As Baptists, we have been called to champion the weak, to honor the diverse workings of the Holy Spirit, and, above all, to share the love of Christ with a hurting world. Yet, for far too long, barriers of race, theology, and geography have divided Baptists and diminished our witness. We have often been known more by our conflict than by our compassion.
Saddened by the discord in Baptist life, President Jimmy Carter determined to change this dynamic. In 2007, President Carter brought together prominent leaders from across the Baptist family. These leaders represented more than 30 Baptist organizations and over 20 million people. He challenged them to explore new and creative opportunities for fellowship and cooperation. From this effort, the New Baptist Covenant movement was born, and Baptists were called forward to a new day of purpose and promise.
Participants in this exciting renewal movement have agreed to come together in order to celebrate that which binds them together. The Baptist emphasis on soul freedom, passion to help others to know God in personal experience, trust in the authenticity and authority of the Scriptures, commitment to serve the weak and marginalized, valuing unity rather than uniformity, and the autonomy of the local church – these Baptist ideals are the foundation of this unprecedented collaboration of Baptists called the New Baptist Covenant.
The inaugural celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in January of 2008 marked a historic event in the life of Baptists. This highly successful meeting brought together more than 15,000 people representing over 30 Baptist organizations. As a watershed moment in Baptist history, this gathering served as a catalyst for new relationships and collaborations that have begun to heal the racial, geographic and theological divides in the Baptist family.
The second national New Baptist Covenant meeting in 2011 proved to be another important gathering. It was here that NBC II participants were moved by the plight of our incarcerated brothers and sisters in Christ and were challenged to take on the difficult issue of justice equality. Additionally, NBC II continued to break new ground by using innovative technology to broadcast its program to various satellite locations across the nation, ensuring that Baptists everywhere had access to the celebration.
The New Baptist Covenant movement marks a major turning point in the life of Baptists. Never before has such a diverse array of Baptists so enthusiastically come together to work for the expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth. All across the country, Baptists from different racial, theological, and geographic backgrounds have gathered to work side by side to care for the world that God so loved. The value of the relationships built through the New Baptist Covenant cannot be overestimated. Friendships have deepened, partnerships have developed, lives have changed, and communities renewed.