Grisham brings intrigue to celebration

The list of speakers for the upcoming Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant is simply remarkable: two former U.S. presidents (Carter and Clinton), two Nobel Prize winners (Carter and Gore), two U.S. senators (Grassley and Graham), compelling social activists (Edleman, Campolo) and a variety of well-known pulpiteers (Forbes, Shaw, Gregory, Adams, Pennington-Russell, et al).
And they are all Baptists, including the latest addition to the program: best-selling author John Grisham.
Grisham is widely known for his gripping novels often made into movies.
Lesser known is his Baptist identity although faith and missions show up to varying degrees in his writings.
So Grisham brings a special intrigue to the gathering (open to the public) set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta. (Grisham will speak on “respecting diversity” in the Thursday evening session.)
My plans are to take in as much of this historic and unprecedented event as possible. But if forced to choose only one plenary session speaker to hear, it would be Grisham.
I am intrigued.


  1. I, too, am looking forward to the event and the speakers. I do wonder, however, why so many keynoters are persons of high influence, power and public notoriety. Would we bother to come if we had to listen to the experiences, hopes, fears and dreams of ordinary laity and pastors?

    I am reminded of my days as a teenager when I attended youth evangelism conferences in large university gymnasiums. Those giving their testimonies were always sucessful athletes, famous tv personalities or beauty contest winners. I realized then (and now) that these events were designed for grabbing my adolescent attention and making an impression on my youthful mind, but I could not help but consider my own less dramatic walk with Jesus and wondered where I fit into the larger picture. As a college student I began to recognize that superstar speakers at BSU conferences provided many of us with a sense of pride by mere association – a legitimacy or confirmation of sorts amid new encounters with diverse opinions, beliefs and values in the larger world. We need the legitimated to defend ourselved from our own doubts. After all, who is prepared to argue with a Nobel laureate?

    I look forward to the Atlanta gathering, the speakers and the fellowship and reunions that will take place. I just hope there is time for discovering the extraordinary in the unfamilar faces and lives we encounter there.

  2. I concur; Grisham is Rock Star #1 at this event with Bill Clinton a close second.
    I hope Grisham has a prophetic word on Immigration for Truett Cathy; if so that really would be an earthquake–attempted pun on David Brooks great oped last Friday on Iowa Caucus.
    I do hope you consider the emerging Baptist rooted novelist Ron Rash sometime this year; on a related note.
    Still, Scott the commenter has a good caution for us. In the end it comes back to what we share with the folks at Collinsville Trade Day in my case, as the preacher rock star Babs Taylor has written of the check out girls in the grocery store in Habersham County Georgia.
    I did my part for the Kingdom today with stout conversation with a young person of promise; got to the wise as serpent stuff covering Oscar Romero, King; Wallace and Jesse Helms, like Dilsey in Sound and Fury I done seen the Beginnin and Endin.
    Even so, with you lookin forward to Grisham’s inflection in Atlanta.
    But as my Dad’s great story goes about Syd Stealey, Olin Binkley and the 56 Governor of North Carolina; at a point we got to let the Governor Go.
    You already know that. Just lettin Scott know we know too.
    Somebody get word to Tony Cartledge (Insert smilie emoticon)

  3. Scott, your word of caution is a good one. Indeed, celebrity is a draw. That’s why the best preachers I know are not on television. They, unlike Oral Roberts’ boy Richard, tell you the truth of unselfishness, trials and hope rather than that God told them to tell you to send in $100 with a guaranteed blessing in return.

  4. I am a born-again Christian but not a Baptist. I cannot understand why you are so thrilled to have people like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore speaking at your meeting. Jimmy Carter is against Israel, Bill Clinton is well-known as a womanizer, and Al Gore would work harder to save a tree than an unborn baby. Isn’t our goal as Christians to stand for the Truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and not compromise to become a friend of the world? Are these people so important to you because they have the “Baptist” label?

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