Practical ‘next steps’ for Covenant Baptists

The challenge in leaving a “feel good” meeting like the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant last week is knowing what to do now that it is over. The next steps are risky.
If participants do nothing concrete, they risk having good feelings as the meeting’s main legacy. (Although some things are already happening through new relationships.)
On the other hand, organizers know that creating a new super-convention is not the answer. But what is?
Are there steps Covenant Baptists can take that avoid the extremes of doing nothing and creating a formal union? I think so.
First we need to express appreciation to all those who organized, led and funded this experience. It was a massive success.
With all the normal work faced by a new university president, it is amazing that Bill Underwood would give so much of his time and the university’s resources to making this thing happen.
So with a tip of the hat to those who invested so deeply in this endeavor, let me suggest a few things (based on feedback I have heard since the conclusion of the Celebration) that might keep the movement going without institutionalizing it too much.
1. Covenant Baptists need a communication point. As much as I hate to ask Mercer to do anything else, the office on the university’s Atlanta campus seems to be a good place for this.
However, it would need to be a loose, widely supported effort to help the various participating groups to connect with one another. Not a new organization, but a communication point for existing Baptist groups that want to cooperate with one another around the issues raised at the meeting.
2. Continue finding ways, as individuals and groups,to keep the challenge of Luke 4 before Baptists. Commitments to tackling hunger, poverty, injustice and other forms of suffering can not be narrowed to specific legislation without losing a lot of people.
There needs to a strong commitment to the issue while allowing for various political solutions to arise.
3. Plan another gathering down the road. Maybe three or four or five years from now. There is no substitute for shared worship and face-to-face conversations. Relationships cannot be forced. But as David Goatley, president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, has said, organizers can create the “place” and “space” for new relationships to flourish.
But I think waiting a couple of weeks before mentioning the idea of another gathering to exhausted organizers might be wise.
Any other practical ideas or responses to these?


  1. I had a great time at the meeting but regret that I was unable to connect with people from my own community. We have enough connection at the national levels what we need is action and community at the local church level.

    I doubt that I’m up for another big meeting unless something happens now at the local level.

  2. A quick thought … I think it would be helpful if the North American Baptist Fellowship (the umbrella organization that participating groups already belong to) could step forward in a proactive way to help keep communication flowing, and sponsor a periodic meeting every few years. The Baptist World Alliance has a World Congress every five years… perhaps the NABF could do the same in America, perhaps near the mid-point of the BWA meetings.

  3. I think we need to carve up the elephant into pieces that we can personally address. It’s easy to say, “Let Mercer (or the North American Baptist Fellowship) take care of it.” What can we do at home to get our black, white and Hispanic (sadly missing in Atlanta) churches together to address the issues Jesus cared about?

  4. Bubear- Indeed some carving up needs to be done for the emphases of the Covenant to take root locally.
    When it comes to coordinating communication efforts (and especially planning large gathering in the future) I believe Tony’s idea is best.
    I hope NABF leaders will do that.

  5. By Divine Providence Adrian Rogers son David is showing some signs of openness to the Spirit of the Baptist Covenant in some crossblogging Big Daddy Weaver has begun.
    In a comment on Rogers blog, I have invited him to engage the conversation at, framed by DAvid Gushee’s take on the matter.
    Wanted you and Tony to be aware of it, and to put a good word in the conversation if and as it develops.
    Bill Self and President Carter may want to track this conversation if it indeeds takes root.
    In so many words, on his blog and in comments to some hardline Presslerites, Rogers seems to transfer his affection for the promise of the Third Lausanne Movement Conference in South Africa in 2010 to a softening of his heart to the Spirit of the Atlanta Covenant.
    I guess we’ll see.

  6. The Memorial Baptist Church of Greenville, North Carolina, has had a local “Chinese Ministry” for over 15 years. More recently we also initiated a “Hispanic Ministry.” Even more recently we experienced real community with a predominantly black Baptist church, a positive consequence of our negative fire of 1/13/07.

    Yet, for the most part, the adults in these cultural variances from our mostly gringo congregation have kept unto themselves.

    One consequence of our recent“ REL=”nofollow”>Better Health Initiative has been one of our Chinese folk, who has some Spanish, volunteering to teach aerobic line dancing if we could provide the facility. At our first session we had 16 gringos and 20 Chinese. We expect more of each and hope to use this phenomenon to include Hispanics and folk from Cornerstone Baptist Church.

    Though we are early in the process, we are excited about “getting down” at the Baptist church 🙂

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