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New Baptist Covenant signals resurgence of reconciliation movement, Mandela colleague says


Jimmy Carter continues to put his faith into action


Allan Boesak, South African anti-apartheid activist, to speak at NBC at CBF's General Assembly, June 26, 2014.

Washington, D.C. Allan Boesak, South African anti-apartheid activist and celebrated theologian, will be the keynote speaker for the New Baptist Covenant luncheon at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly in Atlanta, Ga., June 26 at 11:30 am.

The New Baptist Covenant is 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.

Boesak, humanitarian and social justice advocate, serves as the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Global Justice and Reconciliation Studies at Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind.

A world renowned theologian and a preeminent authority on liberation theology, Boesak was one of South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid activists. In the struggle against South Africa’s violent and oppressive apartheid system, Boesak worked closely with fellow anti-apartheid leaders Nelson Mandela and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

After establishing himself as a respected theologian, receiving his doctorate in theology from the Protestant Theological University in Kampen, the Netherlands in 1976, Boesak went on to become an influential leader in the worldwide ecumenical movement. At the age of 36, Boesak was elected president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a fellowship comprised of more than 70 million Reformed Christians from more than 100 countries. With his election, Boesak became the youngest person, first African and the first person from the developing world to hold this position.  He was baptized as an adult by Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif.

Boesak has received numerous awards for his efforts on behalf of justice and reconciliation and in recognition of his theological and humanitarian leadership, including the Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award, the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award, Congressional Black Caucus Human Rights Award, the Roy Wilkins Civil Rights Award (NAACP) and the Honour Award from the Harvard University Foundation.

Many academic institutions from Yale University to Warwick University to Morehouse College have recognized Boesak with honorary doctoral degrees. Known for his powerful speaking, Boesak is a widely sought after preacher in many churches in South Africa, the United States and around the world.

A prolific author, Boesak has written nearly 20 books in addition to hundreds of articles on theology and cultural issues. His latest book, Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism, co-authored with Curtiss Paul DeYoung, examines the role of Jesus as a radical reconciler as well as the role of reconciliation in religious communities and in the wider society.

At the New Baptist Covenant luncheon, Allan Boesak’s address will be titled, “Chaos or Community: The Art of Reconciliation.”  He will share his experiences as an activist in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement and discuss the church’s role in the work of reconciliation now.   

During this time, the NBC Covenant of Action teams will also share their experiences in working to bring reconciliation to our Baptist family and Luke 4:18-19 transformation to their communities. Last November, delegations of Baptist ministers from Atlanta, Birmingham, St. Louis and Dallas met at the Carter Center in Atlanta, GA to form Covenants of Action.  These covenants were all cross-cultural partnerships designed to advance Jesus’ Luke 4:18-19 dream of social reconciliation and transformation.

Baptist ministers from Atlanta representing, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Park Road Baptist Church and Greater Piney Grove Baptist church pledged to work together to, ”set at liberty those who are oppressed,” by improving literacy rates among youth in Atlanta.  The Birmingham delegation, comprised of the Baptist Church of the Covenant, Tabernacle Baptist Church and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Alabama, covenanted to, “preach good news to the poor,” by reducing childhood hunger in their city.  The St. Louis team, including Kirkwood Baptist Church, St. Lukes Memorial Baptist Church, and Harrison Ave. Missionary Baptist Church, planned to, “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” by confronting poverty in St. Louis.  Dallas’s partnership, formed by Friendship-West Baptist and Wilshire Baptist Church, promised to “bring good news to the poor” by combat predatory lending in their community.  During the lunch, status reports will be given on these Covenants of Action.

Register for the Event 



The New Baptist Covenant is an informal alliance of more than 30 racially, geographically, and theologically diverse Baptist organizations seeking to reconcile our Baptist family and to live into the mandates found in Jesus' Luke 4:18-19 vision of healing and liberation.


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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.


Advocacy can unite Baptists

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

Read the article.