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Thursday
Apr102014

President Jimmy Carter says he is a New Baptist Covenant kind of Baptist and advocates for women's rights.

Thursday
Apr102014

CBF Celebrates the NBC Summit and an interview with civil rights leader, Otis Moss Jr.

Thursday
Apr102014

Hannah McMahan talks about the NBC dream

Tuesday
Jan212014

The most segregated hour

To truly honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., heal the division in our churches.

By Hannah McMahan

Yesterday we celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister who was more than a preacher. King was a voice — a prophetic voice — calling our nation to compassion, justice and its true self. He envisioned a day in which our eyes would be opened to see the holy belovedness in each other.

Yesterday we honored this great man with remembrances, marches and service. To truly honor him, however, our celebration cannot be confined to one day. We must turn our celebration into ongoing commitment and our admiration into steadfast action. It is the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day that we show what Dr. King really means to us.

Dr. King called forth a day in which our mouths would open to speak blessings rather than curses, love rather than hate and healing rather than hurt. He worked for a day in which liberty and opportunity would be the inheritance of every man, woman and child. His prophetic voice still echoes today, reminding us of his dream and God’s.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. ... I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’”

Yet for all their beauty, passion and wisdom, these words of hope are shadowed by a much sadder reality pronounced by Dr. King.

“You must face the tragic fact that when you stand at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning to sing, ‘In Christ There Is No East or West,’ you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America.”

Much has changed because Dr. King and many others toiled and spoke and marched. The law now requires that schools be integrated, buses and restaurant seats be available to everyone, and the doors of opportunity be open to all. These changes were hard fought and we must remain steadfast to safeguard their observance. Yet there is still much to be done in our churches.

Painfully, we must admit that 50 years later, some things have not changed. The church in 2014 remains divided. Divided by race. Divided by theology. Divided by generation. Divided by economics. Divided by geography. Divided. Because we have failed to see the divine presence in our brothers and sisters in Christ, our witness to a world so in need of God’s love has been silenced, our Christian unity fractured and our building of the beloved community, of which Dr. King dreamed, deferred.

In 2014, we have a choice. In fact, we have the same choice that Dr. King and so many other civil rights activists had. We can live in this status quo of division or we can take action to reconcile with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can care for long festering wounds and love each other through the pain. We can heal the brokenness in our churches.

In my work with the New Baptist Covenant, I have been privileged to work alongside so many Baptists of goodwill who are dedicated to healing the divisions in our Baptist family and to the long journey true reconciliation requires. Together they are joining hands to tear down old walls and to lay new foundations. United in faith, hope and love, a broad array of Baptists are covenanting to work with one another to make a difference in their communities. These brothers and sisters in Christ inspire me and make me proud to be a Baptist. They prove that the beloved community is within our grasp if we will only work for it.

As we move forward in this shared labor of love, I remember the admonition of Dr. King:“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can‘t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” We have crawled separately for long enough. Now is the time for us to stand and walk together in the hope that one day we will fly. If we truly wish to honor Dr. King, then let us heed his prophetic voice and work to heal the divisions in our churches. Together, let us dare to be the dream that lived in Dr. King and that was first born in the heart of God.

Monday
Dec022013

Advocacy can unite Baptists

A wonderful article on Stephen Reeves and his contribution at the New Baptist Covenant Summit.

Read the article.

Monday
Nov252013

New Baptist Covenant Summit concludes with action plans on hunger, literacy, predatory lending

By Aaron Weaver and Emily Holladay

DECATUR, Ga. — The New Baptist Covenant Summit concluded its meeting Friday with panel discussions on advocacy and prison reform, a message from Dee Dee Coleman, pastor of Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, Mich., and presentations of Covenant of Action plans at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Leaders gathered from Dallas, Birmingham, Ala., St. Louis, Atlanta and the Northwest United States region as part of the New Baptist Covenant, a movement started by President Jimmy Carter in 2007, to break down barriers of race, theology and geography among Baptists so that Jesus’ mandate in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke to proclaim good news to the poor and set the oppressed free can be realized.

The New Baptist Covenant Summit kicked-off Thursday with a time for participants to share memories of the inaugural New Baptist Covenant gathering in January 2008, which brought together more than 15,000 people representing over 30 Baptist organizations to Atlanta for a time of worship, discussion and celebration, as well as a keynote message from the Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., noted civil rights leader and pastor emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

Friday morning’s events began with a panel discussion on advocacy led by Stephen Reeves, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy; Jacque Culpepper, associate professor of education at Mercer University’s Tift College of Education; Danielle Ayres, minister of justice at Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas; and Linda Streit, dean of Mercer University’s Georgia Baptist College of Nursing.

“Advocacy is putting your neighbor’s needs ahead of your own needs, which comes in stark contrast to lobbying with your own self-interest,” Reeves said. “For churches, the first thing to think about is your community. It starts by looking outward and becoming a voice for the folks you see in your community.”

Ayres added, “Preaching good news to the poor means they need to be freed from the bad news of poverty and oppression.”

After the panel, Dee Dee Coleman discussed how to bring healing to communities and focused on how churches can advocate for the needs of incarcerated individuals.

“What we found out about the local church is that we have what’s called ‘religious capital’ that gives us validity in the community,” Coleman said. “If all of the churches in the area would come together on an issue that affects us, we could make a big difference.

“The church must be sensitive to the plight of incarceration and what that means. We do very well when it comes to visiting the sick, but when it comes to visiting those who are incarcerated, we have to fight to get people to go behind the bars.”

David Key, Baptist studies director at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, also spoke about plans to launch a massive open online course (MOOC) geared toward students at Baptist theological institutions titled “The ART (Action, Reconciliation, Transformation) of Social Justice: Rauschenbusch, King and Carter.

This master’s level course would offer an in-depth examination of Jesus’ mandate in the fourth chapter of Luke and feature a curriculum focused on the writings and contributions of five Baptists: Baptist theologian and pastor Walter Rauschenbusch who is regarded as the father of the social gospel movement; civil rights pioneers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Coretta Scott King; and President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

The event ended on Friday with a service of celebration and commissioning at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Those gathered watched a video message from President Jimmy Carter who offered a word of encouragement for the group and expressed his excitement for their future work together. 

“The very work that has brought you to the Carter Center today has called me to Nepal as we both seek to be instruments of peace and reconciliation in the world. I hope you will pray for me and the people of Nepal in this exciting time in their democracy even as I am praying for you and the important work you are doing here. While I cannot be with you today in Atlanta, know that I am with you in spirit. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I am grateful and encouraged that you have chosen to participate in the New Baptist Covenant Summit – that you are here committing yourself to the goals of action, reconciliation and transformation.

“The New Baptist Covenant movement is dear to my heart. For too long, racial, theological and geographic barriers have separated our Baptist family. Your work here can change that and help to usher in a new age of shared ministries and fellowship. You came here to make covenants with God and each other, lending our stories to God’s eternal narrative for hope and healing of all creation.”

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr. addressed the group with a meditation on the persistent evil of racism in American society and the need for people of faith to work together and fight injustice.

“Not enough of us are raising our voices with moral courage for love and justice. Love without justice is weak sentimentality. Justice without love is naked brutality. To pretend or believe that the light came and racism ended with the election of President Obama is like saying cancer ended with the development of chemotherapy,” said Moss. “We must forever proclaim that God is love. And love is of God.”

Following the meditation, participants from Birmingham, Atlanta and Dallas presented their cooperative service projects called Covenants of Action.

Dallas participants from Wilshire Baptist Church and Friendship-West Baptist Church presented the following Covenant of Action to address the problem of predatory lending in their community:

“The spirit of the Lord is upon us! We covenant before God and with each other to, ‘preach good news to the poor,’ in Dallas, Texas, by deepening the bonds of fellowship between Friendship-West Baptist Church and Wilshire Baptist Church and by acting jointly to confront predatory lending practices that disproportionately harm the vulnerable. We will do so by educating our churches, advocating for more just laws, and creating alternative credit sources that promote the welfare of the lenders and borrowers alike.”

Dallas participants in the summit included: Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, senior pastor, Friendship-West Baptist Church; Dr. George Mason, senior pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church;

Rev. Danielle Ayres, minister of justice, Friendship-West Baptist Church; and Rev. Heather Mustain, minister of missions, Wilshire Baptist Church.

Participants from Birmingham, Ala., created a covenant to address the problem of hunger.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon us! We covenant before God and with each other to, ‘preach good news to the poor’ in Birmingham, Alabama, by partnering with the Weekend Backpack Program to provide nutritious food to school children. These children are provided free breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, but are not guaranteed food over the weekend. Furthermore, we covenant to address the systemic issues related to food justice through an ongoing educational dialogue designed to explore our participation in finding solutions to end hunger in our community.”

Birmingham participants presenting this Covenant of Action included: Dr. Christopher Hamlin, pastor, Tabernacle Baptist Church; Rev. Terri Byrd, coordinator, Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; and Rev. Allan Burton, co-director, Hope Manifest.

Atlanta participants announced a Covenant of Action focused on literacy among youth.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon us! We covenant before God and with each other to, ‘set at liberty those who are oppressed,’ in Atlanta, Georgia, by strengthening the support system for young people. Our covenant is to work with youth in 8th grade and younger to dramatically increase their literacy skills through adopting reading initiatives, increasing the number of public computer labs in churches, and by sponsoring workshops and training for parents on 21st century parenting.”

These Atlanta participants included: Rev. Katrina Moore, director of next generation ministries and children’s pastor, Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church; Rev. Trey Lyon, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving alongside Park Avenue Baptist Church; Rev. Michael Wortham, assistant pastor for youth, young adult and college ministries, Ebenezer Baptist Church; and Rev. James Alexander, young leaders representative, New Baptist Covenant.

Participants from St. Louis and the U.S. Northwest region plan to release their covenant of action in the coming weeks. The two-day summit ended with a commissioning litany and communion.

Monday
Nov252013

New Baptist Covenant enters work phase

A broad coalition of Baptists from various organizations pledge to work together in their local communities.

Read the article on ABPnews.

Wednesday
Nov202013

New Baptist Covenant hosts 'Covenant of Action' commitments at the Carter Center

DECATUR, Ga. — Innovative Baptist leaders from diverse traditions and from five cities will collaborate on plans for cooperative ministry projects with fellow pastors from their city at a summit Thursday and Friday in the Atlanta area.

Participants will engage in workshops designed to help them create cooperative service projects called Covenants of Action, which will be tailor made to fit the passions, resources and needs of covenant partners in a particular community. A commissioning service for participants will be held at the Carter Center at 4 p.m. Friday.

These leaders — from Dallas, Birmingham, Ala.; St. Louis; Atlanta and the Northwest United States region — are a part of the New Baptist Covenant, a movement started by President Jimmy Carter in 2007, to break down barriers of race, theology, and geography among Baptists so that Jesus’ mandates found in Luke can be realized.

In Jesus’ first sermon, found in Luke 4: 18-19, Jesus says, “… the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight for the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Forming the foundation of this unprecedented collaboration is the Luke 4 passage and Baptists emphases on soul freedom, passion to help others to know God in personal experience, trust in the authenticity and authority of Scriptures, commitment to serve the weak and marginalized, valuing unity rather than uniformity and the autonomy of the local church.

President Carter expressed hope and expectation about the summit and the New Baptist Covenant movement.

“Baptists can do so much to bring healing and hope to the world that God so loved when we are united in shared service and common purpose,” he said. “I am eager to see the movement continue to grow, inspiring and energizing the Baptist family for generations to come.”

Hannah McMahan, the National Coordinator of the New Baptist Covenant, said that racial, theological, and associational barriers that have divided Baptists for too long.

“This will be the first round of covenant partnerships in a multi-year initiative that will engage numerous congregations from across the nation in the years to come. Over the next four years, we have plans to expand this effort and hope to facilitate 100 additional Covenants of Action across the nation,” McMahan said. “My hope is that through these Covenants of Action we will begin to reconcile our divided Baptist family and transform communities to reflect Jesus' Luke 4:18-19 vision of healing and liberation.”

The inaugural celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in January 2008 brought together more than 15,000 people representing over 30 Baptist organizations. A second national New Baptist Covenant meeting in 2011 focused on the plight of incarcerated men and women and participants across the country were challenged to take on the difficult issue of restorative justice. New Baptist Covenant coordinators are now ready to accelerate the movement on the local level.

Jeffrey Haggray, the former executive director of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention and a New Baptist Covenant programming co-chair with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Suzii Paynter, said the summit’s focus on local congregations within their larger communities is exciting.

“Whereas local churches are the most fundamental units of mission, the opportunity to develop Covenants of Action between local churches with the ultimate aim of reconciliation and transformation in their larger communities and among other Baptists is an exciting new venture,” he said.

At this year’s summit, national leaders will also engage in a time of collective planning as they consider how to nurture existing collaborative ministries and how to foster new opportunities for joint service and fellowship.

The keynote speaker is the Rev. Otis Moss, who served as a board member and regional director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during Martin Luther King Jr.’s tenure as founding president. Moss has been named as one of America’s Greatest Black Preachers. He is on the council of President Barack Obama’s White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and retired in 2008 after 33 years of service to the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

Pastors providing leadership from the five cities are from Dallas, George Mason, senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church; and Freddie Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church; from Birmingham, Ala., Chris Hamlin, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church and Terri Byrd, Coordinator of Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; from St. Louis, Jimmy Brown, pastor of St. Luke Memorial Baptist Church and Scott Stearman, senior pastor of Kirkwood Baptist Church; from Atlanta, Katrina Moore, director of next generation ministries and children’s pastor of the Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church; Trey Lyon, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel working alongside Park Ave Baptist Church; and Michael Wortham of the youth and college ministries at Ebenezer Baptist Church; from the Northwest, Chris Boyer, of the Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches; and A. Wayne Johnson, of the General Baptist Convention of the Northwest will attend.

—30—

The New Baptist Covenant is an informal alliance of more than 30 racially, geographically, and theologically diverse Baptist organizations from throughout North America that claim more than 20 million members. Representatives of these Baptist organizations have reaffirmed traditional Baptist values, including sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for public and private morality, as well as their obligations as Christians to fulfill the biblical mandate to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity.