There's a new kid on the block of Baptist church politics. Having suffered severely as a newly invigorated conservative movement ousted them from their long held power base in the Southern Baptist Convention, liberal Baptists have formed what they call "The New Baptist Covenant." From January 30 until February 1, 2008, 15,000 participants convened in Atlanta to seek a wider unity and to delineate a policy of social involvement.
Reportedly, the group demonstrated racial, theological and geographic harmony as they prayed, sang, listened to sermons and attended workshops focusing on ministry to the people they claim Jesus called "the least of these" in society. They welcomed some big name speakers to the platform. There was Baptist ex-President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. There was another Baptist ex-President, even more famous than Carter, none other than Bill Clinton. And Al Gore was there as well, to stand by his support for homosexual marriage.
Jimmy Carter was clearly enthused by the emphasis on world hunger, poverty, changing the judicial system and such like. "I feel that this New Baptist Covenant assembly is based on ... love God and love the person standing in front of you at any time," Carter bubbled.
Clinton was the closing speaker and he lectured the participants on how to go forward to the unity they sought. "If we are going to form a covenant that can embrace the whole body of the Baptist [tradition], which every Christian can identify with and every good human being on earth can applaud, it is the spirit with which we go forward and our determination to offer specific things we can do as the children of God that will determine how it comes out in the end."
Now just in case you may have forgotten, this is the same Bill Clinton who took his marriage covenant so seriously and exercised it in such a consistently loving manner that he dragged the office of the President into the gutter of animal lust and persistent lying. He is the one who now unctuously speaks of going forward in a spirit of humility and forgiveness! I think I would call that gall!
More than 30 Baptist denominations and groups sponsored and participated in the gathering. There were several Democratic Party speakers and one Republican senator. The event was boycotted by conservative Baptists who saw the event for what it was, an exercise in old fashioned liberalism. Conservatives have never shied away from their responsibilities in ministries of mercies to a suffering humanity. What we refuse to do is to replace the Church's primary mission of preaching the gospel of redeeming grace with a social gospel and a liberal political and social agenda.