Yesterday I was taken by surprise when a couple of reporters called and asked me my opinion of The New Baptist Covenant and the Atlanta Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant scheduled for late January 2008.
I did a little research on the subject and only after learning the stated purposes of this union of Baptists included avoiding all politics and partisianship, and to unite together Baptists in order to address pressing social and cultural concerns through prophetic means (or, as I would say 'the gospel'), I issued an official comment (see below) to the reporters.
Since yesterday I have read some responses from Southern Baptists that contain more than a little cynicism about the New Baptist Covenant. Some have gone back to the old war flag of 'defeat the liberals,' and a few are seeking to repudiate this effort due to the character, or lack thereof, of some of the organizers.
Just a few thoughts before I post my public response to the Baptist Covenant.
(1). A child in Africa in need of a tetanus shot doesn't care about convention politics, he just needs a shot. A young girl trafficked in the sex trade does not care about the political bent of her rescuer, she just needs rescued. A tribe in need of a shipment of grain does not care from which Baptist convention the shipment came. A continent in need of an HIV solution does not even know the difference between Baptist conventions, nor does it care. A world in need of the gospel of Jesus Christ is helped when all evangelicals unite to do justice and love mercy, or at the least refuse to denigrate others' efforts.
(2). If we as a convention choose not to participate with this new union of Baptists -- so be it. But I believe it would be far better for the kingdom at large for us to wish them success in their venture, encourage them publicly, and pray from them privately. It makes no sense to me to ridicule people who are attempting to do some good things for the world at large. If Jesus was silent before his accusers who hated him, then good grief, maybe we could learn to be silent about our brothers in Christ who are different from us, but like us, desire to live out the gospel.
(3). If support of a gospel enterprise, or a non-profit ministry, or a union of evangelical people depends upon the unsullied character of her leaders, then we are all in trouble. Martin Luther once made the statement, "A truly Christian work is it that we descend and get mixed up in the mire of the sinner as deeply as he sticks there himself, taking his sin upon ourselves and floundering out of it with him, not acting otherwise than as if his sin were our own. We should rebuke and deal with him in earnest; yet we are not to despise but sincerely to love him. If you are proud toward the sinner and despise him, you are utterly damned."
With those thoughts in mind, here is the response I drafted:
"I am not familiar with 'The Baptist Covenant,' nor am I acquainted with the leaders of the 2008 convocation in Atlanta. However, it would be difficult for me to criticize any evangelical Christian movement whose stated goals are to live out the gospel through doing justice and loving mercy. There comes a time when we as Southern Baptists should simply remain silent if we cannot say anything supportive of other Baptist attempts at addressing pressing social and cultural issues in a prophetic manner. To provide a public defense of our convention's record, while at the same time criticizing others, seems to be acting in a manner contrary to the spirit of our Lord and the good of His kingdom at large. I wish nothing but success for all Baptists who seek to live out the gospel for a world in need of a Savior.
An ice storm is headed for Enid, so I thought I would get this up before the power went out!
Have a great weekend!