CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After two decades with the Alliance of Baptists, Stan Hastey said in his final "State of the Alliance" address April 18 he hopes the progressive group will remain true to its founding vision as "a freedom movement among Baptists."
Hastey retires in June after 18 years as the group's first executive director and the last two years as its minister for missions and ecumenism. He encouraged the Alliance to continue in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, mission involvement and "seek ever more to be an inclusive people."
Hastey said efforts by the Alliance to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members in the life of the Baptist movement are "not an unimportant contribution in our time." Members sometimes bemoan that the group is not larger, Hastey said, but "I'd far rather the Alliance be small and inclusive than large and exclusive."
But Hastey said more work needs to be done, especially in the areas of increasing racial diversity among membership and fighting gender discrimination in churches.
"Like most liberals, we do more agonizing than acting," Hastey said. "We are prophets of a future that is not our own," Hastey said.
Later, hundreds of Alliance members gathered at a retirement banquet in Hastey's honor. Speaking on behalf of the Alliance, founding member Mahan Siler honored Hastey as a "Baptist, historian and missionary."
Hastey grew up in Mexico, the son of Southern Baptist missionaries. He is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a Ph.D. in American church history and church-state relations in 1973.
He joined the staff of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (now called Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) right out of seminary in January 1974. He was named the BJC's director of information services and bureau chief for Baptist Press in 1978 and promoted to associate executive director in 1985.
At age 44, Hastey was elected the first executive director of what was then called the Southern Baptist Alliance in 1989.
The group was formed in 1986, after Southern Baptist moderates lost to a coalition of conservatives organized by Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler in their eighth consecutive effort to elect a sympathetic SBC president. From its beginning, Alliance from the beginning said its goal was not to recapture the SBC presidency, but to forge a new identity for progressive individuals and churches who had come out of a Southern Baptist context.
Instead of fighting to save the SBC, the Alliance focused on preserving principles viewed as under attack by the denomination's new conservative leadership. It adopted a seven-part covenant committing the organization to:
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.
The Alliance's commitment to women in ministry was controversial for some moderates. So was a vote in 1989 to begin Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, based on the idea that changes at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary created the need for an alternative in the region.
With the formation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1991, disenfranchised Southern Baptist moderates had two organizations from which to choose. In 1992 the then-Southern Baptist Alliance changed its name to the Alliance of Baptists, formally distancing itself from the SBC.
Talks were begun about a possible merger between the Alliance and CBF, but they broke down after the Alliance expanded its agenda.
In 1995 the Alliance released two ground-breaking documents.
A Baptist Statement on Jewish-Christian Relations urged "genuine dialogue with the broader Jewish community, a dialogue built on mutual respect and the integrity of each other's faith," while rejecting theology that viewed Jewish persons primarily as targets for conversion.
A task force on human sexuality statement encouraged churches to "welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation or marital status into the life of the congregation" and challenged individuals, "whether heterosexual or same-sex oriented, to express sexual intimacy within the covenant context of a committed, monogamous relationship."
The Alliance began a formal relationship with the Fraternidad de Iglesias Bautistas de Cuba in 1991 and with the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe in 1998. In 2000 the Alliance was admitted into membership of the National Council of the Churches
A member of First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Hastey has been married to Elizabeth Baldwin Hastey since 1964. They have two adult children, Stephen Baldwin Hastey of Falls Church, Va., and Lisa Hastey Shirley of Roswell, Ga.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.