The event was the second of four regional New Baptist Covenant celebrations set for 2009 — the outgrowth of a national meeting organized by former President Jimmy Carter and held Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008, in Atlanta.
Carter himself was present during the Friday morning worship session. Referencing his unsuccessful efforts to bridge divisions in the Southern Baptist Convention, Carter called listeners to come together, especially setting aside racial differences.
Jim Hill, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, co-chair of the event with Wallace S. Hartsfield II, senior pastor of Kansas City’s Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, said organizers “felt we needed to get to know each other in the communities where we live.”
“It really is our prayer that God starts something among us that we can’t control,” he said.
Hartsfield outlined the three-point goal of organizers.
“We challenge you to meet at least one person at this meeting and forge a relationship,” he said. “We challenge churches to make a commitment with another church. “Once you have forged a relationship,” he explained, the next step would be to collaborate on ministry projects.
As the three-day event drew to a close, Hill reminded participants: “What we are about is a beginning, not an ending.”
Hartsfield reminded the closing session audience that the day was the 41st anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
In response to his own question, “Where do we go from here?” the pastor read King’s speech by the same title — delivered in 1967 at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference meeting — as a motivation to move forward in relationships and collaborative efforts.
Former Southern Baptist Convention president Jimmy Allen, a member of the New Baptist Covenant steering committee, said the national event of more than a year ago produced a new movement of Baptists.
“God is creating movements here and there,” he said. “What we need to do is ask God to keep on doing it.”
Bill Webb is the editor of Word&Way.