September 15, 2016
By Carrie McGuffin
ATLANTA — The second day of the 2016 New Baptist Covenant Summit continued Thursday morning with a keynote address from America’s most famous Sunday school teacher, President Jimmy Carter.
Focusing on the political and social climate of the United States on the heels of the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Carter shared his hope that the New Baptist Covenant — the movement he launched in 2007 to break down barriers of race among Baptists — would take to heart the Apostle Paul’s call to the church in Thessalonians to be strong, courageous and firm in the face of persecution.
“This persecution [of the church in Thessalonians] is mirrored to some degree in the life of our country,” Carter said, highlighting the concerns of long-term wars, the Great Recession and growing economic disparity in the United States, all of which served to buttress the fear of terrorism and usher in a resurgence of racism across the nation.
In the face of these issues, Carter noted, change comes slow and inevitably. Reflecting on the origins of the New Baptist Covenant, Carter reminded the crowd that the movement’s goal was to improve harmony among Baptists to encourage more effective ministry.
Carter shared that he was amazed at the first meeting of the New Baptist Covenant in 2008, where more than 15,000 Baptists attended — an enormous diverse group “searching for a way to be in superb relationship.” The 39th President said that the movement must continue to explore ways to bring churches and people together across racial and ethnic borders.
The hope of the New Baptist Covenant, Carter said, is to expand and reach every church and every community, not just Baptists. In addition to pursuing racial reconciliation, Carter stressed the importance of combatting the persecution of women and girls, even in the United States. In both racial discrimination and discrimination of women and girls there are those that are more privileged “don’t give a damn,” Carter said.
“New Baptist Covenant can be a powerful potential weapon…to set an example not just among Baptists, not just among churches, but in communities and among people of all faiths. I hope that we can set an example not only in this country but set an example for the world.”
Carter expressed his personal thanks to the gathered leaders of the movement, encouraging them to continue their good but difficult work, and prayed that those gathered will be strengthened in partnership with one another and with God.
The morning worship service also featured testimony from Covenant of Action partners in Macon, Ga.— James Goolsby, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, and Scott Dickison, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Christ, who formed a partnership 18 months ago between their congregations which share a name and sit on adjacent corners in the city. Through their Covenant of Action to be a witness to the unity of the body of Christ, these First Baptist Churches have opened up space for difficult conversations in genuine relationship.
Additional testimonies were given by representatives from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc., Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas and the American Baptist Historical Society.
The three-day summit continues through Friday with workshops and conversations to explore covenant relationships and features keynote addresses from Traci Blackmon, executive minister of justice and witness for the United Church of Christ, and Tony Campolo, popular author and professor of sociology at Eastern University. 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.