Former President Jimmy Carter, who has long put religion and racial reconciliation at the center of his life, is on a mission to heal a racial divide among Baptists and help the country soothe rifts that he believes are getting worse, according to the New York Times.
That mission is prompting the next New Baptist Covenant Summit, scheduled Sept. 14-16 in Atlanta.
President Carter, who launched the movement aimed at uniting Baptists in North America across racial and sectarian lines in 2008, told the Times he thinks “the country has been reawakened the last two or three years to the fact that we haven’t resolved the race issue adequately.”
In 2007 Carter brought together leaders representing more than 30 Baptist organizations to discuss what they could do together without surrendering their autonomy.
About 15,000 people attended the inaugural Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in 2008 in Atlanta around a theme verse of Luke 14:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the release of the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Four regional gatherings were held in 2009, followed in 2011 by New Baptist Covenant II, a three-day gathering at a central location in Atlanta with live satellite feeds to various sites across the country.
A smaller New Baptist Covenant Summit at Emory University in 2015 introduced a new grassroots phase called Covenants of Action, local partnerships linking two or more churches from different Baptist traditions to work together to address a pressing need in their community.
The theme of NBC Summit 2016, to be held at the Downtown Hilton in Atlanta, is Journeying to Covenant Community. Keynote speakers include President Carter, United Church of Christ minister and Black Lives Matter organizer Traci Blackmon, and Dallas pastors Frederick Haynes III at Friendship-West Baptist Church and George Mason at Wilshire Baptist Church.
A New Baptist Covenant luncheon is scheduled June 23 at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C. Features speakers are Darryl Aaron, senior pastor at Greensboro’s Providence Baptist Church, and Bill Leonard, James and Marilyn Dunn Chair of Baptist Studies at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, N.C.