Featured / Newsroom / Paul Baxley

An Open Letter to President Carter and His Family

February 24, 2023

An Open Letter to President Carter and His Family

Dear President Carter,

Today I write to let you know that your Cooperative Baptist Fellowship family joins citizens across the United States and people around the world in holding you, Rosalynn, Amy, Jack, Chip, Jeff and all your family in our prayers. Since we received news of your decision to forego further medical intervention to prioritize time with those you love most, we have prayed that you would know the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit and that you would each be held tight in the secure embrace of the love of Christ that never, ever lets us go.

Just as untold numbers of us have made journeys to Plains from across the United States to be in your Sunday school class, and share a moment while taking photos with you, we now surround you spiritually and hold you tight in our prayers with gratitude and hope.

Your leadership and support were vital in the founding of our Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Your keynote addresses at our 1993 General Assembly and again in our 10th anniversary celebration in 2001, not only galvanized the establishment of our Fellowship but also were constitutive for the vision of ministry and mission that still inspires us today.

From the beginning, you called us fully to join Jesus’ mission of bringing good news to the poor. You challenged us to undertake the pursuit of authentic racial justice and reconciliation. Your example has taught us that there is a necessary and unbreakable connection between evangelism and social transformation. You have shown us that a spoken faith is not enough, that it must be lived out, because faith without works is dead.

Now, congregations throughout our Fellowship, the new generations of ministers who have responded to God’s call during the past three decades, our CBF field personnel around the world, our Together for Hope practitioners in the poorest counties in rural America, and our chaplains and pastoral counselors all reflect the holistic, active and transformational ministry you championed from our beginnings.

That vision of ministry not only galvanized our Fellowship, it led you to join with others to establish a New Baptist Covenant, a partnership between Baptist denominations to confront the economic and racial injustice that has ravaged the world for too long and to offer a more excellent shared Baptist witness. Cooperative Baptists were among the thousands of Baptists, also including American Baptists, National Baptists, Progressive National Baptists and others who gathered in Atlanta in 2008 to celebrate that New Baptist Covenant, and we have given ourselves to those priorities in our congregations, in global mission and in Baptist ecumenism ever since.

From the outset, you also called us to affirm the biblical truth that God calls women as well as men to all places of leadership in the church. The pursuit of gender equity has been central not only to your leadership in our Fellowship, it has also been a distinguishing quality of your leadership around the world. We thank God for this vision, and we recognize with you today that that work is still unfinished in our Fellowship, the U.S. and around the world.

We thank God that from our earliest years, you and Rosalynn decided to cast your lot with us, and (as you said in the beginning), to share your “personal gifts, time and influence” with us.

Because we know that in any Baptist vision of church, local congregations are primary, we also offer gratitude to God for your deep and abiding love for local churches. As Governor of Georgia, you were an active member and deacon of Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta. As President of the United States, you worshipped at The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, D.C., and taught Sunday school once a month there.

Throughout your life, you have offered a sustained and beautiful commitment to Maranatha Baptist Church as a church member and Sunday school teacher. In a larger context where faith expressions are often politicized, your steadfast love for Scripture and obvious devotion to life as a follower of Jesus has been an embodiment of a much more excellent way.

Your example teaches us much about the value of commitment to a local congregation and the ways in which immersion in Scripture changes lives and joins us to Jesus’ mission in the world. We are praying for your church family at Maranatha in these days as well, even as we pray that all of us will experience a deepening of our love for Christ, our study of Scripture and our commitment to making sure each of our congregations is a thriving and vital witness to the love of Christ especially in these challenging days.

Many Cooperative Baptists, like me, were elementary school students during the years of your Presidency. So, I know I am also not the only Cooperative Baptist who thanks God that my earliest memories of a President of the United States were of a leader who embodied genuine Christian faith, a willingness to tell the truth even when doing so was hard and the courage to risk much in the search for world peace, particularly in the Middle East.

I am confident that there are very many of us within, and beyond our Cooperative Baptist family, who have been profoundly influenced by the leadership you provided after your presidency—your advocacy for human rights and your compelling embodiment of a kind of volunteerism that enacts the teaching of Jesus that true greatness is marked by service to all.

You have offered a powerful and steadfast witness to genuine Christian leadership, and we pray for that same spirit of leadership to fall on many others in these days and in the days ahead, for the sake of the healing of our nation’s broken public spaces and the overcoming of the devastations of many generations. You were deeply formed by your faith in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, so we pray that we may be powerfully seized by a commitment to join you anew in the work of seeking a just peace in our communities and around the world.

For these reasons and so many others, we thank God for you, your strong faith, your steadfast leadership and your courageous witness. We pray that in these days you experience deep love, a peace that surpasses all understanding, and that you and those closest to you experience the presence of the Risen Jesus more powerfully than ever.

On behalf of your Cooperative Baptist family, I write these words with deep gratitude and resurrection hope.

In Christ,

Paul Baxley

Executive Coordinator
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to President Carter and His Family

  1. Dear Paul,
    Thank you for speaking beautiful words of appreciation and gratitude to President Carter and his beloved Rosalind on behalf of our CBF family. He truly is an humble giant of the faith who has walked with us along the way.
    Grace upon grace as he continues the journey.

  2. Dear President Carter,
    You have always been my favorite President. You were an outstanding role model for all peoples world – wide, and I always felt safe and confident with you in charge of our country and our policies. Your love and Christian principles guided your life and had a positive effect on the American people. I thank God for your life, your example, and your contribution to America. My sincere gratitude and prayers go out to you and your loved ones.
    Susan M Johnson
    Franklin, Virginia

  3. Dear Paul,
    Thank-you for these words of comfort, love, strength, compassion and grace for President Carter and family. They have continued to be in our prayers. He is a gracious gentleman. Thank-you and CBF for your thoughts and prayers. Our prayers will go out to you and CBF as well.
    Irene Z. Shields
    Jarratt, VA 23867

  4. My grandma probably wrote you a letter many years ago. She has been deceased for nearly 40years.She was very concerned about the world around her, and was sharing her helpful pointers to those in leadership positions. You sent her an autographed picture of your self and your wife. I still have it, though it’s not in pristine condition over these many years. I was most interested in how you were going to manage the country from a Christian perspective. I can say, you were the last democrat that I remember voting for. I was greatly surprised as to how you managed the country and the struggle had in doing so. I am thankful for the program you instituted for Habitat for humanity which the quilt guild I am a member of makes quilted pictures of the new homes to have the new owners place on their wall in their new homes. They have a little ceremony when the new home is to be entered and the picture is given at that time. It was explained at one of our guild meetings all the work on that goes into the building of such homes and all the financial responsibilities that go with owning a newly built home. I am glad to say that program is well and actively functional for those who have been participating in that. I am not in that position, but am glad that the guild has been very helpful in that very small way. May the Lord Jesus Christ speak clearly to your soul and revive your spirit within.

  5. Karen,
    Thank you for forwarding this letter . So
    Well written…to a man who lived a holy life. May God be with the president as JEC will be in a better place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s