God's Man in Texas

June 13, 2007

Joel Gregory, professor of preaching at George W. Truett Seminary of Baylor University, has a column at Ethics Daily today that reflects on the conflict and loss of civility within Southern Baptist life. He writes about his sermon at the 1988 SBC meeting in San Antonio:

The combatants were calling one another skunks, opossums and other such Christian epithets.

The dailies of the South had a field day with the internecine fight in the largest Protestant denomination. The rhetoric undermined the Baptist witness to such an extent that it has never recovered.

... My sermon had a pragmatic intention of calming the rhetoric, cooling the tempers and appealing for the same kind of civility that occurs in most corporate board meetings.

... I looked for a middle that was not there.
Gregory will be a speaker at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, which seeks to accomplish what Gregory failed to do so with his SBC sermon--bring a return to civility, unite Baptists, and put forth a positive Baptist witness. I am excited about the Celebration because such an effort is desperately needed. And I am excited that Gregory will be one of the speakers.

A few years ago I wrote a column reflecting on the play God's Man in Texas, which was inspired by Gregory's autobiography. It is an insightful and powerful play that reminds us what we are supposed to be focused on--loving God and people, not seeking power and fame. And that is what the Celebration will focus on. As Gregory told Ethics Daily a couple of years ago:
Jesus spoke to more than two or three marquees issues of morality. ... He made it perfectly clear that His Kingdom stood for the poor, the dispossesed, the marginalized and the helpless. He stood above and beyond the political structure and spoke to it.
And that is why the Celebration is needed! I hope to see you in Atlanta next January 30 and February 1.