A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Raise Hell! In Memory of Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins is dead.

She was merely 62 years old.

From her obituary at The Texas Observer...

Syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins died of breast cancer Wednesday evening at her home in Austin. She was 62 yearsold, and had much,much more to give this world.

She remained cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government,and consequently never had to write fiction. She said,“Good thing we’ve stillgot politics—finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”

Molly Ivins was one colorful Texan. Eloquent, witty, and one heckuva writer.

Below are a handful of my favorite Molly Ivins quotes. I saved the best for last...

“You can't ignore politics, no matter how much you'd like to.”

“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”

I know vegetarians don't like to hear this, but God made an awful lot of land that's good for nothing but grazing.

In Texas, we do not hold high expectations for the governor's office; it's mostly been occupied by crooks, dorks and the comatose.

I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

“The entire state now stands as proxy for W. Bush, under attack for political reasons, ... The rest of the country likes to look down on Texas as a nest of yahoos, racists and rednecks.”

I still believe in Hope - mostly because there's no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas.

“The entire state now stands as proxy for W. Bush, under attack for political reasons, ... The rest of the country likes to look down on Texas as a nest of yahoos, racists and rednecks.”

I still believe in Hope - mostly because there's no such place as Fingers Crossed, Arkansas.

“Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.”
On a more serious note, here is a snippet from Molly's last column dated January 11, 2007:
We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there.

People are dying.

Our President is determined to escalate this nightmare of a mistake. We're living a bad dream and our elected officials can't seem to wake up.

Congress is playing politics on Capitol Hill. Republicans are trying to save their jobs and Democrats are too scared to lead. The Senate is fighting over which friggin non-binding resolution to support, if any. Grow some, fellas.

Meanwhile, another 100 American Troops were killed this past month.

Just how many more of God's Children must die before this bad dream ends? Seriously.

Do your part. Remember the words of Molly Ivins and Raise Hell!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Brent Walker & BJC Discussed At The Daily Kos

Fred Clarkson of Talk2Action has written an exellent diary at The Daily Kos entitled Confronting Lies About The Separation of Church And State. He quotes extensively from Brent Walker's popular sermon Answering The Top 10 Lies About Church And State delivered in September, 2005 at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

Clarkson's diary comes on the heels of heated discussion between himself and several Democratic consultants.

Clarkson begins...
It has recently become fashionable among some Democratic Party consultants to advise candidates not to talk about separation of church and state. Among their publicly stated reasons is that the phrase is not in the Constitution, and it raises "red flags with people of faith." I have written about how such thinking is identitical to that of the religious right. I was called a lot of names for pointing this out, but the facts remain. I also pointed out that many religious people are not in infact, concerned about the cause and the language of separation, what's more they embrace it.
And here is how he ends...

So the next time you hear Democrats mouthing the slogans and Conventional Wisdom of the religious right, you might suggest that they take it up with the Baptists.
Check out Clarkson and if you haven't already, read Walker.

Below I have included Walker's Top 10 Lies Concerning Church And State...

1. Our nation's Founders were born-again, Bible-believing evangelical Christians, or our Founders were Enlightenment rationalists who worshipped the "goddess of reason," or our Founders were Deists who posited a watch-maker God and were suspicious of religious "enthusiasms."

2. We don't have a separation of church and state in America because those words are not even in the Constitution.

3. The separation of church and state comes from mid-19th century anti-Catholic bigotry and 20th century secularism.

4. The U.S.A. is a Christian nation.

5. Church-state separation only keeps the government from setting up a single national church or showing preference among denominations or faith groups, but not from aiding all religions on a non-preferential basis.

6. The First Amendment only applies to the federal government, not to the states.

7. The Ten Commandments form the basis of our legal system.

8. God has been kicked out of the public schools.

9. God has been kicked out of the public square.

10. The Baptist Joint Committee cares more about No Establishment than it does Free Exercise.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Gay-Friendly Authors Populate SBC's Lifeway Site

Yep. That's correct. The Southern Baptist Convention's bookstores are stocking their catalog/shelves with "gay-friendly authors," Wal-Mart style.

Horrors? Or Hypocrisy?

Not a believer. Check out this article from EthicsDaily.com

Here is a snippet...
In 2005 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution urging churches to be on guard against homosexual influences in public schools. But a conservative Web site says the nation's largest Protestant body might first want to get its own house in order by checking out shelves of the SBC's publisher, Lifeway Christian Resources.

Baptist Press last week bemoaned that Wal-Mart is still dabbling in support of "the homosexual agenda," despite warnings of a boycott by religious conservatives. A writer challenged readers to type the word "gay" into the search engine for Wal-Mart's online bookstore, reporting that more than 1,000 titles turn up.

On Friday Paul Proctor at NewsWithViews.com followed two earlier columns warning about Christian book sites that promote authors who are "heretics and false teachers" with a similar challenge.
Check out the list of Gay-Friendly books being sold by Lifeway at EthicsDaily.com. Follow their instructions and you can do your own search at Lifeway.

The Southern Baptist Convention is anti-gay. No argument there. In the last six months alone, Missouri Southern Baptists have threatened to boycott Wal-Mart due to their "pro-homosexual policies" and North Carolina Southern Baptists flat out kicked gay-friendly congregations to the curb. Ok, so what's the deal?

Why the double standard? Lifeway doesn't stock President Frank Page's Trouble With The Tulip but will sell Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church....

Southern Baptists, are you bothered?

Again, let me conclude this post with the words of the 13th Apostle - Rufus - from Kevin Smith's classic Dogma...

"And that, my friends, is hypocrisy..."

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Logical Extension of Christian Commitment

Wade Burleson has blogged extensively about the unjust firing of Dr. Sheri Klouda, Professor of Hebrew at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For details, see my last post entitled Remembering Addie Davis and Sheri Klouda.

In his latest post, Burleson writes...
I remind everyone, again, that the Klouda issue is NOT about 'women pastors,' which would violate our convention's official confession of faith, the 2000 BFM. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is not a church. Sheri Klouda is not a pastor. SWBTS is an institution of higher learning. Sheri Klouda teaches Hebrew and the theology. Nowhere does the Bible, the convention, or our official confession forbid this from happening. Some are of the opinion that a woman should not be in the position of professor in a school of theology, but when we let the opinions of a few select men become policy or dogma for the entire convention, then the fabric of our cooperation is ripped to shreds.
Burleson is correct. This skirmish being fought in the Southern Baptist Convention is not about "women pastors."

But it should be.

Surely, the equality of a woman within the confines of the workplace is just as important as the spiritual equality of a woman called by God to the Gospel Ministry of Jesus Christ???

1984 was a tumultuous year in the lives of many Baptists throughout the South. During the Spring of that same year, Cindy Harp Johnson was ordained by a small Southern Baptist congregation in Wolf Creek, Kentucky. A Baptist historian who observed the service wrote...
It was the laying on of hands that convinced me that Southern Baptist piety is stronger than dogmatism. Cindy knelt and the ordained preachers and deacons initiated the rite of the laying on of hands. Then, since the congregation authorizes ordination, all the members were invited to participate in that powerful symbol of "setting aside." They came, young and old, men and women. The formal laying on of hands turned into emotional embraces. Tears flowed freely. Then I caught sight of an old woman hobbling her way to the front, bracing herself on first one pew, then the next. It was Miss Eithel, the matriarch of the congregation and personification of Baptist feminine piety. She reached out for Cindy, hugged her close and said, "I love you, honey, and I'll support you, whatever you do." There was not a dry eye left in the place.

If they want to stop women from seeking ordination, Southern Baptists must give up much of their devotion. If they do, they may give up something of the Spirit as well.
I hope and pray that one day Wade Burleson and other Southern Baptists will realize that God does not discriminate on the basis of gender when choosing who is Called to preach the Good News of Our Lord - Jesus Christ.

Ordination is the logical extension of Christian Commitment.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Remembering Addie Davis and Sheri Klouda

In 1964, Addie Elizabeth Davis became the first woman to be ordained to the gospel ministry by a Southern Baptist congregation - Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. At the time of her ordination, Rev. Davis was a student of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Not all Baptists in the Durham area took kindly to Davis' ordination. She received dozens and dozens of letters spewing with vitriol. One of these letters urged Davis to "learn from her husband." Davis never married. One man from Richmond, Virginia demanded that Davis renounce her ordination. Another man called her "a child of the Devil."

Unable to find a pastoral position in a Southern Baptist church, Davis had to leave the South in order to practice the vocation given to her by God. Eventually, Davis was called to pastor First Baptist Church in Readsboro, Vermont. According to David Stricklin, author of A Genealogy of Dissent, Davis' experience showed how people's attitudes are conditioned by what they observe. Davis "once noticed some children of the congregation she was serving in Vermont 'playing church.' When one of the little boys wanted to take his turn being the preacher, his older sister admonished him saying, 'You can't be the preacher; only women are preachers!' Such was not the attitude of most of the people from the region of her upbringing."

Upon Addie Davis' death in 2005, Pam Durso remarked that "what made Addie Davis so remarkable was not her place in history as the first woman to be ordained by a Southern Baptist church; it was her humility, her compassion, and her warm spirit. She faithfully followed God's calling, serving three churches as pastor or co-pastor. Her focus in those churches was on caring for the people and being with them in times of crisis." Throughout her ministry, Davis often encouraged other women to "keep on dreaming and cherish the dream God has given you!"

Southern Baptists LOVE Controversy - or so it seems. Recently, several self-described Southern Baptist "Reformers" have decided to revisit the women's issue. Well, kinda. At the center of the latest SBC Controversy is a woman named Sheri Klouda. Dr. Klouda served as Professor of Hebrew at Southwestern Theological Seminary's School of Theology from 2002-2006. Dr. Klouda was denied tenure and essentially fired by Southwestern's President, Paige Patterson, for one reason and one reason alone - Dr. Klouda is a WOMAN.

After being chosen as President of Southwestern in 2003, there were rumors that women would no longer be allowed to take classes with men. In an attempt to clear up these rumors, Patterson stated that not only are women prohibited from serving as senior pastor but they are also forbidden from serving in a teaching or ruling capacity over men.

Take a moment and consider the consequences if such a rigid belief was actually put into action at all Southern Baptist churches....

Southern Baptists should be outraged by the actions of Paige Patterson. But Southern Baptists should not be surprised. Remember the tenured Professor of Theology that Al Mohler forced to resign in 1994? The outrage that Southern Baptists are currently experiencing SHOULD HAVE extended to both inerrantists and non-inerrantists alike.

Inconsistencies aside, almost 43 years after Addie Davis was ordained Southern Baptists are debating whether a woman has the authority to "teach" a man Hebrew or friggin Sunday School.

Fortunately, many of the self-described "Reformers" like Wade Burleson don't share Paige Patterson's "spooky fundamentalist" beliefs concerning the role of women in church life. Nonetheless, these "Reformers" would not invite Addie Davis to share their pulpit on any given Sunday. Women like Addie Davis are still unable to answer their call to the gospel ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention. Instead, the Addie Davis' of this world are forced to seek refuge in organizations such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the Alliance of Baptists.

Women such as Dr. Sheri Klouda should never ever be discriminated against because of their gender.

Same goes for these women.

Remember Addie Davis.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Democrats Seek To Reduce Abortions

Democrats are seeking to govern from the Middle on social issues according to The New York Times. Check it out.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 — The promise may not outlast their political honeymoon, but Democratic Congressional leaders say they are committed to governing from the center, and not just on bread-and-butter issues like raising the minimum wage or increasing aid for education. They also hope to bring that philosophy to bear on some of the most divisive social issues in politics, like abortion.

In their first days in session, Senate Democratic leaders reintroduced a bill that they said was indicative of their new approach: the Prevention First Act, which seeks to reduce the number of abortions by expanding access to birth control, family planning and sex education.

In September, I blogged about this bill sponsored by Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid. As Christians we should be committed to reducig the number of abortions in America. Governing from the middle requires that politicians start listening to the wishes of their constituents not voices from the Religious Right. According to this poll, 89% of adults in the United States favor more access to birth control options and 81% agree that those options should not be limited by income.

The Democrat's Prevention First Act is the first step towards creating a society in which the desperate realities that entice women to abort are reduced in severity.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Remembering Coretta and Martin

Almost one year ago I lined up outside of the Georgia State Capitol to pay my respects to Coretta Scott King, the wife of Dr. King. On that Saturday, thousands came out to remember and mourn the loss of a great American. Sadly, the number of white faces in the crowd of mourners could be counted on two hands. Present were thousands of mostly poor black men, women and children. Their coats were old and some torn and not sufficient for that cold afternoon in Atlanta. Bundled up the best they could, the mourners stood in line for hours to catch a glimpse of Mrs. King despite the cold weather, nasty wind, and light rain. It was clear that Coretta Scott King was not regarded as just the widow of Dr. King. She was much much more than that.

After Dr. King's death, Coretta Scott King continued to carry on his legacy. For years she fought hard to have his birthday recognized as a national holiday. Finally, in 1986 that dream was realized.

During the 1980s, Coretta Scott King voiced her opposition to apartheid by participating in a series of sit-in protests in Washington. These sit-in's prompted demonstrations throughout the United States against South African racial policies.

Coretta Scott King always advocated for world peace and was especially active in her opposition to the development of more and more nuclear weapons. She opposed both capital punishment and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. A supporter of women's rights, Coretta Scott King believed that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Thus, her advocacy for equality extended beyond the African-American community and into the LGBT community. She once stated that "homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood."

I'm reminded of the popular saying that "behind every great man is a great woman."

The legacy of both Dr. King and Mrs. King must never die.

"Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation." - Coretta Scott King

Sunday, January 14, 2007

John Edwards Remembers Dr. King

Yesterday, Senator John Edwards gave the Martin Luther King Jr. Day sermon at the historic Riverside Church in New York City.

You can listen to Edward's sermon here.

Here is a snippet from the AP article.
The former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee touched on poverty issues in his speech, as well as AIDS in Africa, energy independence and a proposed boost in the minimum wage.

But he saved his strongest words for the troop increase in Iraq, invoking King's condemnation of the Vietnam War as a betrayal of American values.

"Silence is betrayal, and I believe it is a betrayal not to speak out against the escalation of the war in Iraq," Edwards said to a sustained standing ovation.
40 Years ago, Dr. King stood behind the same exact pulpit at Riverside Church and called for an end to the Vietnam War.

On this holiday, I ask you to remember the words of Dr. King.

Take a moment of your time and read or listen to Beyond Vietnam.

Or read one of his other landmark speeches here.

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Baptist Press Spins Again...

Here is a snippet from a recent Baptist Press article compiled by Gregory Tomlin...
Carter and former President Bill Clinton announced their initiative Jan. 9 to unite moderate and liberal Baptists along issues that align with the Democratic Party’s political agenda. A proposed 2008 confab, “Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant,” will coincide with a U.S. presidential election year when Clinton’s wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D.-N.Y.), is a possible candidate.
First, the New Baptist Covenant seeks to unite more than just "moderate and liberal Baptists." The purpose of the Covenant is to unite Baptists in North America regardless of where they lie on the theological spectrum. Mr. Tomlin and the Baptist Press fail to mention that theologically conservative denominations are part of the North American Baptist Fellowship.

Present at the recent Carter Center gathering included representatives from denominations including the Seventh Day Baptist Conference, North American Baptist Conference USA & Canada, General Association of General Baptists, National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, and the Baptist General Conference (John Piper anyone?). Should I list more?

Tomlin and the Baptist Press staff suggest that the purpose of the New Baptist Covenant is to "unite moderate and liberal Baptists along issues that align with the Democratic Party's political agenda."

So, apparently the environment, sexual trafficking, racism, freedom of religion, poverty, and HIV/AIDS are not issues of concern for the Republican Party?? Shouldn't these worthwhile causes be at the top of any political party's agenda???

One can only hope that the Republican Party cares about the plight of the poor and for those suffering from AIDS both home and abroad.

And what does Hillary Clinton got to do with anything? She won't be attending - she's not Baptist. In fact, President Bill Clinton is not even listed as a speaker for next year's Celebration. President Clinton admitted that he attended the Carter Center gathering only as a "cheerleader." Keynote speakers to date include President Carter, Bill Moyers, and Marian Wright Edelman.

Again, what does Hillary Clinton got to do with anything???

It should be mentioned that George W. Bush addressed messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention less than 5 months before the 2004 Presidential Election.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Russell Moore - Confused?

I'm a fan of Russell Moore, Dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

No, BigDaddyWeave is not joking. I'm a fan of Big Russ for the same reason I enjoy FoxNews. Both are entertaining and I love to laugh.

Insightful? No. Outrageous? Yes.

Big Russ & Company may be a wee-bit confused based on his latest "commentary."

Moore writes...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Focus on the Family's Family News in Focus reports on the "New Baptist Covenant" confab of former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. At the same time, Chuck Todd and John Mercurio of Hotline TV find the place and timing of the gathering to be rather suspect: in South Carolina right between the state's Democratic and Republican primaries. Todd and Mercurio seem to think this has less to do with the prospects of Lottie Moon than with the prospects of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Tune in here.

Last time I checked, Atlanta had not relocated to South Carolina.

Georgia, Big Russ. The gathering is being held in Georgia - Atlanta to be precise.

The Gathering is suspect because it is held during the 2008 Presidential Primary season? But the primary is being held in South Carolina not Georgia? Oh please.

Keep floating those conspiracy theories, Big Russ.

We all need a healthy diet of laughter in our lives.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

2008 Baptist Convocation, Part Two

Yesterday, I blogged about the announcement of the 2008 Convocation of North American Baptists. Today, I'm posting a few good quotes from Baptists regarding this announcement.

“It excites me. I see it as a positive thing that will help the cause of Baptists and of Christ across the nation,” Vernon said. “I think what has happened is that across the nation the ‘voice of Baptists’ has been perceived as the Southern Baptist Convention. The new national alliance will broaden the voice of Baptists and be more inclusive of all strains of Baptists. This alliance is more reflective of who Baptists are.”

-BGCT President Steve Vernon

I know, we Baptists have a bad rep. We don’t like anything. We don’t dance. We don’t drink. We don’t smoke. And we fight all the time.

But that’s not what we’re about. We care about people. We seek to share Christ’s love with others. We provide food to the hungry, clothes to the naked. We provide a voice in government for those who don’t have one. We try to be Christ’s hands and feet here on earth.

And now, we’re coming together in a way that has never happened before. President Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton announced today a meeting designed to bring together all North American Baptists. We’re getting together to talk about ways we can better cooperate and work on issues like poverty, hunger and AIDS. We’re coming together to talk about God’s work. We’re coming together to be who God wants us to be.

And that’s the kind of people I want my daughter growing up around.

-Stories of Grace

"Good-will Baptists held a historic meeting today pregnant with potential for advancing the common good. The 2008 meeting will correct the misperception that the name Baptist is synonymous with fundamentalism, counter the misguided agenda of the Christian right and call for a new era in which Baptists recover a commitment to social justice."

Dr. Robert Parham, Executive Director of Baptist Center For Ethics

At least one Southern Baptist blogger has weighed in on next years Convocation. His perspective is below:

I respect President Carter for his work with Habbitat for Humanity. My opinion is he is a better former President than he was an active President. I believe he has a genuine faith, however I can’t figure out how he can be pro-abortion.

Tell me how President Clinton is going to give Baptists a better image? Has he repented of his public failings? When I think of President Clinton, I don’t think of faith in Christ, I think of a man who is a womanizer. He is pro-choice and pro-homosexual agenda. If he is re-shaping Baptists, then I don’t want to have any part of it.

What does Underwood mean we need a “true” Baptist witness? I don’t agree with everything the SBC does, but at least we have professors and missionaries who believe the Bible is inerrant.

Their idea of “progressive” is different than mine. I consider myself progressive in my methods but I am conservative when it comes to the Bible and faith. I agree that Baptists should be known for feeding the hungry and helping the needy. That is why our church has gotten involved in helping people in New Orleans. I also like the direction that Dr. Frank Page is leading the SBC to be known for what we are for rather than what we are against.

Personally, I don’t think we need to come together unless the Carter and Clinton group will agree to live by the principles of the inerrant Holy Bible.

Kevin Bussey of Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee

Monday, January 08, 2007

The North American Baptist Convocation

As I blogged about months ago, last April a group of Baptist leaders got together and signed the North American Baptist Covenant. Leaders of Baptist conventions and organizations who signed the Covenant represent more than 20 million Baptists.

From a Mercer press release...

ATLANTA -- Mercer University will host more than 50 representatives of various Baptist groups in the United States and Canada at the annual meeting of the North American Baptist Fellowship in Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday.

The North American Baptist Fellowship is one of six regional fellowships that are part of the Baptist World Alliance, which is made up of 214 Baptist unions and conventions comprising a membership of more than 34 million baptized believers. The BWA unites Baptists worldwide, leads in evangelism, responds to people in need and defends human rights.

“The North American Baptist Fellowship is grateful to Mercer University and President Bill Underwood for hosting our annual Executive Committee Meeting,” said Alan Stanford, executive director of the North American Baptist Fellowship. “This is an historic meeting because we will have the largest and most diverse group of Baptist leaders in the history of NABF coming together to plan joint ministry initiatives.”

The organization’s meeting will conclude with a Tuesday morning session at the Carter Center hosted by former president and prominent Baptist Jimmy Carter.

“As a Baptist university that is committed to the historic Baptist principles of academic and intellectual freedom and respect for religious diversity, it is entirely fitting that Mercer host the annual meeting of the Fellowship,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “The university is currently partnering with several of the Fellowship’s member organizations on missions, archival and educational initiatives. We welcome them to Atlanta and to Mercer.”

Baptist groups represented in the North American Baptist Fellowship include Canadian Baptist Ministries, Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA, Baptist General Association of Virginia, Baptist General Conference, Baptist General Convention of Texas, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Czechoslovak Baptist Convention of the USA and Canada, General Association of General Baptists, Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention USA, National Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention USA Inc., National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, North American Baptist Conference, Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc., Seventh Day Baptist General Conference USA and Canada, and the Union of Latvian Baptists in America.

In more exciting news for cooperating Baptists, President Carter and President Clinton will announce tomorrow (Tuesday) plans for a convocation to be held in Atlanta next year. The intent of the convocation is to improve the "negative" image of Baptists in North America "and to unite the majority of Baptists into a loose-knit network to address social ills."

More from the Associated Baptist Press article below...

A Jan. 7 press release said the "historic" convocation, to be held Jan. 30 - Feb. 1, 2008, is "expected to draw more than 20,000 Baptist participants from throughout the United States and Canada." Bill Underwood, president of Baptist-affiliated Mercer University, helped Carter organize the April 2006 summit and the Jan. 9 press conference.

He told Baptist leaders he hopes the 2008 convocation will be a way to draw attention away from "the Baptists who have the microphone" currently. Underwood said the only image most North Americans have of Baptists comes from conservative leaders who frequently appear on television news shows or other media. They represent some of the most negative rhetoric, most conservative political views and most fundamentalist theology among the broad range of Baptist denominations and congregations. "They are increasingly defining the Baptist witness in North America," he said.

"North America desperately needs a true Baptist witness," Underwood told leaders of the 30-plus Baptist denominational entities, which range from conservative to progressive. "There's no organization in this room that has a strong enough voice … but the organizations in this room together do have a strong enough voice." Underwood said Baptists need to be known for feeding the hungry, healing the sick and working for justice.

The organizations represented by meeting participants comprise about 20 million Baptists in North America, the event's organizers noted. That's more than the 16 million members claimed by the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist group in the world, whose leaders have moved sharply to the political and theological right in the last 25 years. While official SBC representatives have not been involved in the Carter initiative so far, organizers say they hope the convocation can include SBC leaders and other conservatives who are open to working with an array of Baptists more ideologically diverse than the denomination's leadership.

Carter and Clinton, both of whom will speak at the 2008 convocation, have identified with more progressive Baptist groups, but organizers said the convocation will include conservative speakers as well. In the April meeting, Carter, a former Southern Baptist, said he feels a need to create such a voice because of the schism the SBC experienced in the 1980s. "The most common opinion about Baptists is we cannot get along. … I have been grieved by the divisions of my own convention," he said at the time. Carter has been a longtime member, deacon and Sunday school teacher at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Ga. The church recently ordained his wife, Rosalynn, as a deacon -- a move most Southern Baptist leaders oppose. Clinton has recently joined Carter in lending his star power to the pan-Baptist effort. Although he attended Washington's Foundry United Methodist Church with his Methodist wife, Hillary, during his years in the White House, Clinton is a longtime member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.

For years, I've been forced to explain to friends, classmates, and aquaintenances that I'm not THAT kind of Baptist. Finally, we have an opportunity to gather and fellowship with Baptists from around North America who wish to include and not exclude. Presidents Carter and Clinton will get most of the credit for organizing this occasion. However, much of the credit must go to Mercer President Bill Underwood and Walter Shurden of Mercer's Center For Baptist Studies. Perhaps even a few SBC leaders will choose to attend the convocation - who knows?

For those attending, see you in Atlanta!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Congressmen Swear on Purpose Driven Life

Check out the following "press release" from The Wittenburg Door. The Door gives me at least a few laughs each month, good stuff...

(January 6, 2007) -- In a controversy that eerily mirrors the recent dispute over a congressman's use of the Koran, several Christian representatives have asked to be sworn in on the best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life.

"We were asked to use the most meaningful text in our life," said Rep. John T. McGruder of Colorado Springs , from his state's seventh district. “And, as far as I can see, my Pastor preaches more from Rick Warren than the Bible."

McGruder and Rep. James R. Newhell of Wheaton (R-Ill) both petitioned Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to be allowed to use the famous evangelical guidebook in the swearing in ceremony at the Capitol.

Reactions from other Congressman and public figures were mixed. "I see no reason not to allow others to use their own books -- as long as ALLAH AKBAR!" shouted Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn). Rep. Ellison, who is a Muslim, had requested to use the Koran for his swearing in ceremony and is, apparently, the inspiration for the requests from Representatives McGruder and Newhell.

Well-known talk show host Dennis Prager was among those who roundly condemned Rep. Ellison’s request. Prager, who is Jewish, was also opposed to the use of The Purpose Driven Life.

"I don’t understand why a Christian wouldn’t use the Bible, especially an evangelical,” Prager asked rhetorically. “Do they think they've used up all the material there?" Other evangelicals welcome the change.

"This open-mindedness is truly godly," said Lincoln Bradford, pastor and noted praise-song author. "I hope eventually they'll use more personally inspiring items – worship music CDs, Ron Dicianni paintings, the ‘Foot Prints in the Sand’ poem. This country and the modern church were founded on a christian’s right to have a personalized relationship with God – regardless of what’s in the Bible."

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