As many as 20,000 Baptists from across North America will gather at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta Jan. 30 - Feb. 1, 2008, in an unprecedented demonstration of Baptist unity. Mercer University has been at the center of planning efforts for this history-making event, which is being called the “Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.”
The New Baptist Covenant grew out of a conversation President Underwood had with prominent Baptist layman Jimmy Carter in Plains in January 2006. That conversation led to a series of meetings at The Carter Center in 2006 and early 2007 involving leaders of more than 30 Baptist organizations claiming over 20 million members throughout the United States and Canada. The organizations are affiliates of the North American Baptist Fellowship, a regional arm of the Baptist World Alliance.
The Covenant – endorsed by a racially, geographically and theologically diverse assembly of Baptists – underscores the organizers’ desire to speak and work together to create an authentic and genuine prophetic Baptist voice in North America. It goes on to reaffirm traditional Baptist values, including sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for public and private morality. The group has specifically committed themselves to their obligations as Christians to fulfill the biblical mandate to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity.
Under the theme “Unity in Christ,” the Celebration will feature five plenary sessions and 16 breakout sessions. Plenary speakers will include:
- Dr. Charles G. Adams, Pastor of Hartford Baptist Church in Detroit
- Dr. Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at Eastern University and founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education
- Former President and Baptist layperson Jimmy Carter
- Former President and Baptist layperson Bill Clinton
- Marian Wright Edleman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund
- Dr. Joel Gregory, professor of preaching, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University
- U.S. Senator and Baptist layperson Lindsey Graham
- U.S. Senator and Baptist layperson Charles Grassley
- Bill Moyers, author and journalist
- Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia
- Dr. William J. Shaw, pastor of White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia and President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
More than 60 dynamic speakers from all walks of Baptist life – including a number of Mercer graduates, faculty and trustees -- will address the special interest sessions, whose topics will include:
- Prophetic Preaching
- Engaging the Criminal Justice System
- Breaking Cycles of Poverty
- Finding Common Ground with Other Faiths
- Youth at a Crossroads
- Proclaiming God’s Good News
- Reaching out to the Sick
- Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State
- Faith and Public Policy
- Welcoming the Stranger
- Spiritual Disciplines
- The HIV/AIDS Pandemic
- Sexual Exploitation
- Race as a Continuing Challenge
- Responding to Natural Disasters
In addition to the plenary and breakout sessions, a special “Stewardship of the Earth” luncheon with Nobel Prize-winner, former Vice President and Baptist layperson Al Gore will be held on Jan. 31.
All sessions are free and open to the public, except for the Al Gore luncheon, which is $35 per person. Mercer alumni, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend any or all sessions.
More information about the New Baptist Covenant and the Atlanta celebration, including detailed event schedules, is available online at www.newbaptistcovenant.org.