By Carrie McGuffin
ATLANTA — “In our journey of thermostatic two-ness we are out to transform the world,” declared Frederick Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, to kick off the 2016 New Baptist Covenant Summit Wednesday evening in downtown Atlanta.
“Jesus has sent us out two-by-two stand up against structures of injustice,” Haynes said.
Haynes and George Mason, senior pastor of Dallas’ Wilshire Baptist Church, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship partner congregation, joined Haynes in giving the keynote address, sharing together a message titled “The Journey Together,” centered on the two-person journey of the 70 disciples sent out by Jesus in chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke, and the two-person journey of the covenant that Haynes and Mason and their congregations entered into in November 2013 through the New Baptist Covenant to seek reconciliation and transformation in their communities through cooperative missions and advocacy to combat predatory lending.
Being in covenant relationship and standing up against injustices and systematic racism in Dallas means learning important lessons, Haynes and Mason said.
“This two-by-two thing is important,” Mason said. “It’s about bringing our stories together. The American story is not one story. We want to make it one story, but in doing so, we deny the story of another. We need a two-narrative ecclesiology about the white church and the black church discovering one another.
Learning the stories of each other and helping their congregations discover one another goes beyond “kum-bah-yah” moments—including pulpit swaps and choir visit as well as purposefully engaging together in action. Together, Haynes and Mason are committed to putting their faith to action to create beloved community.
“It is clear we can be faithful to Christ’s vision of beloved community only when we walk side-by-side, have each other’s backs and go on this journey together,” Mason said.
The three-day gathering of diverse Baptists is focused on journeying together to covenant community, echoing the commitment of the New Baptist Covenant to break down barriers of race, theology and geography among Baptists to fulfill Jesus’ mandate in the Gospel of Luke to proclaim the good news and set the oppressed free.
This year’s summit, said Hannah McMahan, executive director of the New Baptist Covenant, is an opportunity for this diverse group to come together to share stories and experiences as well as engage in sometimes difficult conversations.
“Through the stories of others we are seeing pieces of the Kingdom of God that we have never known,” said McMahan, “The spirit of the Lord is upon us and God has anointed us for this time and this place. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, when we come together we can change the world.”
The opening worship was a celebration of diverse traditions with an offering of an original poem and call to justice, “Blackbird” by Isaiah Muhammed of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and a Native American tribal tradition of blessing the space with smoke from sweetgrass. Summit attendees also received the Lord’s Supper.
“We come to this table hungry for action,” said Judy Fackenthal, president of American Baptist Churches USA. “We come to this table thirsty for reconciliation. We come to this table starving for justice.”
The summit will continue Thursday with opportunities for worship, workshops and conversations around forming Covenants of Action. Learn more about the work of the New Baptist Covenant, a CBF partner organization, at www.newbaptistcovenant.org
CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.