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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hillary Clinton Visits Wacky Waco, Texas

So, Mike Huckabee and his sidekick Chuck Norris were in Waco yesterday at the Hilton Hotel.

Had I not been stuck working at the Library on the campus of Baylor University, I would have been in attendance. Where better to meet real-live Southern Baptists?

But today, February 29, Senator Hillary Clinton will be holding a rally at the Waco Convention Center. As a good Democrat, I will make my way to Washington Avenue to experience a little history along with my sister, Andrea. Andrea has supported Hillary from-the-get-go.

We're bringing my almost 20-month old nephew Camden James to the rally - a rally which he will hopefully one day regard as his baptism into the Democratic Party. You can never start a Young Dem too young....

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

John Lewis: Decision Was Tougher Than Selma March

In my last post, I wrote about Congressman John Lewis' decision to endorse Senator Obama after previously pledging his support to Senator Clinton several months ago.

You can watch the interview below with The Congressman in which he states that his decision was tougher than his decision to march in Selma back in 1965. Take a listen - you can hear the struggle in his voice. While his claim may seem over-the-top to some, Congressman Lewis has said time and time again that his decision to march across that bridge over 40 years ago was not much of a decision for him. John Lewis was Called to march and march he did...

John Lewis: 43 years ago I marched across the bridge in Selma. That was much easier than the decision that I have to make but I had to make it.

Andrea Mitchell: You're saying that this decision was harder than the Selma March?

John Lewis: It was much tougher. All I had to do in Selma in 1965 was put on my trench coat and suit and backpack and walk and look straight ahead. But..

Andrea Mitchell: Congressman, you got your head beaten in...your face was covered with blood.

John Lewis: But this is tougher. I'm dealing with friends, people that I love, people that I admire, part of my extended family...

Listen or read Juan William's NPR interview with Congressman Lewis here.

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Rep. John Lewis OFFICIALLY Endorses Barack Obama

After endorsing Senator Clinton several months ago, my former boss and Civil Rights hero, Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, has OFFICIALLY endorsed Barack Obama and will be casting his Superdelegate vote for the Illinois Senator. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

WASHINGTON — Hoping to put an end to a month of confusion and dismay, Rep. John Lewis on Wednesday said he's switching his support from Sen. Hillary Clinton to Sen. Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Lewis cited the overwhelming preference for Obama in his district as a reason for his change of heart, but he also talked about Obama's campaign as transformational for the nation. "Something's happening in America, something some of us did not see coming," Lewis said. "Barack Obama has tapped into something that is extraordinary.

Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and an elder of the civil rights movement, at first sparked outrage from Georgia's African American community by backing Clinton, a friend, over Obama, the nation's first viable African American candidate.

Then confusion struck about a week ago when Lewis told the New York Times that, as a super delegate to the Democratic National Convention, he would feel compelled to vote for Obama as the nominee because his district – and the state's African American population overall – so overwhelmingly for Obama in the state primary.

Lewis's office later charged that the story was inaccurate but did not clarify who Lewis was actually backing. In an interview in his congressional office, Lewis said the decision to switch his support was a difficult one, a choice between a longtime friend and a little-known black man.

"I did it because I felt I had to support Mrs. Clinton because of our friendship," Lewis said. "But also I thought she was ready to lead. Lewis had placed a called to Clinton's office Wednesday morning but hadn't heard back from her. He also had a Please-Return-The-Call message of his own from Obama. By midday, he still hadn't returned it.

"It's been a long, hard and difficult struggle to come to where I am now," Lewis said.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

IRS Investigates UCC Over Obama Speech

A little breaking news:

Apparently the IRS has opened an investigation into Senator Barack Obama's address at the United Church of Christ's 2007 General Synod. The UCC is accused of engaging in "political activities." See the actual IRS letter here. A snippet from the press release is below:

The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, called the investigation "disturbing" but said the investigation would reveal that the church did nothing improper or illegal.

Obama, an active member of the United Church of Christ for more than 20 years, addressed the UCC's 50th anniversary General Synod in Hartford, Conn., on June 23, 2007, as one of 60 diverse speakers representing the arts, media, academia, science, technology, business and government. Each was asked to reflect on the intersection of their faith and their respective vocations or fields of expertise. The invitation to Obama was extended a year before he became a Democratic presidential candidate.

"The United Church of Christ took great care to ensure that Senator Obama's appearance before the 50th anniversary General Synod met appropriate legal and moral standards," Thomas told United Church News. "We are confident that the IRS investigation will confirm that no laws were violated."

According to the article, the crowd at the General Synod was admonished that Obama's appearance was not to be a campaign-related event and that electioneering would tetolerated. Thus, no political leaflets, signs or placards were allowed and Obama's campaign was barred from the arena.

The IRS letter takes issue with the fact that 40 Obama volunteers staffed campaign tables outside of the Hartford arena. But since the campaign was barred from inside the arena - that seems to be a moot point. Further, the letter points out that under tax law, if a candidate is invited to speak in his or her capacity as a candidate, then other candidates running for the same office must also be invited to speak. However, as the article indicates, Obama was invited to address the General Synod one year before he announced his intention to run for President. Obama is a member of the largest congregation affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It seems that his appearance at the General Synod was as a private person.

If Mike Huckabee was invited to address the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June, I can't imagine the SBC also extending an invite to John McCain or any other candidate. As a well-known Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee should be afforded the same free exercise rights as Barack Obama would as a well-known UCCer.

You can read Obama's speech from last summer here (video).

The speech is not partisan. It's not a stump speech. During his address to the General Synod, Obama recounts his spiritual journey which led to his choice to accept Jesus Christ after hearing a sermon called "The Audacity of Hope" delivered by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Using the "God is Still Speaking" theme of the United Church of Christ and invoking the memory of Dr. King, Obama calls on the crowd to rededicate themselves to a new kind of politics - a politics of conscience. That kind of politics - a politics of conscience - should resonate with all Baptists who seek to apply their Christianity to all aspects of life.

From the information that has been released, this investigation seems to be much ado about nothing.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The "New Evangelicalism" & the "Evangelical Centrist"

Greg Warner of the Associated Baptist Press has a published the first installment of a two-part series that examines whether an "evangelical center" will emerge to rival the waning Christian Right.

Relying mostly on quotes from Baptist theologian Roger Olson, Baptist ethicist David Gushee and Anabaptist activist/author Jim Wallis, Warner's piece is indeed quite interesting. Check it out first.

Here's a snippet:
(ABP) -- If the Religious Right is losing its influence, as many pundits predict, will it be replaced by the "other" evangelicals -- a center-and-left coalition with a broader social agenda and a kinder, gentler brand of cultural engagement?

Advocates say centrist evangelicals are a bona fide constituency that is re-emerging after three decades spent underground -- or at least ignored by the media and society at large. Though these other evangelicals have no dominant spokespersons and no representative organization, at least not yet, they say they are every bit as worthy of the "evangelical" label as their counterparts on the right -- and every bit as numerous.

In fact, Christians can "be more evangelical by being less conservative," argues Baptist theologian and author Roger Olson. And he's written a book to tell them how.

"Evangelicals are leaving the Religious Right in droves!" added Christian activist Jim Wallis, for three decades the social conscience of the evangelical left. "This evangelical center is getting so big."
Ok, so what exactly is an EVANGELICAL CENTRIST?

I'm not sure. Greg Warner doesn't exactly define that term.

David Gushee (whom Warner defines as a centrist Baptist) would seem to define an EVANGELICAL CENTRIST as a person who is "fed up with the right's 'slash and burn' approach." You know, folks from my generation - the guys and gals that "are turned off to the culture war mentality and all the anger" according to Gushee. Or perhaps an EVANGELICAL CENTRIST is simply a evangelical with a social agenda that reaches beyond abortion and homosexuality? You know, evangelicals that care about poverty, war and peace, immigration reform, torture, Africa and Creation Care.

Terms like "centrist" and especially "progressive" are extremely problematic. Later in this article, Warner uses the term "progressive" to describe theologian Robert Olson's employer Baylor University. So, what does progressive in this context mean exactly? I go to Baylor. I like Baylor. But what makes Baylor "progressive" ? I doubt any member of the Board of Regents or Administrator at Baylor University would use the tag "progressive" to describe Baylor. Defining terms is a difficult task indeed but it's a task which must be accomplished. I digress...

Jeff Sharlet is a regular contributor to magazines like Harper's and Rolling Stone and for the past few years has served as the editor of The Revealer of NYU's Center for Religion and Media. In Jeff's most recent column, he argues that conservative evangelicalism is neither dead nor moving to the CENTER. Jeff also offers some great advice for journalists on the "God Beat." He writes:
Christian conservatism is neither dead, as widely reported by the secular press, nor becoming more “moderate.” Rather, many strands of Christian conservative thinking are broadening to encompass concerns long relegated to the back burner. This broadening makes the vision no less conservative, but rather differently conservative. It is, however, less predictable, less partisan, and in the terms of discussion allowed by establishment media, that makes it less influential. That may well be true according to the narratives of campaign strategists, but the loss of influence at the ballot box could easily translate into a greater influence on what evangelical intellectuals are fond of calling “the culture,” by which they mean a concept of the public sphere from which they feel excluded. They recognize that any American sphere that doesn't include them is a rather small bubble, indeed. The bullies among them want to muscle in and take it over. The most interesting activists among them want to pop it.

So how do we measure their influence? I have no idea. In the establishment press, you’re free to reject conventional wisdom if you have a new paradigm to propose. I don’t. My proposal is more modest: an end to paradigms. Instead, let’s gather data. Not survey responses but stories, the kind that don’t necessarily have morals, that don’t always come to a “point.” Just like this first column for ReligionDispatches, a manifesto for messiness in writing about religion, politics, and media. Journalists, editors, scholars, my comrades on the God beat: Please, don’t tidy up the narrative of religion in America to conform to the demands of election season op-ed pages. Reveal it for what you, better than any individual believer or unbeliever, know it to be: wildly pluralistic, profoundly unstable, ingeniously conformist, weird, funny, tender, banal, and infused with wit, gloriously difficult to define.
Christian conservatives = no less conservative but rather differently conservative.

That's an analysis that I can buy.

I'm glad these "evangelical centrists" like Rick Warren are less partisan and have embraced a broader social agenda. I'm glad that they don't blame the Jews, the Lesbians, the Pagans, and everyone else for 9/11. Kudos to them. But at the end of the day, how many Rick Warren types are going to vote for a Pro-Choice, Pro-Gay Rights Democrat in November? Abortion and homosexuality have been the bread-and-butter issues of the Religious Right for a reason - they sell. Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas represent much of what Christian conservatives believe to be wrong with America.

What's changed? So, maybe some "evangelical centrists" have bought Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth hook, line, and sinker. Great. But will the interest of Christian conservatives in a plethora of social issues outweigh their commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade and rolling back gay rights when confronted with the ballot box in November. I have my doubts.

Over at the Talking Points Memo Cafe, Richard Parker asks how many of these new moderate or "compassionate evangelicals" like Rick Warren actually believe that both the Government and the Church are part of the solution? Apparently, Warren does not.

Parker compares the "new evangelicalism" of "centrists" like Warren, Czik and others to the shift that white evangelicals went through in the 1950s, when a younger generation of evangelicals such as Billy Graham were thought to foreshadow "the death of an older conservative and often vitriolic fundamentalism, that had once been openly anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, and unapologetically racist." But as Parker points out, Billy G. wasn't exactly progressive. He never publicly supported Dr. King or condemned George Wallace in Alabama. Billy kept quiet in the aftermath of Selma where a young John Lewis had his head repeatedly bashed with a billy-club. Parker writes:
While that was then and this is now, consider the current claims made for a kinder, gentler “compassionate evangelicalism” today. What, for example, exactly are these Great Awakeners ready to do about the problems of the environment and global poverty? Have Richard Cizik and the NAE been calling for government-mandated fuel efficiency standards or higher gasoline taxes or required production of hybrid vehicles? Has Rick Warren, who has “embraced” the problem of global poverty, told us how he’s going to solve it?

He has apparently decided how he's not going to solve it. Here’s Warren two weeks ago rebuking a conservative columnist who called Warren a “statist like Jim Wallis” (Wallis—because he actually votes for Democrats, is married to an Anglican priest, and was raised in a Northern evangelical denomination—is still treated like a leper by the most of his ostensibly “new evangelical” colleagues):

“Actually, I completely disagree with Jim Wallis’s big government approach to poverty," Warren wrote. "The answer is not aid, but trade, not subsidies but freer markets, not wealth redistribution but wealth creation. not the government but local congregations. Saddleback’s P.E.A.C.E. plan is the exact opposite of outdated and ineffective liberal social government programs that have failed.

"We believe the answer is the Church, not bigger government.

And Parker concludes:

Even the much-vaunted rise of young evangelicals’ disillusionment with the GOP—according to Pew’s recent polls—turns out to be anything but a sharp turn away from conservatism. Young evangelicals began the Bush years as stronger GOP supporters than their parents, according to Pew; all evangelicals have declined in their support of Bush—but consistently are much more supportive than the rest of the country; young evangelicals are in greater numbers telling pollsters that they’re independent that Republican---but almost none are moving to become Democrats or call themselves liberal. And most evangelicals, young and old, remain active supporters of the death penalty, opposed to abortion, and while more “concerned” about poverty, AIDs and the like than in the past, are remarkably unclear on what exactly should be done to solve those problems.

In conclusion, I prefer to take the "Let's Wait and See" approach of Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest University Divinity School. I won't be foolish like Jim Wallis and proclaim that the Religious Right is dead or that we're living in a post-Religious Right era. And I won't claim that this "new evangelicalism" whose members Greg Warner dubs as "evangelical centrists" are truly less conservative than the older generation. A lack of hate-mongering does not make one a "centrist" or a "moderate" or a "progressive."

So, let's "wait and see."

But in the meantime, perhaps we should determine what an "evangelical centrist" actually is, who is included in this category, and how this "middle way" is in practice "new" or "transformative" ???


Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Texan* For Obama - Sí Se Puede!

On Thursday Night, I along with around 1500 or so Texas Democrats were packed shoulder-to-shoulder in The Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Austin.

Together, we watched the Presidential Debate between Senators Clinton and Obama on CNN. Afterwards, we heard the music of country singer Kelly Willis followed by short speeches from various State Reps and State Senators. The night concluded with an appearance by Senator Clinton + Chelsea and after a rather lengthy wait, we heard from the rockstar himself, Senator Barack Obama.

Tickets were $50 a pop - my ticket was a Feb. 14 gift. But the cheese was free. And the wine was $7 per glass. Fortunately for my wallet, my years growing up in south Georgia has left me too redneck to be a Wine & Cheese kinda guy.

I'd say that all would agree that it was $50 well spent. It's not often that one gets to stand 15 feet from two high profile Presidential candidates - one of which will undoubtedly be the 44th President of these United States.

A guy behind me filmed the speeches of Senators Clinton and Obama. They are below. My left hand emerges to take a picture at about the 4 minute mark during Obama's speech! To see the handful of half-decent one-handed pictures I was able to take, click here.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton @ Univ of Texas

After a long week of thesisizing on Southern Baptists AND a late night trip to the Emergency Room due to a rather bizarre allergic reaction to Advil, thebigdaddyweave is preparing to journey South on I-35 to Austin. My destination is the Hyatt Regency where I will join many fellow Dems at the Debate Watch Party sponsored by the Texas Democratic Party.

After tonight's debate being held at the University of Texas, Clinton and Obama will mosey on over to the Hyatt and make an appearance.

And I'll be there to greet the next President of the United States.

So, make sure to watch the debate tonight on CNN.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Hillary or Barack? John Lewis' Struggle To Decide

My former boss and Civil Rights hero, Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, has announced that he will be casting his Superdelegate vote for Senator Barack Obama. Or did he?

Here's the article in The New York Times from Friday, February 15.
MILWAUKEE — Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.

“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”

Mr. Lewis, who carries great influence among other members of Congress, disclosed his decision in an interview in which he said that as a superdelegate he could “never, ever do anything to reverse the action” of the voters of his district, who overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama.

But on Saturday, Congressman Lewis was keeping quiet. From the AJC:

Rep. John Lewis refused to say Saturday if he plans to vote for Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's national convention in August.

But while Lewis would not address the issue, it was a dominant theme all around him. Lewis (D-Ga.) was in Atlanta for a City Hall news conference about the proposed Ralph David Abernathy Center for Civil Rights History and Wax Museum. Lewis, himself an icon of the civil rights movement, said he was there only to remember his friend, the late Rev. Abernathy.

"I'm not going to make any political statements today," Lewis said in response to questions. The congressman caused an uproar in Democratic presidential politics on Thursday when he apparently told a New York Times reporter that he would cast his ballot at the convention for Obama, rather than Hillary Clinton, whom he previously had endorsed.

On Friday, Lewis' office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Times story was "inaccurate" but refused to give any other details and has not responded to requests for clarification. Jeff Zeleny, the Times reporter who wrote the original story, told the AJC on Friday that Lewis was clear in his support for Obama.

Lewis is one of 13 so-called superdelegates from Georgia, party leaders and elected officials who can cast a delegate's ballot at the national convention for any candidate, regardless of the outcome of the vote in his or her state or district. Georgia, and the voters in Lewis' 5th District, overwhelmingly backed Obama in the Feb. 5 Democratic presidential primary.

The Congressman's 5th district is an urban one, centered on Atlanta and encompasses College Park, East Point, Druid Hills and parts of Decatur (Dekalb County). With an African-American majority, the 5th district ranks 6th in the nation for percentage of gay and lesbian couples in the adult population at 10.8%. The Congressman's 5th district voted OVERWHELMINGLY for Barack Obama in the Georgia Primary on February 5.

This paragraph from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sums up The Congressman's struggle:

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) is one of Lewis' oldest friends in Congress. Clyburn is the House majority whip. Lewis is his chief deputy. The two first met in 1960 during the civil rights movement in Atlanta. "I had a long talk with John yesterday," Clyburn said Friday in a telephone interview from his district office in Columbia. While Clyburn would not divulge what Lewis said, he shared that "John is wrestling with this." For many African-American leaders like Clyburn and Lewis, Obama's rise is in many ways what the civil rights movement was about: working for the day an African-American had a legitimate chance to be president. For Lewis, the situation is complicated by his close relationship and support for Clinton. "It's got to be tough," said Clyburn, who did not endorse before the Jan. 26 South Carolina primary and would not say for whom he would cast his own superdelegate ballot in Denver in August. "Most of us have grown up looking forward. You look forward to being part of making history. I guess a lot of us have been dealt a tough hand to have to try and make that choice."

I hope Congressman Lewis casts his vote for Barack Obama. But not because Obama is black. And not because of pressure from his constituents to ratify their decision. I believe Congressman Lewis should cast his vote for Obama because Lewis' ethic of nonviolence is more compatible with the positions taken by the Senator from Illinois.

We need a President committed to peacemaking.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Broadway Baptist Church Controversy: Finale

The ongoing Controversy at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth has made its way from the world wide web and blogosphere into several secular newspapers.

First, an article titled Broadway Baptist group seeks ouster of pastor written by Max Baker appeared in the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.

Also, The Christian Post has an article titled, Baptist Conflict Intensifies with Call to Oust Pastor.

Today, the Dallas Morning-News printed an article authored by Sam Hodges titled Members of Fort Worth's Broadway Baptist Church call for pastor's firing. Here's a snippet:

Deacons of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth are recommending that an anniversary pictorial directory have no family photos, an effort to defuse a controversy over whether gay couples should be included.

But troubles for the moderate Baptist congregation are mounting, with some members calling for the firing of Senior Minister Brett Younger, saying he has mishandled the directory issue and led the church in too liberal a direction on homosexuality and theology.

And the conclusion:

Dr. Younger and the deacons had asked Broadway members not to debate the church's troubles in the press, and they have almost unanimously obliged. But the latest developments, including statements for and against Dr. Younger, have made their way onto Web sites and blogs.

More and more, church fights are playing out on the Internet, said Quentin Schultze, a professor of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College in Michigan.

"It tends to make it more difficult to come to a peaceful agreement," he said.

Finally, Ken Sury has a short column on the website of the Waco-Tribune. Here it is:

The religion blog on the Dallas Morning News has this entry about some members of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth calling for the dismissal of pastor Brett Younger over a pictorial directory.

Younger, a Baylor alum who previously pastored at Lake Shore Baptist Church, is scheduled to speak at Chapel at Baylor on Feb. 27. He also is the author of the book Who Moved My Pulpit? and writes ongoing columns for Baptists Today and the online editions of the Baptist Standard.

The two bloggers who took this Controversy public in the blogosphere have also weighed in:

How are we going to act? by The Whited Sepulchre (spouse of Broadway staffer)

The Battle for Broadway by J. Coleman Baker (Broadway member)

The Whited Sepulchre has decided to stop the chitter-chatter and stay silent on Broadway issues for the time being. J. Coleman Baker of ProgressiveBaptist.net is not taking that vow of silence.

He writes:

Yesterday, after reading The Whited Sepulchre’s statement that he would stop blogging about Broadway Baptist for a while, I was tempted to follow his lead. But then, I discovered that The Fort Worth Star-Telegram had printed an online article referencing my site. Then this morning there was this article in print and on the web. Needless to say, the terribly painful news about BBC is now out in the open, and I see no reason to stop blogging.

Those on the other side think that if we fire Younger, we will be on the path to being the historic, conservative church they want. That is not the case. If they succeed in firing Younger, we will still have all the same questions, conflicts, and problems that we currently face.

My hope, and the hope of a vast number of BBC members, is that rather than focusing on the pastor, we would begin to focus on the matter of direction and future. Let’s begin a process of determining what kind of church BBC will be. Let’s all agree to enter a process of dialouge and decision. Let’s listen to each other, pray with each other, and move forward in God’s hope.

And in the end, let’s agree to respect the decision of the majority of the church. And if we don’t like the kind of church Broadway comes out as on the other side, let us gracefully exit.

A couple of notes: J.C. Baker's reasoning behind his decision to continue blogging is weird to say the least. It was he who helped publicize the "terribly painful news about BBC." Once folks like Robert Saul took their complaints to the web and once folks like Baker and The White Sepulchre responded to those complaints in the blogosphere, it was inevitable that secular newspapers, Christian publications and other bloggers such as myself would report on that conflict.

The solution that the deacons reached sounds utterly ridiculous. No family photos? Will the infants and toddlers have to pose ALONE for the church directory as well? If photographed alone, I suspect some families will take up an entire page!

More pictures = more money for Olan Mills, I guess.

At least someone comes out on top in this Controversy.

Such an odd compromise is only a temporary solution to the bigger problems that Broadway obviously faces. Read J.C. Baker's post. I think he understand that. He writes that Broadway needs to, through dialogue and discussion, "begin the process of determining what kind of church BBC will be." Sounds like a wise guy. Calm discussion and honest dialogue are always preferred over fighting and bickering. And at least both sides of this controversy are committed to seeing Broadway remain a Baptist church. The last thing Baptist life needs is another historic church ashamed of actually being Baptist.

Please see: The 5-Part series on The Broadway Baptist Church Directory Controversy

Part 1: The Broadway Baptist Church Directory Controversy (11/16/07)
Part 2: Broadway Baptist Postpones Directory Decision (12/2/07)

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Follow-Up On Recent Broadway Baptist Controversy

Please see my original post on the latest controversy at Broadway Baptist Church here.

Below is a follow-up to that post.

Around 220 members have released a Response to the newly formed "Friends for the Future of Broadway" which I discussed in my previous blog.

Here's the letter posted from J.C. Baker's website:
We are deeply saddened about the letter mailed this week by a group calling themselves “Friends for the Future of Broadway.” Saddened because we fundamentally disagree with this course of action, but equally saddened because the letter sent by Robert Saul is replete with inaccuracies and things about our church and about our pastor that are just not true.

We believe the primary question is:

What type of church do we believe God wants Broadway to be?

There is room for discussion on this issue. There should be debate about this critically important question. There is not room, however, for actions that lead to mistrust and miscommunication in that discussion. This must cease. There is room for grace and love within our diversity. This must increase.

We are committed to the path of peace and harmony and goodwill. We ask you to join us in those high principles. We must not give up on a Broadway that reflects these values and principles.
On another note, I'd like to make a comment about one of the criticisms hurled at Broadway pastor Brett Younger.

Below is one reason given by the Friends group to "Vacate the Pulpit"
(d) Invitation to preach extended to a very controversial theologian
The Pastor extended an invitation to preach from the pulpit to a very controversial theologian, Dr. Marcus J. Borg, whose published theological views are well outside Broadway's own historical moderate Baptist heritage based on timeless core foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. While Broadway has always appreciated diverse theological perspectives, the pulpit has been considered the source of Christian proclamation. This invitation was extended while the members were still struggling with the church directory crisis created by the Pastor. The Pastor withdrew the invitation to preach from the pulpit, but only upon the strong objections of several church members.
According to a blogger who is a member at Broadway, the invitation to Marcus Borg to speak at Broadway Baptist was scheduled well over one year in advance and not during the church directory controversy as the Friends group claims.

The same blogger who took the latest episode of the Broadway controversy to the blogosphere had this to say about Borg:
First of all, I believe that outside of various primitive tribal enclaves, Dr. Borg's controversial theological views could now be classified as "Mainstream Protestant". Second, I don't believe that there's any such thing as a "historical moderate Baptist heritage". When Broadway and several other churches split off from the Southern Baptists, all sorts of jokes were made about "Moderate Baptist" being a contradiction in terms. (My Baptist heritage includes a lot of people healing cripples in the gospel tents of Mississippi.) Our "historic moderate Baptist heritage" is whatever we made up about twenty years ago. It's still a work in progress.
Outside of various primitive tribal enclaves? This guy is off his rocker but we'll let that go.

I read Marcus Borg regularly over at ON FAITH. Borg is an excellent writer and an incredible communicator. With that said, all will tell you that Broadway is a diverse church with multiple constituencies. It's not everyday that you find a CBF/Texas Baptist church with SBC seminary employees and gay couples as members!

However, Marcus Borg's theology is well outside of Broadway's moderate Baptist heritage. I don't see how a church that affirmed the 1963 version of the Baptist Faith & Message only 8 years ago could argue that Borg's theology is compatible with their own? How much in common could a church and its members share with liberal theologian Marcus Borg if they can't even figure out whether to allow gay couples to pose together and smile pretty for Olan Mills???

Borg is a well respected theologian. But he is a well respected liberal theologian who does not believe that Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. Last time I checked, a denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ was not a position held by any "moderate Baptist."

Inviting Marcus Borg to fill the pulpit during the Easter season seems in poor taste.

But that's just the opinion of a young "moderate" Baptist who actually does take the Bible seriously but not always literally.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

More Drama & Division At Broadway Baptist Church

***This is an UPDATED Version****

Back in November, Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth made national news. A new pictorial directory was supposed to be part of Broadway's 125th birthday celebration. However, controversy erupted over three gay couples that asked to have their pictures included. Questions such as whether allowing the portraits to appear in the directory would be an endorsement of homosexuality were raised by some in the congregation. You can read more about that here and here and here for coverage from EthicsDaily.com

Early in December, Sam Hodges of the Dallas Morning-News reported that Broadway Baptist had decided to postpone any decision about whether to include the gay couples in the church directory until the deacons make a recommendation on February 24. In a prepared statement, Kathy Madeja, deacon chair, stated that: "We will continue to discuss this issue together as a church family. We do not want to rush to make a decision, but rather to continue to listen to each other and for God's leading for our church."

Apparently, not everyone has been listening and the situation seems to have exploded.

J. Coleman Baker, Broadway member and author of ProgressiveBaptist.Net, posted on his blog following the January 27th service that Broadway pastor Brett Younger had been offered $50,000 (by a church member representing a secret committee) to resign as pastor by the end of February. Baker's post was confirmed by this blog.

***Baker removed his post which snippets can still be found here, a few posts down.

This blogger (who notes that his wife is a youth minister at Broadway) reports that a group called Friends for the Future of Broadway has been formed. They have a website which is password protected. According to FFB, when a petition with 100 member signatures is obtained a special meeting "to vote to vacate the pulpit" must be called by the Deacon Chair in according with Broadway's By-Laws. Here is a statement released by FFB (I indexed it here):
Dear Fellow Broadway Members,

A sizable, informal, intergenerational group of Broadway Baptist Church members has come together recently. We initially met because of a common uneasiness over the multiple divisive issues that have been before the church. This group expanded over the past weeks, and after much prayer, discussion and research, we decided the congregation must determine our church’s future.

Many members are concerned about the general unrest and distrust that has been caused by having one issue after another during the last eighteen months degenerate into polarization, turmoil, tension, discord, divisiveness, loss of membership, and more importantly, the loss of trust and confidence in our pastor’s spiritual and administrative leadership.

We decided we had no choice but to move ahead and seek the signatures of more than 100 members to call a special meeting of the congregation to “vacate the pulpit.”

The church Bylaws have procedures to follow if the congregation desires to remove the pastor: Section 5.10 provides that “any church officer . . . may be removed by the Members whenever, in their judgment, the best interest of the Church would be served thereby.” Section 4.04 provides that “Special meetings of the Members . . . shall be called by the Chair if he/she is requested in writing to do so by at least 100 Members.”

We are now gathering those signatures and will submit them to the Chair of the Deacons so she can call the special meeting to vote to “vacate the pulpit.”

Our group, Friends for the Future of Broadway (the Friends Group), was not a participant in the events of January 24-30 wherein the Pastor was approached by a church member who proposed that the Pastor's voluntary resignation would be in his and the church's best interest because of the turmoil within the church. The church member who met with the Pastor is not a member of the Friends Group. The Friends Group was not a participant in the pledging of any funds mentioned in connection with the church member's meeting with the Pastor. The Friends Group had no advance knowledge of the meeting with the Pastor. The Friends Group was advised of the meeting after it had taken place.

We believe that our actions and plans are consistent with scripture and the church’s bylaws. It is with authority from these two sources that we are proceeding.

We are deeply concerned about our pastor, his future, and his family. We are equally concerned about our church. Our prayer is that God’s presence be in our midst as we all sincerely seek God’s leadership for Broadway, the church we all love.


Robert Saul
Spokesperson for Friends for the Future of Broadway

P. S. You may email me at info@ffbroadway.com with questions and suggestions.
Over at ProgressiveBaptist.net, J. Coleman Baker has posted several more snippets from the letter sent out by the Friends for the Future of Broadway Baptist Church. Here they are.
"When Dr. Brett Younger came to Broadway seven years ago, we were a divided church and desperately needed a pastor who could bring healing and unity. Today our church is more divided, and has some 26% fewer people attending Sunday School, than when Dr. Younger arrived. In addition, the Pastor has neglected Broadway’s own historic moderate Baptist theological heritage. And in the course of his pastorate the Pastor has abused Broadway’s policy and practice of self-governance toward his own ends."
"These members have the courage to make a stand, with the aim of rescuing their church and its future. With prayerful consideration of God’s direction, they have decided that it is time for the congregation to have the opportunity to determine the church’s future, by being able to vote on 'vacating the pulpit.'"
"Members of this group, Friends for the Future of Broadway (Friends Group) believe that the church should continue to welcome all kinds of people. They believe every church should minister to the poor. Broadway has been a leader in mission outreach to the underprivileged, and the Friends Group wants this to continue."
Baker, a Progressive Baptist and supporter of the Pastor and Staff, provides commentary here.

You can read the entire list of the group's concerns here. Below are a few of the reasons to "Vacate the Pulpit" given at the Friends website. Read that full list here.
1. The Pastor has demonstrated ineffective spiritual and administrative leadership by allowing, in the last year and a half alone, one issue/project after another (such as those listed below) to deteriorate into extreme divisiveness within the congregation, resulting in significant loss of membership.

(c) The picturing/listing of homosexual members as couples in the 125th anniversary pictorial directory.
The Pastor stopped the production of the directory because he objected to prior church policy and practice of not having homosexual persons pictured and listed as couples, and attempted to substitute his own format for the directory, without authorization from the Board of Deacons and the congregation. (With respect to homosexuals, Broadway has been a "welcoming" church, but not an "affirming" church [i.e., Broadway has not endorsed/affirmed homosexual practice]. The problem the Pastor created was that Broadway was perceived to be on the verge of endorsing or affirming homosexual practice by picturing and listing homosexuals as couples.)

(i) This stance eventually resulted in embarrassing adverse local and national publicity for Broadway, risked our church's being expelled from the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Tarrant Baptist Association, jeopardized the employment of church members (including staff) who are employed by other Christian organizations (one church member has already lost such employment), jeopardized the business of members whose work is with other Christian churches, and jeopardized some of Broadway's mission projects.

(ii) The Pastor publicly stated, long before the congregation became aware of the subject, that Broadway was an "affirming" church. In a story originally published in 2004 and republished December 12, 2007

(d) Invitation to preach extended to a very controversial theologian
The Pastor extended an invitation to preach from the pulpit to a very controversial theologian, Dr. Marcus J. Borg, whose published theological views are well outside Broadway's own historical moderate Baptist heritage based on timeless core foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. While Broadway has always appreciated diverse theological perspectives, the pulpit has been considered the source of Christian proclamation. This invitation was extended while the members were still struggling with the church directory crisis created by the Pastor. The Pastor withdrew the invitation to preach from the pulpit, but only upon the strong objections of several church members.
B. Departure from Broadway's own historical moderate Baptist theological heritage

1. The Pastor has taken Broadway, without authorization from the Deacons or the congregation, far away from its own historical moderate Baptist heritage based on timeless core foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. This is in spite of the fact that in October 2000, the congregation re-affirmed its adoption of the "Baptist Faith and Message," which it had originally adopted in 1963. Also, the Pastor's Job Description requires that he be "guided by…historic Baptist principles..." and have "significant … appreciation for Baptist polity, theology, and history."

2. The Pastor has neglected Broadway's association and cooperation with Tarrant Baptist Association, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, even though, in its Bylaws, the Church "recognizes the obligations of mutual counsel and cooperation which are common among Baptist churches of like faith and practice."

3. The Pastor has encouraged the teaching of the "emerging paradigm" view of Christianity in Broadway Baptist Church as an acceptable and legitimate alternative to traditional Christianity, even though:

(a) The "emerging paradigm" view of Christianity is in direct conflict with Broadway's historical practice of moderate Christianity, more specifically as described in the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, which was reaffirmed by congregational vote as recently as 2000, and

(b) The "emerging paradigm" view of Christianity is quite divisive. Marcus Borg's own theology posits two paradigms throughout the Christian world and within local congregations: the "earlier paradigm" and the "emerging paradigm." This presumes an ongoing conflict and continual division within the local congregation. Borg himself has said, "Both [traditional Christianity and the emerging paradigm] are present in the churches of North America today, deeply dividing Christians."

Note: The "emerging paradigm" is described by the controversial theologian, Marcus Borg, in his most recent book, The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus J. Borg, (2003) HarperSanFrancisco. Click here for an analysis of the "emerging paradigm" and a critique of Marcus J. Borg's book.

4. Many feel that Broadway's historic position as a moderate Baptist Church is being undermined by the pastor. Several years ago, after the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by fundamentalists, Broadway chose not to become a part of that movement. The Friends Group is opposed to the pastor's leadership away from our moderate Baptist heritage.
I don't know whether the newly formed Friends group will be successful in their attempt to "vacate the pulpit" or fire pastor Brett Younger. One thing for sure is that Baptist life has taken a turn for the nasty in Fort Worth. Both sides have taken this thing to the internet. During the initial directory controversy, both sides went straight to the blogosphere. And now, the Anti-Younger crowd has created a website for church members and a few Pro-Younger folks have headed straight to the Baptist Blogosphere.

In that regard, Broadway seems to be following in the footsteps of Bellevue Baptist Church of Cordova, Tennessee, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, Montrose Baptist Church of Rockville, Maryland, Germantown Baptist Church of Germantown, Tennessee and a handful of other prominent Baptist congregations that have publicized their church conflict via the blogosphere and world wide web.

Other Baptist churches that have gone public with their drama include Jerry Sutton's Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., First Baptist Church of Daytona, Florida, First Baptist Church of Colleyville, Texas and First Baptist Church of Raytown, Missouri. In the cases of FBC Daytona, pastor David Cox resigned after having been attacked for an expensive sanctuary renovation. Sam Shaw, pastor of Germantown Baptist Church resigned due in part to his unsuccessful proposal to shift the church's governance to elder-led instead of congregation-led. As Brian Kaylor reported for EthicsDaily.com last summer, in many of these lay-led conflicts, dissident members established web sites to explain concerns and garner support which often led to coverage from local and national media.

Todd Rhoades, who writes about conflict and other church leadership issues at www.mondaymorninginsight.com, has noted that while such church conflicts are not new, the technology has changed the nature of the fights. According to Rhoades this "trend is not going to go away, my fear is that this could happen to any church or pastor regardless of the situation."

What makes Broadway's situation interesting is that most of these nationally publicized church conflicts have been at large Southern Baptist congregations (i.e. Two Rivers, FBC Jax, Bellevue). However, Broadway is a well-known, historic moderate Baptist church. And the group that is trying to oust the pastor is accusing the pastor of neglecting "Broadway's historic moderate Baptist theological heritage."

As I previously noted, Broadway Baptist is one of the most historic congregations in the Baptist General Convention of Texas. BBC was the home to John Claypool from 1971-1976, Welton Gaddy from 1977-1983 and Cecil Sherman from 1985 to 1982. Throughout the SBC Controversy, Sherman was one of the most outspoken voices on the moderate side. He helped form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and became the CBF's first Executive-Director in 1992.

Personally, I have no sympathies for any church faction trying to oust their pastor. My childhood church, First Baptist Church of Lyons, Georgia split after a group of rather uneducated fundamentalists forced the Pastor, Music Minister and Youth Minister to resign. At least Broadway knows that their current conflict has something to do with homosexuality. Six years later and I still am unsure what my church's miniature fundy takeover was really about (other than power and control).

**UPDATE: All files were saved from the Friend's website and hosted here.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Baptists Endorse Randel Everett As BGCT Executive

A week before the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant kicked off, the Baptist General Convention of Texas announced that Virginia pastor Randel Everett is the nominee to replace Charles Wade (who recently retired) as Executive-Director of the BGCT. Read about that here. Marv Knox, editor of the Baptist Standard, weighs in on Everett's nomination here.

In a phone interview with Ken Camp of the Baptist Standard, Everett highlighted three tasks that he believes could bring Texas Baptists together. They are:

Missions. “Texas Baptists should make sure every person in Texas has the opportunity to respond to the good news of Christ within his or her own language and context,” he said.

Christian education. From religious education in local congregations to high education in universities and seminaries, Texas Baptists should “make sure we are providing the resources to ensure that people grow in Christ’s likeness,” he said.

Advocacy. Texas Baptists should become advocates for the separation of church and state to ensure religious liberty for all people, and they should be advocates for the poor, he said. “There is no reason any child in Texas should go to bed hungry.”
All sounds good to me. Having grown up on the campus of a small Baptist college and now as a graduate student at a very large Baptist university, I appreciate the value of Christian Higher Education, particularly Baptist Higher Education. And Texas Baptists need a missional leader committed to the social implications of the Gospel and a missional leader who is willing to advocate for the separation (not accommodation) of church and state.

Everett's CV is here

Below are a few endorsements from various folks:

I've known Randel Everett for over 30 years, and I feel he will be a wonderful leader for Texas Baptists. In addition, his wife, Sheila, is very talented and will be such a blessing to ministers' wives and young people. The search committee came to this crucial decision after seeking God with all our hearts.
Gary Cook, president, Dallas Baptist University

Randel Everett will be an excellent choice as executive director for the BGCT. He was my pastor at University Baptist Church in Fort Worth; I remember his sermons as solid, biblical (and fairly short!). He and his wife Sheila both have great personalities. They win the love and confidence of people.
H. Leon McBeth, distinguished professor emeritus, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Randel Everett is one of the most dynamic, energetic and creative Baptist leaders I have known over the past 25 years. I find inspiring his commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ, his vision for ministry and missions, and his dogged determination that Baptists will help shape the future in the urgent advance of Christianity. Randel and Sheila are dear, dear friends whom Kay and I look forward to welcoming back home to Texas.
Randall O’Brien, executive vice president and provost, Baylor University

I warmly welcome the news of Dr. Randel Everett’s nomination as BGCT executive director. I have known Randel for 18 years as a friend within the fellowship of the BWA commissions and committees. Randel is a warmly relational leader, an able communicator of the gospel and has a proven track record in the pastoral leadership of local churches. He has a missional heart and a wide experience of sharing the gospel among people of different cultures. Above all he loves the Lord and seeks to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. I am delighted at the possibility of developing the already significant collaboration between Texas Baptists and the global family of the BWA.
David Coffey, president, Baptist World Alliance

I have known Randel Everett for many years. In fact he pastored the church to which belonged for many years. I found him to be one of the ablest and most dedicated pastors I’ve met. He has few rivals when it comes to presenting a message in the pulpit. I know his family, and he is a man not only of spiritual depth but of great character. I think it would be hard, frankly, to find a better person to be executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Chuck Colson, author

Randel Everett is an experienced pastor, a visionary Baptist leader and a man of spiritual integrity. He is a global Christian who thinks both biblically and strategically. I am delighted at his nomination to be the next executive director for the BGCT.
Daniel Vestal, executive coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Some good endorsements. But Chuck Colson? When you get endorsed by Colson, I'm not sure what that says. On the one hand, Everett is advocating the separation of church and state. On the other hand, Colson has argued that church-state separation will aid the efforts of terrorists and allow radical Islam to grow unchecked. Strange bedfellows, I'd say. Aside from Colson, Everett seems to have an impressive resume with the support of more than a few long-time Baptist leaders.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Alliance of Baptists Convocation Held In March

The Alliance of Baptists is holding their 2008 Convocation on March 28-30 in New Orleans. Though personally not a member of the Alliance, my very good friend The Rev. Angela Yarber is. And she's been asked to serve as one of the four Artists in Residence at the Convocation.

You can read about Angela and the Convocation below:

Convo Logo

February 2008

Convocation 2008
The call is going out…for you to come to New Orleans the last weekend in March to create and experience a gathering of the Alliance of Baptists. As a people, we will join together to appreciate all that the city of New Orleans has to offer as we participate in their work of re-creation. Alliance Logo

We will begin the week by offering our talents and gifts with workdays in some of the areas still struggling to rebuild…and we will end our time together on Sunday morning with a celebration of the communion of faith and art at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church. In the days in-between we will experience the art and hospitality of New Orleans, we will gather in worship, explore creative ways of being the church, affirm our leaders and ministry partners, and celebrate our creative talents and gifts, as we meet together as a people of God.

As we enter our twenty-second year of being the Alliance of Baptists, God is calling us to create in new and exciting ways as we listen to our past, live in our present, and dream of our future. Come to New Orleans and join with friends old and new from around the world, as we listen together for God’s call to create.

Download a brochure and read more about the Convocation.

Artists in Residence
We are pleased to welcome four Artists in Residence who will lead us in worship and workshops during the weekend.

Dance - Angela Yarber

Angela YarberRev. Angela Yarber is a doctoral student in Art and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, where her research focuses on dance in comparative religions.

A professional dancer, Angela serves as Associate Pastor of Arts and Education at Alliance affiliated Shell Ridge Community Church in Walnut Creek, California, where she coordinates adult and youth education, curates the gallery space, and uses the arts (dance, drama, and visual arts) in worship and education.

Angela has served in local church ministry for over eight years and delights in dismantling stereotypes about Baptists, artists, feminists, dancers, and academics. She also teaches at the Pacific School of Religion and serves as the Program Coordinator for the Women’s Studies in Religion. Through research, ministry, and dance Angela endeavors to empower others to recognize that the human body is sacred and deserves to be treated as such.

As a concluding remark, if you have something negative to say about Angela, ordained women or Dancing Baptists - let's save those thoughts for another day, time and place.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

James Dobson Won't Vote For McCain, Now or Ever

Statement From Dr. James Dobson As Delivered By Laura Ingraham On “The Laura Ingraham Show” (2/5/08):

“I’m deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, and who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language.

“I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party. McCain actually considered leaving the GOP in 2001, and approached John Kerry about being Kerry’s running mate in 2004. McCain also said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. I cannot, and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.

“But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should John McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life. These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I’m affiliated. They do reflect, however, my deeply held convictions about the institution of the family, about moral and spiritual beliefs, and about the welfare of our country.”

Can you say, WOW? Dobson received much credit for Bush's victory over Kerry just back in 2004. I guess we'll wait and see if anybody actually listens to the Dobson anymore. If folks still do, we'll be guaranteed to get some HOPE, Midwest-style for at least four years!

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Blogosphere Reactions To New Baptist Covenant

Reaction to the New Baptist Covenant Celebration has been negative in the Southern Baptist blogosphere. Surprise. Surprise. A friend of mine and Southeastern Seminary employee - Nathan Finn - asked on his blog whether any of those in attendance will write anything critical about the Celebration. Nathan expects us New Covenant Baptists to "gush about the whole thing." Well, I will rise to the occasion. The press room went light on the Diet Cokes. Who drinks REAL Coca-Cola's anymore anyways? Oh, and since we were in Georgia, why not replace Grant Teaff with Mark Richt. Coach Richt is a Baptist, brought to Christ by the great Bobby Bowden and has a powerful testimony. I am a Georgia Bulldawg after all. And Teaff's Bears could never have survived 4 quarters between the hedges against Richt's Dawgs!

Ok, that's the end of my criticisms.

So, here are a few reactions from Southern Baptist bloggers who did not attend the Celebration.

One blogger referred to the Celebration as "hogwash." David Worley who pastors a small church in the hills of Tennesse wrote:
"The New Baptist Covenant is a very bad thing that I certainly do not want the Southern Baptist Convention to be a part of. I pray that we will never be involved in an organization such as this, and shame on any Baptists that does get involved in such hogwash."
Another blogger wrote, "The heart of the NBC is not a good thing. Therefore, the NBC cannot be a good thing. Rationale: If the core has worms in it, the fruit will make you sick. Sick is bad."

David Roach, pastor and part-time pretend journalist for Baptist Press wrote, "At the meeting in Atlanta I heard a religion espoused that is different from the religion I practice."

Now, a handful of reactions from those who ACTUALLY made the trek to Atlanta with an open-heart and an open-mind.

Professor Mark Osler of Baylor Law School:
If ever there was a table of brotherhood set before us, it was this week in Georgia. I hoped that, above all else, it would be a moment of racial reconciliation, and that turned out to be right.
Dwight McKissic, Southern Baptist pastor of Cornerstone Baptist in Fort Worth on NBC:
"That was like heaven on Earth to me," said Dwight McKissic, pastor of predominantly black Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington. "I enjoyed the high church music of the Mercer [University] choir as much as I did the black Baptist choir."
"Transplanted Georgia Gal" of A Drafty Place blog:
I could tell you about all of that, and maybe you would be skeptical as I had been, or maybe the skeptic in you would take a break for awhile, like the one in me did, and maybe something like hope would start to rise in you, like it has in me, and like it seemed to do in thousands of other people. And the hope was this – the love of God in Christ, and what that love sets us free to do, together. I was an eyewitness to majesty this week, and that majesty did not look the way we tend to think it does. No purple mountains. No royal robes. No velvet thrones. No angels or archangels. No ecstatic visions of heavenly light. That majesty was regular women and men, black, white, and brown, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, and sometimes hand-in-hand, seeking transformation and transfiguration towards Christ’s purposes, together.
Wilson of BoilerBabe blog:
The New Baptist Covenant Celebration was truly something special. I'm not sure what I expected, but I found the past three days more inspirational, more affirming, more provocative than I ever imagined.
Baranabas File:
God blessed this time in Atlanta. Let us pray that God will continue this blessing in the coming days.
Young Mike:
When the first hymn began, tears almost began to fall (and if you know me, that is VERY strange). When we held hands later in the service during a prayer, for the first time in my life in a worship service, I did not hold a white hand. When we began to disperse, the African American persons with whom I had just worshiped God, spontaneously hugged me and I hugged them back.

Now the cynic in me is mocking me, screaming, “KUMBAYA! MY LORD!” and trying to get me to erase the paragraphs above. But I’m not going to do that. What happened last night was very real. I wouldn’t want to make it into more than it actually was, and there are some “youth-camp invitation” aspects to it. But for the first time in a very long time, I was actually proud to be a Baptist. For the first time, maybe ever, I was looking forward to reading the papers and seeing what they might write about a group of gathered Baptist Christians. And for the first time in quite a while, I think I actually worshiped. It was a good night.

Joe Phelps, Pastor, Highland Park Baptist, Louisville, Kentucky:
What we are discovering is that there is a profound difference between sectarian partisan politics that seeks power, and politics that selflessly focuses on the common good of all people regardless or religion or practice. The New Baptist Covenant was political but not partisan. It talked about Jesus’ concerns for poverty, child welfare, equality, the environment, and other issues that affect the common good. It never once came close to promoting one candidate or party over the other, but rather held up those concerns that we believe Jesus would champion. This felt faithful to our Baptist heritage and to the people of our communities who need us to be our best.
Peggy Hester:
Finally we decided the only way to save the experience was to share it with as many as we could, to testify to the power of the Love that had held us close as strangers and angels unaware in Atlanta, Georgia for a short time. We were being redeemed and we knew it.

Thanks be to God for all that has been in Baptist history, for Roger Williams and his commitment to religious freedom, for all the Aunt Thelma’s and Lottie Moon’s who found ways to be ministers even when men denied them their call, for our wandering in the wilderness of disintegration and despair as a people, for the new generation that has raised up untouched by the tar brush of anger and loss, for all who showed up for this new Baptist covenant. Our future is held in the loving arms of Jesus and I give thanks. Don’t let my feet touch ground anytime soon, Lord.
Tony Cartledge, Professor, Campbell University Divinity School:
It was, I think, the finest Baptist meeting I've ever attended in America. The spirit of hopefulness, the desire to forge new relationships, and the determination to celebrate an inclusive understanding of "Baptist" were all invigorating, reminiscent in some ways of the first two or three gatherings of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
And David Lowrie, Southern Baptist blogger and Texas Baptist pastor who did not attend the Celebration had this to say:
As the NBC closed, the question of the day revolved around whether we witness a wonderful “moment” in Baptist history or the beginning of a “movement”. I hope and pray we witnessed the birth of a movement that will inspire us to lay aside our differences and rally together for the sake of the Kingdom of God on earth.
I have more than a few thoughts of my own. I'm going to sit on those for a few days so that I can catch up on all my school work!


Charles G. Adams @ New Baptist Covenant

The Rev. Charles G. Adams of Hartford Baptist Church in Detroit and now Harvard Divinity preached during last night's concluding plenary session of the New Baptist Covenant Celebration.

Adams was impressive - most likely the best sermon that I have ever heard. However, it was impossible to take notes. Adams is a speed-talker. He reads from a manuscript and reads very fast.

Watch the Video.

Below are a few quotes:
"Baptists that sit in our churches have not yet learned that to be a Baptist is to be free in Christ. By definition, we believe in the local autonomy of the church; we believe that the Bible is the only rule of faith and action; we believer in the priesthood of all believers; we believe in believers' baptism; we believe in the liberty of conscience, and we believe in the separation of church and state so that neither will dictate to the other. "
"Once you are in Christ, you are more than a new Creature, you are the beginning of a new Creation. A wide door has been opened. A great eschatlogical freedom has been given to lift us above walls. Towering walls. Social, racial, cultural, political, economic, academic, ideological walls that separate people from people for in fact we need all people. For it isn't enough to be liberal without embracing conservatives because if you're just liberal and not somewhat conservative - you be too loose. And if you're all conservative and not somewhat liberal - you be too rigid. But if any one is in Christ, the walls are down and the doors are open, the highway is clear, the barriers are gone, the restrictions are removed, the shackles are dissolved, the dungeons are shaken and the chains are broken - and there is a new Creation. Just be in Christ. And you become a bona fide citizen of the whole world with Calvary's certified passport and visa stamped and sealed by the Holy Ghost. You can go anywhere, and speak in any language, tackle any problem, face any danger, love anybody and do anything that will bring Glory to God and freedom to people. Just be in Christ. And all things are yours. All people are your people. All churches are your church. All places are your home. And all problems are your challenge to solve them. Just be in Christ. And you are free from loneliness and free for love, free from futility, free for family, free from anxiety, and free for activity. And there are no walls of separation, segregation, isolation, castigation, stigmatization, intimidation - if you are free in Christ you are free indeed. You are totally free and totally obligated."

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Transcript of Bill Clinton @ New Baptist Covenant

Click HERE to watch the video of President Clinton's 29 minute speech at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

I've transcribed Clinton's speech and posted it below. I hope you'll read and come back later for my thoughts on Clinton and the memorable Celebration.

Meanwhile, stop by the blog of Baptists Today editor John Pierce and read his thoughts on Clinton's speech.
Thank you. Thank you very much (APPLAUSE)

Thank you Dr. Smith, President Carter, Mrs. Carter, Distinguished Platform Guests.

First I want to thank the choir for putting me in the right frame of mind.

They were magnificent.

President Underwood, thank you for having me at Mercer a few days ago. I loved it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I met with President Carter and many of the organizers of this meeting some time ago and was asked to come here. I was profoundly honored to do so. And I have followed this meeting in my otherwise crowded schedule as a free campaign worker. I have followed very closely any news reports that I could get of the proceedings. Obviously, I have read with great admiration and great agreement the comments of Vice President Gore, of my great friend Tony Campolo, and my wife's first boss - Marian Wright Edelman about poverty. Of John Grisham who I was told when I became President was my 17th cousin and I might add as far as I can tell, the only relative I ever had worth any money - about the importance of inclusion in the church. I have followed all of this greatly and the people who work for me prepared some remarks for me which talked about the work that I do that I thought was consistent with my faith with the purposes of this covenant. But I have decided not to give them. But instead to try to describe as nearly as Ican how we might achieve the purposes of this meeting - which is to go beyond those of us in this crowd, not to find a solution to the deep rift that has occured in the Baptist family but to find a journey that we might begin together. APPLAUSE

Since never in my life was I as active in my church as President and Mrs. Carter have been, I may not have any observation worth noting but I think this is more important than have one more person say: "I'm trying to do what you guess are for." There's no point in preaching to the choir. The Baptist Church of my childhood, the one I joined in Hot Springs, Arkansas when I professed my faith in Jesus Christ was overwhelmingly concerned with personal salvation, with preaching the Gospel and mission work. It's community involvement was largely limited to doing things for poor people around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I suspect that's like the Baptist Church alot of you grew up in. I first became aware that there might be a connection between my religious convictions and my political beliefs as a child when I heard Martin Luther King preach. Like many people in there young adulthood, I drifted away from my church. But when I moved to Little Rock and became Governor, I joined Emmanuel Baptist Church. We had a great preacher named W. Ovault who has been dead for some time now. He started going to the Holy Land in 1938 and decided sometime in the late 1950s that he should trade in his hellfire and brimstone preachin' style for a serious study of the Scripture. So, every Sunday morning was like a joyous college seminar. As a man who could read the oldest known text in Greek would take us through book by book of the Bible, Scripture by Scripture and attempt to explain what the real meaning of the words were. He wrote a little book called "Belief Plus Nothing" which indicated his conviction that as most of us believe that a profession of faith is sufficient to insure salvation - which is way so many of us have yolks about death bed conversions. Or reverse yolks. When I started out in politics, I went to visit an 80 year old man who could still laugh about his life. Bill, I may not have long to live but I'm thinking about changing my party registration because I'd rather them lose one than us. (LAUGHTER)

In the 1970s and 1980s, it seemed to be that there was an awakening of Baptists of all political stripes to the admonition of the Book of James - that people would know our faith by our works. I think honest people drew different conclusions about what the admonitions of James required. The conservatives took over the Baptist Convention. They believe that to show their faith by their works they had to become more political on issues of abortion, NRS, women's role in the church, gay rights, and a whole host of other issues. Those of us who disagreed were horrified when President Carter was once asked to abandon his secular humanism. We thought he was a pretty good example of a devout Baptist and a faithful follower of Christ (APPLAUSE).

The theological basis on which these positions rested it seemed was the proposition taht the Bible was literally true and once you understood its literal meaning, it was possible to know what God intended us to do about every conceivable political question alive in the day. And in knowing God's well if we did not do it, we had committed not just a political error but a religious heresy.

Now when all this was going on - most people in my church went on just as before. And I think most Baptists did. They showed up for Sunday School. They showed up for Church. They tithed or they didn't (LAUGHTER). They were Republicans or Democrats. They cared about poverty or civil rights or economic growth or whatever else. But they thought they were being faithful to the traditional tenets of baptistry - the idea that salvation was personal and could only be ratified by baptism when one was old enough to know what one was doing. Which by definition implied that we accepted independence of thought and judgment. That churches should be independent. Our church did not assign pastors when vacancies occured, people were called to their churches by their congregations. And yet, those who read the book of James differently felt that the Bible being literally true required them to dictate the theology for all Baptists. And so the rift occurred.

In reaction, many progressive Baptists got more active than every before in the things that they had always believed in - but they were free-er somehow to belive that their reading of the Scripture impeled them to do more for poverty, to protect God's environment, to deal with problems like housing. Clearly, we have all cheered the work of President and Mrs. Carter in dealing with Habitat for Humanity as an expression of their Christian faith (APPLAUSE).

Indeed, I watched all this with a unique perspective because when I was a student in college, I went to a Cathlic university - Georgetown University - and I thought we were behaving, those of us who didn't agree with the drift of the church as if we believe in the periodic bishop statements of the Catholic mission. And I thought that was a good thing - that maybe Christianity beyond baptistry was coming together aroudn a new consensus.

After I became President, I continued to attend my local church whenever I was in Arkansas but I started to attend a Methodist church with Hillary and Chelsea whenever I was in Washington. They felt comfortable with the Methodist social mission of John Wesley. They always believed that they were supposed to do more for the poor. It was a wonderful experience for my daughter; she was sent to Appalachia with people from her youth group at church to work with desperately poor people. And she came back with a much finer appreciation for what life is like for many people who are unseen by the rest of us. She went to a Quaker school which provided as a condition of graduation that the children engage in community service. And again, she learned that working together, people weren't so different after all.

After I left the White House, I continued to support my local church in Arkansas but when in New York, I got to a tiny little Methodist church with Hillary when she's home where there are lots of poor people, not much money and because of my current good fortune I find that giving them what I thought was a modest contribution helps them to keep the doors open. Their very opening each Sunday is a social mission because poor people would have no place else to go.

Now, I say this because all of us have come here with high spirits and heavy hearts. We sense that there is something wrong when those of us were joined to the Baptist Church either out of birth or family or out of absolute conviction have drifted so far apart. Most of us here have found our feelings and our thoughts articulated more clearly than we otherwise could have in President Carter's book, Our Endangered Values. We believe that the most important thing is an individual's direct relationship with Christ. We believe in the independence of churches. We believe in baptism at the age of consent because we believe that people should be thinking.

It has been sad to me to see the reaction of this meeting to some people who have accused it of being a veiled agenda for liberals, whatever that is. I respect Rev. Page. I was glad when he was elected President of the Convention. And I've had some good conversations with him. And I don't think we ought to give up. I was sorry when Governor Huckabee didn't come here. We were born in the same town and I consider him my friend even though we have lots of political disagreements. I have found that he has a generosity of spirit which keeps him from being mad all the time when he's disagreeing with me. (LAUGHTER) And when he, as Governor, he did have the best program in the country for fighting childhood obesity and trying to save our children's lives and promoting the body as the temple of God.

I was delighted when I heard just on coming here that Senator Grassley had come because I have watched him on occasion defy the conventional wisdom of his party and his stated philosophy to reach to the human core of an issue. And, so I say this in all good conscience. I could talk to you about the work we do on six continents against Climate Change or the 750,000 people we keep alive with the world's least expensive high quality AIDS medicine or a number of things BUT that's not the point. We all do what we can. And we all believe we are fulfilling God's will in our lives. The point that I want to make is SO DO THEY.

They read the obligations of the Scripture in a different way. I almost feel like Rodney King sometimes - Can't we all just get along? But here is what I think the nub of the problem is and what our only chance of resolving it is. In my first or second year as President, I think it was the first year, when the conservatives were in full control of the Southern Baptist Convention, a remarkable minister named Ed Young as the President. He was then in Texas and I believe he's now in Nashville. I still watch him on Sunday's every chance I get. He's a great preacher. And a very nice man. And someone introduced a resolution in the Baptist convention to kick my church out of the convention unless they kick me out of the church. Not because I was a sinner, they conceded we all are, but because my positions were not correct. By then I confess, I had become quite alienated because it was no longer possible for me to join...most Baptists suggested ignoring this because we had an interim pastor in our church who was in his real life a professor at one of the seminary's and he was purged for political incorrectness. I respected him. I cared for him. And I knew he was a man of God and a follower of Christ. But Reverend Young reached out to me. And he asked if Al Gore and I would have breakfast with him. And if I would go jogging with him up and down the mall of Washington first. As I remember, he was a little younger and a little fitter than I was. But I managed to keep up.

And we had a remarkable breakfast on the Truman balcony at the White House, sitting outside and talking, and Al Gore was there, and Al engaged him in an issue he debate. He said, 'ya know I love my Baptist roots but I have three daughters and a son and I don't think it's right that only I could become a minister" - so they argued about that. It was a good argument - respectful and good. And I was trying to keep things from getting out of hand (LAUGHTER), trying to be a repairer of the bridge before the bridge needed to be repaired. And I remembered saying, you know, the main thing about our faith is that it takes away the sin of pain and imperfection. Ya know, the most beautiful words in the Old Testament are the words of Isaiah where God says - "I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. You are mine. Therefore we need not be afraid."

We talked some more. And then we returned to the disputes. And this is I think the nub of our challenge. And remember, I like this man. I admire his sermons. I think he is a good man. But he looks at me and said: "I want to ask you a question, a simple question and I just want a yes or no answer. I don't want one of those slick political answers. Just answer me yes or no. Do you believe the Bible is literally true? Yes or No?"

I said, Reverend Young, I think it is completely true, but I do not believe you or I or any other living person is wise enough to understand it completely.(APPLAUSE) He said, "That's a political answer."

I said, No it's not. You asked a political question. I said, it is not. So we talked on. And I said, look I know you believe what you're saying. But let me explain why I answered the way that I did. To me, if you're looking for guidance on how to relate to other people in political or other matters beyond the affairs of the church, the most important verse in the New Testament for Christians to read is 1 Corinthians 13:12. 12, the verse before "And now abideth faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Not romantic love but agape. Love for one's fellow human beings. Why could that be possibly more important than faith when the Baptists preach that belief in Jesus is the key to salvation, what could Paul have possibly been talking about. I'm not a minister. I just read and think. All I know is what I think. But in the King James Version, Paul is comparing life on earth today as it is with all of its warts as we find it with life after death in God. And you all know the verse. But think about it. But not as it's read at weddings - it almost doesn't belong there. Think about it as a guide for life, and politics and how we relate to one another. "For now I see through a glass darkly; but then face to face, now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known. And now abideth faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love."

The reason why we have to put love above everything else is because we see through a glass darkly and know in part. Therefore, it almost doesn't matter whether the Bible is literally true. Because we see through a glass darkly. Humility is the order of the day. The reason we have to love each other is because we all might be wrong. (APPLAUSE) And so, I don't think Al Gore is wrong. I think he's right. And I was thrilled when he won the Nobel Prize. I love Tony Campolo as my own flesh and blood. I admire Marian Wright Edelman more than virtually any woman than I have ever known. And John Grisham is a good and wise human being.

But we did not come here to ratify each other's good deeds. We came here to seek a Covenant of reconciliation. Can we get it? I don't think so, not right away. Should we abandon what we're doing? Not on your life. Should we abandon what we believe? No, we should redouble our efforts to serve the poor, the sick, the needy, to reach across the world and bring a divided and broken world together. But we should not let our response to the people who disagree with us be dictated by what they say about us or even how they treat people that we care for (APPLAUSE). If there is any chance, any chance, that this Covenant can become an embracing one, that there could once again be a whole community then there has to be the chance of of Love, the chance that we might not give up our differences but find that our common humanity matters more. The fact that we can embrace our humanity one believing in a certain theological absolutism and the other saying "All I know is, I just know in part, I just know in part, I'm doing the very best I can, but I see through this glass darkly and this is what my conscience as a Baptist and as a Christian tells me to do."

Many evangelicals around America are caring more about AIDS and I applaud them. The Southern Baptist Convention apologized for slavery and for its segregation and discrimination. An I applaud them. Many people who think they are theological conservatives are doing more for the poor, care more about Africa, care about Climate change and I applaud it. I do not think the answer to this dillema that developed over decades and was in reaction to all kinds of developments which were way outside of the biblical sphere can be resolved in a day, week or year. It's a journey.

If we want them to take a journey with us we have to do two things. Find things we can do together. And we have to treat them with respect and honor and believe that they think they are right just as strongly as we do. When I was 13 years old, I had a science teacher who was an ex-coach. To put it charitably, he was not a handsome man. He wore coke-bottle glasses, clothes that were too tight for his heavy frame, and he smoked cheap cigars in an old cigar holder that caused his mouth to pucker all the time. But we was one wise rascal. But he told us now almost 50 years ago, "kids you're not going to learn anything in 8th grade science but if you don't remember anything I tell you, remember this, every morning I get up and I go into the bathroom, throw water on my face, put my shaving cream on, wipe my face and say Veron you're beautiful!"

Everybody believes that they are beautiful or right or good. We have to meet this schism with respectful disagreement. President Carter aided the search for reconciliation by writing that book. He did not impede it. Our Endangered Values helped us all to clarify what we think. But we must approach those with which we disagree with an outstretched hand and not a clenched fist.

And I will say again, no matter what condemnation is leveled at this movement - you must respond with the spirit of love. You must find something to do, surely there is something we can do together and we must say to them, we respect your view, but we can not accept it, not because we know whether the Bible is literally true but because its hard enough for us to find out who said what when the very first time. We're still giving Ph.D. to people trying to figure that out. But even if we knew we still would see through a glass darkly. We still would know in part. If we didn't see through a glass darkly and know in part, we'd be the sons and daughters of God. We would not need Jesus. We would not need salvation. We would not need anything.

So, I say to you, this is a wonderful beginning, I am thrilled every day to read the articles of what others have said here. But when you leave here, remember why you came. If we're going to form a Covenant which can embrace the whole body of the Baptist Church which every Christian can identify with and every good human being on Earth can applaud, it is the spirit with which we go forward and our determination to offer specific things that we can do as Children of God that will determine how it comes out in the end.

Thank you for trying. And God Bless You All

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