FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) – North American Baptist leaders met March 8-9 to discuss greater collaboration and cooperation of mission and ministry that various groups now do on their own.
The North American Baptist Fellowship heard reports from two new networks formed for communication and disaster response at the group’s annual gathering at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, Va.
A disaster-response network organized in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina was reinvigorated in 2010 as various Baptist groups worked together to focus resources in response to the earthquake in Haiti.
“I don’t think we would have been able to do all we have done in Haiti without the experience of Katrina,” Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid told the group.
A “storytelling” network of professional communicators, meanwhile, is considering models for collective news gathering and dissemination about and among 35 different denominational organizations in North America.
Group spokesman David Wilkinson cited a common perception that “Baptists don’t even get along, much less cooperate with each other.”
“’Baptists cooperating’ would be a headline in itself these days,” said Wilkinson, executive director of Associated Baptist Press.
NABF President David Goatley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, said the group, one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance, is beginning to get beyond fractures that resulted from the Southern Baptist Convention’s decision to leave the BWA in 2004 over doctrine.
“We are reinventing ourselves over the last decade,” Goatley said. “We are becoming new.”
Unlike other regional fellowships, Goatley said, Baptists in North America don’t “have a minority sense” that draws them together naturally. “The big challenge is most of us are so autonomous that we think we are independent,” he said.
One strategy for building a unified Baptist identity is sharing information and resources about things that are already being done.
“I think the North American Baptist Fellowship has the opportunity to move forward in terms of being a network-kind of Baptist organization,” said George Bullard, NABF general secretary. “We strengthen the work of the member bodies and auxiliary bodies of Baptists and our identity as Baptists in Americas, as opposed to creating another layer.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.