Feb. 12 marks 30 years since simultaneous press conferences in three cities announced formation of a new Baptist organization around principles viewed as under attack in the Southern Baptist Convention from a conservative faction now firmly in control of the nation’s second-largest faith group.
This year the anniversary falls on Sunday, and a number of Alliance of Baptist churches plan to celebrate the occasion as “Alliance Day” with resources including a litany, prayer and a hymn written five years ago when the organization turned 25.
Leah Grundset Davis, the staff member signing up churches planning to participate, said in an email newsletter that congregations celebrating Alliance Day will be recognized at the Alliance’s 30th annual gathering April 28-30 at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.
Keynote preachers include Moral Monday’s organizer William Barber and Naomi Tutu, third child of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Performing artist Kate Campbell will lead singing and perform a concert on Saturday.
Preceding the annual gathering April 27 at Meredith College is a conference called “Why Baptist?” featuring seven speakers from across the nation analyzing each of the articles in the Alliance Covenant, a statement of core values including the freedom of individuals and local churches to interpret the Bible for themselves, ecumenical engagement, open inquiry in theological education and the separation of church and state.
Pastors in Charlotte, Raleigh and Atlanta convened simultaneous press conferences on Feb. 12, 1987, announcing formation of the Southern Baptist Alliance, intended as a “voice of conscience” with no intention of leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. Five years later the group changed its name to the Alliance of Baptists, formally distancing itself from the Southern Baptist identity the founders originally hoped to retain.
The Alliance is smaller and tends to be more progressive on social issues than its larger and more centrist cousin, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, founded in 1991.
Read annually at the annual gathering, the Alliance Covenant affirms the following:
1) The freedom of the individual, led by God’s Spirit within the family of faith, to read and interpret the Scriptures, relying on the historical understanding by the church and on the best methods of modern biblical study;
2) The freedom of the local church under the authority of Jesus Christ to shape its own life and mission, call its own leadership, and ordain whom it perceives as gifted for ministry, male or female;
3) The larger body of Jesus Christ, expressed in various Christian traditions, and to a cooperation with believers everywhere in giving full expression to the Gospel;
4) The servant role of leadership within the church, following the model of our Servant Lord, and to full partnership of all of God’s people in mission and ministry;
5) Theological education in congregations, colleges, and seminaries characterized by reverence for biblical authority and respect for open inquiry and responsible scholarship;
6) The proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the calling of God to all peoples to repentance and faith, reconciliation and hope, social and economic justice;
7) The principle of a free church in a free state and the opposition to any effort either by church or state to use the other for its own purposes.
More information on the annual gathering and Alliance Day celebration is available on the Alliance website.