Continuing the Movement

March 26, 2008

At the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant earlier this year, Jimmy Allen noted that he hoped it would become a movement and not just a moment. The work in helping that occur has resulted in the announcement of new plans to continue to help Baptists come together for ministry, fellowship, and worship. The biggest news is the announcement that there will be another gathering in 2011, which follows "the historic Baptist pattern of triennial meetings." The possibility of regional meetings is also being explored. It is great to see that there will be another Celebration. This year's historic gathering was the most exciting Baptist meeting I have ever attended. I am also glad that the next one will not be in a presidential election year in order to hopefully prevent the inaccurate charge by critics that this is just to impact elections (I am sure the naysayers will make up something to attack but at least this helps prove again that the Celebration movement is not about political elections).

Another statement released outlines goals for the Celebration movement, covering areas like evangelism, criminal justice, poverty, youth, discrimination, religious liberty, and the environment. Here are a few highlights:

The preeminent commitment of the New Baptist Covenant should always be winning souls to Christ – by word and example – locally and globally. This evangelistic effort should be persistent and well coordinated.

... For some: oppose the death penalty, based on alternative sentences of life without parole and restitution. For others: help guarantee that no more innocent people are executed.

... Personally and as a congregation, visit neighborhood persons who are homeless, ill, or extremely poor. Every church should have a fund and an organized schedule for this purpose. Each person volunteer one week per year to Habitat for Humanity or other similar organization that serves the poor.

... Condemn torture & support closing of Guantanamo prison. Combat all forms of human slavery.

... Work toward eliminating abortions; nurture pregnant mothers and babies.

Condemn filth and racism in public media.

... Refrain from forming an official organization or convention. Never derogate other Christians, and continue reaching out to all other Baptists in a spirit of unity and love.
There are several things I like about this list. First, it clearly states that sharing the life-changing gospel message of Jesus is the top priority. Second, it has a broad Christian agenda ranging from reducing abortion to stopping torture, from combating media filth to helping the poor. Third, it offers some very concrete and practical steps to help churches and individuals more fully live out the message of Luke 4. Fourth, it acknowledges diversity of opinions (such as on the death penalty). Fifth, it again makes it clear that this a way of working together but not starting a new convention. I hope we will all find ways to join the movement and pray that this historic work will continue.

By the way, here are a few pieces on the Celebration I have not noted here that are worth checking out:

-The February issue of the Baptist Joint Committee's Report from the Capital

-The February issue of The Baptist Studies Bulletin

-Celebration speaker Tony Campolo's thoughts on the gathering

-A small part of a letter to the editor I wrote that was printed in the Wall Street Journal