt that Episcopalians, Baptists and others should live together in harmony, within the adequate and common belief that we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ,” Carter said.

  • Marchion Orr

    Cool

  • Frozen1

    These two Diplomats of humanity have a sense of going straight to the heart of the matter. Thank God I do. President Carter, please allow me to tinker, ever so slight tune one of you very well considered thoughts?: “We both felt that Episcopalians, Baptists and others should live together in harmony, within the adequate and common belief that we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ,” Consider a slight change to “We both felt that Episcopalians, Baptists and others should live together in harmony, within the adequate and common belief that we are saved by our faith in God through the grace of Jesus Christ,” More power for the same amount of input. I am sure that Jesus is pleased, but Christ is not God. Christ is one of God’s agents.God Bless Both you and yours as God has Blesses us all through His Gifts, your gifts to us. Thank you Misters Presidents. What an extraordinary honor, and love I feel in my chest right now. Thank you.

  • victoria

    THANK YOU GENTLEMENAND BLESS YOU

  • Anonymous

    RE:OUCH..Carter’s book prompts more resignations: Fourteen members of an advisory board to Jimmy Carter’s human rights organization resigned on Thursday to protest his new book, which has been attacked as unfairly critical of Israel and riddled with inaccuracies.”You have clearly abandoned your historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side,” the departing members of the center’s Board of Councilors told Carter in their letter of resignation.The resignations came a day after Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo and officials at Brandeis University said Carter will discuss the book at the Waltham, Mass., campus. The Nobel Peace Prize winner will not, however, debate the book with outspoken Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, as Brandeis originally proposed.

  • victoria

    ANONYMOUS- WHY DONT YOU EVER PROVIDE ANY DOCUMENTATION FOR YOUR SUPPOSED FACTS?if you will not even give your real name, why should we believe your accusations as anything but that, accusations.

  • Pastor Curt

    In another promo article,(ABP), Bill Underwood, Mercer U. President, and co-founder of this “Baptist Covenant”, and a mole in SBC clothing, said about Carter and Clinton’s envolvement, that they are not participating from their positions “… of statesmen, politicians, or Democrats; but as Baptists”.This is a good thing. For if they came to the party with merely their combined statemenship, political, and Democrat “track records”, the whole project would cave, and be D O A in ’08.Concidering the sources (network et al) it is not suprising how abortion, and perverted sexual agendas are stikingly excluded from dicussion points toward this new “Baptist Covenant”. However, being deaf, dumb, and blind does set well for the sake of more inclusive dialogue, and diversity. I suggest “God is not mocked…” would be a preferable rallying point to call Christians, citizens and voters together.

  • Lori

    I left the Baptist church (SBC) 11 years ago as I was continually hearing politics from the pulpit. I attended a Baptist school and thought I would always be a Baptist. But then, the preachers were drunk with their perceived power over the Republican party and I was strongly suspect of my donations being funneled to politicians. I was raised seeing “voting guides” and ignored them. But when their “conservative speak” began sounding more like “hate speak” I had to leave.

  • lifespan

    I think this is great. I have been Baptist all my life. It is great to move away from denominationlism to a wider scope in faith. I think Christianty should be Christ’s message towards humanity and His saving grance to us all…let’s join hands on that!

  • Bill L

    As a former Baptist I’ve experienced that both liberals and conservatives don’t give an inch on their ideologies. I’d be suprised if any conservatives take this “covenant” seriously! I’d also be suprised if the liberals refrain from putting reproductive or homosexual rights in the “covenant”.

  • ngordon

    I agree that any covenant outside of Christ is just more man-made doctrine.

  • former pastor

    For various reasons the baptist movement has been a hotbed of fundamentalism for a long time as well as liberal radicalism. Both view points as a wise prof once told me are liking vearing of a road with ditches on either side. A ditch is a Ditch no matter what one you get stuck in. Hopefully now we can begin pulling each other out of idealogical ditches and begin healing each other and our nation scarred by our religous attitudes

  • victoria

    i just watched the carter talk at brandeis – it was followed by alan dershowitz who started the program by stating that contrary to rumor he wasnt asked to debate- but was there of his own volition and will-

  • Pastor Jim Hamrick

    I am suspect of the intentions of this “New Covenant” and its timing as to the presidential race Mrs. Clinton as one of the front runners. I have no doubt as to the left wing agenda concerning the announced issues to be addressed. One thing I do know: Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and once He has saved us he requires a certain behavior that is holy and righteous. Those who believe that less is acceptable are sadly mistaken. From their public witness, Presidents Carter and Clinton play fast and loose with scripture. Yes, I am a conservative, a fundamentalist in the historical sense of the word. (If you think that is a negative then you need to do some prayerful research.)

  • emmy

    Great News

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