Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Historic Baptist Convenings

Reflections of this (impressed) Secular Humorist.

I have not often had the experience of being present as history was being made. This week I am.

This is the 2nd “historic” meeting of the four main black Baptist conventions (sort of like sub-denominations) where our criminal justice ministry project and the manual I have been writing with them are being announced.

Earlier today we had the Casey-sponsored luncheon announcing the soon-to-be-published manual for congregations to use in working with people caught up in the criminal justice system -- from arrest through reentry, the perps, their family members and victims of crime.

My preacher friends from the Progressive National Baptist Convention with whom I have been working said my presentation was something of a hit as evidenced by people asking if I could serve on their committees. (One of the preachers has claimed me as a member of her church, though I think I have decided on the label “secular humorist.”)

The four black Baptist groups have been splintered for years – mostly over issues of power, control and, since 1961, civil rights tactics. Unifying only now (though not abandoning their four separate identities), they will be better able to address common issues and common dreams.

The black Baptists’ joint meeting is back-to-back with another historic event. Tonight, white Baptists will join this group and together they will proclaim A New Baptist Covenant. This has been the dream of the Covenant’s architect, Jimmy Carter, who broke with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000, after years of trying and failing to get them to take a less unyielding and strident view of matters both theological and political following its sharp turn to the right starting in the late seventies.

Baptists who have suffered the breaches, divides, expulsions, splinters, schisms, humiliations and sorrows as they lost in the conservative seizure of power of the Southern Baptist Convention and Baptists who were never part of the Southern convention will be coming together to pledge a first-ever unity, inclusiveness and commitment to finding common ground. The Convention many of them left, the 17 million-strong Southern Baptist was invited, too, but it declined – even as some of those 17 million will come as individuals.

No comments: