Friday, February 29, 2008

Evaluating Political Candidates

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to the November 2007 issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics. That issue focuses on how Christians should evaluate candidates for political office. Here are some of the more interesting comments:

John Marty, a member of the Minnesota State Senate, gives weight to personal integrity:

One place for voters to begin scrutinizing candidates would be to evaluate a candidate's integrity. The level of integrity can be measured through indicators such as how they conduct their campaigns. Candidates who run mean-spirited attacks on their opponents might be electable politicians, but they are not people of integrity.

Helmut David Baer, Associate Professor at Texas Lutheran University, advises Christians to focus attention on the candidate's policies:

Even when they disagree about individual strategies, however, Christians evaluating political candidates remain focused on the policies the candidates advocate. Political candidates should not be surprised if their professions of faith are met with skepticism by Christian voters. Personal piousness is not politically important. To sum up: it’s not the piety, it’s the policy, stupid.

John Stumme, A department director at ELCA, quotes statements on religion and elections from the 1960 election:

Nevertheless, the religious faith of a candidate cannot absolutely determine his conduct of public office. He is subject to pressures, valid and proper, from many sides and sources. In weighing and reconciling them all, he necessarily compromises any absolute rigidities his denominational dogma might impose in addition to the teaching of Scripture. We hold that no church body can compel the unquestioning allegiance of its members in public office to its partisan ecclesiastical dictates. Any candidate who binds himself so thoroughly to partisan ecclesiastical domination thereby unfits himself for public office.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Regarding Viewpoint Discrimination (Corrected)

Oklahoma State Representative Tad Jones, Chair of the Oklahoma House Education Committee, ramrodded HB2211 through his committee yesterday. This trojan horse bill, entitled "Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act," was written by Texas Religious Right attorney Kelly Coghlan with the assistance of Kelly Shackelford. Schackelford openly and repeatedly admitted at an AU NAC Conference forum that their intention was to find a way to circumscribe the Supreme Court's 2000 Santa Fe ISD vs. Doe Decision. In reality, this bill would best be labelled "An Act Securing a Captive Audience for Public School Prayers and Devotions."

A colleague phoned Representative Jones' office on Tuesday to advise him that I would like to speak in opposition to the bill as it came before the Education Committee on Wednesday. She was informed that no input from citizens would be permitted.

I decided it was unusual for citizens to be barred from giving input at Capitol hearings. Under previous leadership at the state capitol, citizen input was welcome but often limited to one or two minutes. So, I went to the state capitol and attended the committee meeting. Citizens were permitted to give input on the other legislation that came before the committee, but I was not permitted to speak against HB 2211.

Had I been permitted to speak, expecting to be limited to a one minute presentation, this is what I would have said:

Mainstream Baptists oppose H.B. 2211 because it is too weak to adequately protect religious liberty and freedom of speech for all people.

Prayer is an act of worship. To suggest otherwise is to trivialize faith and belittle religion. Religious devotions and expressions are also acts of worship.

This nation was founded by people who refused to become a captive audience -- forced to listen to the prayers and preaching being led by the Church of England. That is why the Pilgrims came to America. That is why my Baptist forefathers came to America.

As written, this bill puts students in the same position as the early Pilgrims, Baptists, and Quakers. You will make them a captive audience -- forced listen to the prayers, preaching and devotions of people with whom their own conscience and convictions may forbid them to worship.

To correct this injustice, your legislation needs a conscience clause. It needs to be amended to permit anyone -- regardless of their position and status within the school -- to leave the room when prayers, preaching and devotions are being conducted. You also need to make it a crime for anyone to belittle, berate, bully or penalize any person who exercises their own first amendment right to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience by leaving the room during these acts.
When legislators exercise "viewpoint discrimination" to pass their legislation, it's hard to see how it will be good for our public schools. Jones has set precedent for how to protect the approved viewpoint and stifle opposing perspectives.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Best Show on Television

The best show on television -- HBO's The Wire -- is in its last season. Rueful obituaries are springing up everywhere. Representative is Brian Cook's "Joys of the 'Wire'" posted on In These Times.

Only two episodes left. I have to admit that I'm hooked on this show. I'm already feeling the pain of withdrawal.

Greenspan Advises Gulf States to Drop Dollar

Alan Greenspan is being quoted as advising the Gulf States to stop pegging their currency to the dollar. Deflation in the value of the dollar is causing inflation in the Gulf States.

American tax cuts, budget deficits, trade deficits and endless wars are making our dollars worthless.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On Arming Our Own Assassins

Common Dreams has published an essay by Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists, that describes how the current lull in factional strife within Iraq is only a calm before a storm. Hedges predicts that our "surge" in Iraq is only succeeding in "arming, funding and equipping" our own assassins. Here's an excerpt:

The U.S. is currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars to pay the monthly salaries of some 600,000 armed fighters in the three rival ethnic camps in Iraq. These fighters-Shiite, Kurd and Sunni Arab-are not only antagonistic but deeply unreliable allies. The Sunni Arab militias have replaced central government officials, including police, and taken over local administration and security in the pockets of Iraq under their control. They have no loyalty outside of their own ethnic community. Once the money runs out, or once they feel strong enough to make a thrust for power, the civil war in Iraq will accelerate with deadly speed. The tactic of money-for-peace failed in Afghanistan. The U.S. doled out funds and weapons to tribal groups in Afghanistan to buy their loyalty, but when the payments and weapons shipments ceased, the tribal groups headed back into the embrace of the Taliban.

The Sunni Arab militias are known by a variety of names: the Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISVs), neighborhood watch groups, Concerned Local Citizens, Critical Infrastructure Security. The militias call themselves “sahwas” (”sahwa” being the Arabic word for awakening). There are now 80,000 militia fighters, nearly all Sunni Arabs, paid by the United States to control their squalid patches of Iraq. They are expected to reach 100,000. The Sunni Arab militias have more fighters under arms than the Shiite Mahdi Army and are about half the size of the feeble Iraqi army. The Sunni Awakening groups, which fly a yellow satin flag, are forming a political party.

The Sunni Arab militias, though they have ended attacks on U.S. forces, detest the Shiite-Kurdish government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and abhor the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil. They take the money and the support with clenched teeth because with it they are able to build a renegade Sunni army, a third force inside Iraq, which they believe will make it possible to overthrow the central government. The Sunni Arabs, who make up about 40 percent of Iraq’s population, held most positions of power under Saddam Hussein. They dominated Iraq’s old officer corps. They made up its elite units, including the Republic Guard divisions and the Special Forces regiments. They controlled the intelligence agencies. There are several hundred thousand well-trained Sunni Arabs who lack only an organizational structure. We have now made the formation of this structure possible. These militias are the foundation for a deadlier insurgent force, one that will dwarf anything the United States faced in the past. The U.S. is arming, funding and equipping its own assassins.

Payday Lenders: Legal Loan Sharks

USA Today reports that some states are finally beginning to address the predatory lending practices of payday lenders.

In Oklahoma, payday lenders are clustered around Tinker Airforce base and low income neighborhoods. Here's a quote from the USA Today article:

After another study — this one by the Pentagon — found the average military borrower was repaying $834 for a $339 loan, Congress slapped a 36% annual interest-rate cap on payday loans to military members and their spouses. That level is tolerable if the loans are repaid promptly. Now, a few states are moving to offer the same protection to civilians.
Oklahoma is not one of the states that is working to address the the injustice of charging 400% in annual interest. Oklahoma suffers under legislative leadership that is either hardhearted, irresponsible, myopic or any combination of the above. For proof, make a visit to the website for the Alliance for Oklahoma's Future and see the documentation regarding the consequences of recently enacted state income tax cuts.

Robert Parham asks "Where Do Payday Lenders Go to Church?" I don't know where they go to church, but I'm fairly certain that their money goes to support politicians who have the hardest hearts, the least amount of civic responsibility, and who are overweeningly self-interested.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why America is Drowning in Mortgage Debt

Katrina Vanden Heuvel of Nation Magazine has posted an insightful essay about the U.S. mortgage crisis. Citing Jesse Jackson's appraisal of the situation, here's a quote:

"Nobody seemed to care because of who was profiting, on the one hand, and who was being exploited on the other," Jackson said. "But now the water is -- like the Titanic -- the water is up around the deck where the big people hang out. But where did the water come in? The water came in at the bottom of the ship. The poor always pay more for less -- for cars, goods and services, insurance, food, banking money. This time, however, it's affecting the whole economy, that's what is different about this. Again, if the government had not allowed the rich to get richer at the expense of the vulnerable you wouldn't have this crisis."
One more thing, the "government" Jackson is talking about is "us" -- you and me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On "Born Again" Democrats

Zack Exley has published an interview with George Barna on the Huffington Post. The topic is "Born Again and Democratic?" Barna explains how he identifies "born again" Christians who don't like to admit it. Then he draws some extraordinary conclusions. Here's an interesting quote:

Our research shows that a plurality of born again adults who are registered to vote are Democrats. Among the born agains, more than four out of 10 are registered Democrats, three out of ten are registered Republicans, and the remaining two out of 10 are independent. Things look very different among the evangelicals, though, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats almost three-to-one. Maybe the insight to draw from all of this is that the mainstream media constantly try to simplify complex realities so that people can quickly understand the world. The problem is that some things get oversimplified, and understanding the faith community is one of those dimensions that gets misunderstood.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sapperstein on Faith-based Initiatives

Rabbi David Sapperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, spoke this afternoon to the Executive Board of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Here's what he had to say about faith-based initiatives:

"I think faith-based inititives are fine except for four technical problems that need to be addressed.

1. It's bad for religion.
2. It's bad for the state.
3. It's bad for the poor.
4. It's unconstitutional.

Other than that, faith-based initiatives are just fine."

Published on my iPhone.

Monday, February 18, 2008

On Nameless Critics

The current issue of the Baptist Messenger has published an editorial critical of former president Carter. The editorial sarcastically scolds Carter for preaching unity among Baptists after leaving the Southern Baptist Convention and joining another Fellowship. The editorial is signed by nameless "Staff."

I can't blame the nameless staff person who wrote the essay for hesitating to sign his name to it. Who would want his name associated with such a juvenile essay?

I can and do blame the editor of the Baptist Messenger for printing the editorial. How can you look at yourself in a mirror when you know that you are publishing material so obviously distorted that no one is willing to take credit for writing it?

Published from my iPhone.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dionne on Faith and Politics

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to E.J. Dionne's essay on "Faith and Politics: After the Religious Right" in the current issue of Commonweal. Dionne makes some helpful observations about the history of church-state separation in this country. Here's a quote:

One example of successful renegotiation was reflected in the 1995 federal guidelines to school administrators. They were designed to make clear that while government cannot impose religion, neither can students be forced to be secular against their will; nor can their personal expressions of faith be silenced. Individual students were no longer to be stopped from praying. Jewish students could not be barred from wearing yarmulkes. Children who wanted to talk about religion on school grounds had the right to do so. A similar respect for individual expressions of faith has been extended to government workers.

This may have seemed like common sense, but it also reflected an awareness that the desire to preserve religious freedom entails keeping the government out of the way and protecting the free expression of believers. And it underscored the difference between an American approach to religious toleration aimed at accommodating religious expression and the French style of toleration (known as laïcité), which sought religious peace by clearing religion out of the public realm as much as possible. The conflicts that face France and other Western nations with large Muslim populations suggest that it is the American form of secularism that may, as the historian Wilfred McClay has written, provide "an essential basis for peaceful coexistence in a religiously pluralistic society." American-style secularism is rooted in a basic respect for religious traditions and not in hostility to religion. It has certainly eased the integration of new Muslim immigrants into the mainstream of American life. The American story suggests that despite the risks involved, respecting the public role of the many who believe, and who believe in diverse ways, is the more promising way to expand freedom's writ.

Friday, February 15, 2008

On Baptist Press Propaganda for Christian Nationalism

Today's Baptist Press report about the IRS investigation of Wiley Drake ignores what is obvious from statements in its own report. The first statement of the report, written by Mark Kelly, states:

The Internal Revenue Service has opened an inquiry into an Aug. 11, 2007, "personal endorsement" of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued by Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., on church letterhead.
The last paragraph of Kelly's report states:

Drake also was briefly in the media spotlight in 2006, when he created letterhead for himself as Southern Baptist Convention second vice president and used it to endorse a candidate for U.S. Senate. He received a stern warning from D. August Boto, the SBC's general counsel that such activities should cease.
It is going to be hard for Drake to pretend that he had never been warned that it is illegal to write political endorsements on the letterhead of non-profit organizations. It's equally hard to believe that the reporters and editors at Baptist Press lack the understanding necessary to perceive that Americans United has raised a legitimate concern. Instead, they quote the propaganda of Wiley Drake's attorney without question or comment.

This is further evidence that Baptist Press has been reduced to just one of the Religious Right's many propaganda mouthpieces for Christian Nationalism.

Baptist Press Challenges Americans United but Not Wiley Drake

Joe Conn, Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, recently received a demand for a correction from Will Hall, Executive Editor of Baptist Press. Hall took exception to Americans United's characterization of former SBC Second Vice President Wiley Drake as once occupying the "third highest post" in the Southern Baptist Convention in a recent press release. That press release commended the IRS for investigating Drake for violating tax laws related to non-profit organizations. Hall also criticized Americans United for mentioning the "fundmentalist takeover" of the Southern Baptist Convention.

AU refused to retract any statements. Here is an excerpt from Joe Conn's response:

As Brother Hall points out, Southern Baptist churches send thousands of "messengers" to their annual meetings to, among other things, "elect leaders," and it was their votes that put Drake in his so-called "honorary" position. They knew Drake was a shrill and divisive figure, and they elected him anyway. Drake may be the crazy uncle in the SBC attic, Brother Hall, but he's your uncle, not mine. Don't try to disown him.

As far as Brother Hall's second point: it is a well known fact that a small cabal of powerful fundamentalist preachers and their allies established a well-organized campaign to take over the SBC. It is quite irrelevant that they exploited the SBC's "democratic" election process to achieve their goals.

What I'm more interested in is the SBC's stance on SBC presidential candidate (and former SBC second vice president) Drake's prayers for my death and the death of others on the AU staff. Brother Hall, do you agree with that call to prayer? Do other SBC leaders agree with it? If not, why haven’t you said so? Where is the SBC press release repudiating Drake's actions as un-Christian and un-American?
For those who desire documentation of the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC, here's a link to the website for Mainstream Baptists and to an article about the effects of the takeover.

For the record, Mainstream Baptists are unanimous in deploring Wiley Drake's call for impreccatory prayers to hasten the demise of Joe Conn, Jeremy Leaming, Barry Lynn or anyone else.

What is Next for Mainstream Baptists?

The February issue of the Baptist Studies Bulletin is online. Among the articles is a brief essay I wrote on "What is Next for Moderate Baptists." Here's what I foresee for the Mainstream wing of the moderate Baptist family:

I see Mainstream Baptists strengthening their involvement in issues that CBF and other moderate Baptists find difficult to address aggressively. Every moderate church needs someone to be continually focused on assuring that every generation within the congregation is educated about the Baptist principles of soul freedom, Bible freedom, church freedom and religious freedom. Every state needs someone to monitor and address the actions of Christian fundamentalists―in every denomination―who are undermining the gospel, hijacking churches and organizing both denominational and political takeovers. Every community desperately needs someone to organize a network of Christian activists who will speak out on First Amendment issues, educate others about the Baptist legacy for liberty of conscience, challenge legislation that breaches the wall separating church and state, and foster respectful dialogue about differences between people of different faiths.

More on GOP Ties to Southwestern Seminary

The SBCOutpost has posted more documents confirming the ties between the Republican Party and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.

Pages 9 and 10 of the Student Services Annual Report to the Trustees of the Seminary lists the following groups and the number of meeting held at the Seminary's Smith Center for Leadership Development:

Republican Board Meeting
Tarrant County Republicans (2)
Tarrant County Republican Assembly (7)
Texas Republican Assembly
For further information check out Ben Cole's blog about Southwestern Seminary renting facilities to the Republican Party.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

CNP Mulls Support for Constitutional Party

The Council for National Policy (CNP), an organization founded by Christian Nationalists to influence secular politics, may consider supporting a third party candidate from the Constitutional Party if GOP Presidential Nominee John McCain does not satisfy their demand that he change his position on stem cell research. Here's a quote from a report at the Huffington Post:

(Bob) Fischer said that for large numbers of social conservatives to entertain backing McCain, he would need to reverse himself on several positions, including his support for relaxing restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Fischer said if McCain prevails short of doing that, he and many other conservatives "will not work as hard as we could" to elect him.

He then raised the possibility of Christian conservatives lining up behind the Constitution Party, citing its conservative moral stances and ability to get on state ballots, a steeper challenge for an entirely new party.

The Constitution Party, which calls itself "completely pro-life, pro-gun, pro-American sovereignty and independence," has secured spots on about 16 state ballots and hopes to exceed 40, national field director Gary Odom said. The party has nominated founder Howard Phillips as its presidential candidate in the past and will select its candidate in April.

Said Fischer: "The Republican Party needs to remember that (the Constitution Party) will nominate a conservative. If the Republican Party wants to avoid defeat in November, they need to do the same. There are no votes to waste in this election."
Perhaps this is why Republicans are so eager for Mike Huckabee to abandon his Presidential campaign.

IRS Investigating Wiley Drake

Americans United is commending the IRS for its investigation of whether SBC VP Wiley Drake violated the law by endorsing Mike Huckabee for president on church stationary.

Drake contends the endorsement was personal.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On the GOP's Lease at Southwestern Seminary

Thanks to Mark Gstohl, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Xavier University, for his careful reading of the facts stipulated in the court documents for Sheri Klouda's law suit against Paige Patterson and Southwestern Seminary. He called my attention to fact number 45 on page 8 of the "Plaintiffs Third Amended Complaint and Request for Declaratory Judgment and Jury Demand." It is on page 13 of 26 in the .pdf file posted at the SBCOutpost. Here's what it says:

45. Defendant Patterson’s use of the Seminary to advance his own non-ecclesiastical personal and/or political beliefs is also demonstrated by the fact that he leases a portion of the Seminary property to the Republican Party.
My guess is that everybody is getting a sweetheart deal out of this transaction. The GOP is financially supporting the authoritarian theology of its fundamentalist base and the seminary is teaching students how to spread the authoritarian ideology of its neo-conservative political allies.

Monday, February 11, 2008

On the Tortured Evidence for 9-11 Commision Report

AlterNet has posted a transcript of Amy Goodman's Democracy Now interview with former 9-11 Commission Chief Philip Zelikow. That interview discusses the 9-11 Commissions role in requesting information that led to the use of torture during CIA interrogations. Reports indicate that a quarter of the evidence cited in the 9-11 Commission's report was obtained by interrogations involving the use of torture techniques. Here's a quote from one of the participants in the interview:

Goodman: Michael Ratner, you're the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Your response?

Michael Ratner: You know, when Robert called me to talk about this story and what he had found, essentially the key chapters being based substantially on evidence from torture, I actually was really shocked by it. I mean, I didn't know that. I work in this field, and I didn't know that. And I was shocked by it because we all know that our own court cases have said evidence from torture is not reliable. And here you have a report that's supposed to tell us what actually happened in its key chapters on the planning of 9/11, what actually happened when the people came into the country, and you look at those footnotes, and they're based on torture. What it has to tell you is to be very, very skeptical about a number of the conclusions in that report. You just can't rely on evidence of torture. We all know that. Think about it. If the Bhutto assassination -- if the government of Pakistan issued a report, and we knew it came out of torture, would any of us be sitting at this table believing it? Would we believe that about the assassination of Kennedy, if it came out of tortured people? No, we wouldn't. Why are we accepting this? That's not saying it's not true, but it's saying we have a big problem here now, because we have evidence of torture.

On Crusading Intolerance

Chris Hedges writes about the "War on Tolerance" in an essay posted at Truthdig. Here's a quote:

The public denigration of Islam, and by implication all religious belief systems outside Christianity, is part of the triumphalism that has distorted the country since the 9/11 attacks. It makes dialogue with those outside our “Christian” culture impossible. It implicitly condemns all who do not think as we think and believe as we believe as, at best, inferior and usually morally depraved. It blinds us to our own failings. It makes self-reflection and self-criticism a form of treason. It reduces the world to a cartoonish vision of us and them, good and evil. It turns us into children with bombs.

Better Coverage of the New Baptist Covenant

Rick MacInnes Rae of the Candadian Broadcasting Corporation interviewed me this morning for his radio program asking for a summary and analysis of the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. His questions were intelligent and informed.

Here's a link to the page where a podcast should appear whenever it gets posted.

It is truly a sad state of affairs when journalists from foreign countries are better informed about what is happening in the U.S. than are our own journalists.

More Abysmal Media Coverage of the New Baptist Covenant

Kudos again to Robert Parham for correcting the errors in the Wall Street Journal's reporting on the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have both produced recent examples of why millions of Americans are abandoning newspapers and getting their news from the internet. People who are accustomed to sorting truth from error as it is being posted on the internet have little tolerance for journalism that mimics the worst distortions and inaccuracies of uninformed bloggers and ideologue trolls. (I cancelled my "Kindle" subscription to the Wall Street Journal today)

Anyone interested enough to learn what really happened at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant can watch the videos posted at the New Baptist Covenant website. Those who prefer that the media filter their news, slant it, and reframe it to fit their ideological preconceptions can view the commentary at the Washington Post or read the pseudo-analysis from the wine and cheese "deputy taste editor" at the Wall Street Journal.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Parham Rips Washington Post Reporter

Kudos to Robert Parham, Executive Director of Ethics Daily, for ripping into Sally Quinn, reporter for the Washington Post, for her clueless coverage of the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

Her coverage of the meeting in Atlanta is a classic example of completely uninformed journalism.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Critical Analysis of the New Baptist Covenant Celebration

A new website called "Religion Dispatches" came online yesterday. It will attempt to provide some critical analysis of religion, politics and the common good.

I posted my review and an analysis of the "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" on their "RDBlog" under the title "Painting Elephants." Here's a quote:

Baptists in America may never be the same. For one shining moment in Atlanta, at a three-day gathering termed a “celebration”, Baptists were called to repent of their long history of racism and sexism and affirm a New Baptist Covenant. Never before in the 400-year history of the Baptist denomination have black Baptists and white Baptists met with equal participation on the platform and equal numbers in the audience; never before in history have Baptists – black and white, male and female – met with more than token representation of prophetic women speaking from the pulpit; never before in history have moderate and progressive Baptists from North and South and Canada and Mexico met together to network and organize for Christian social action. If this moment becomes a movement, as its organizers hope and intend, then by re-orienting the Baptist denomination it may also help to change the political priorities of the nation.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Podcast: Interview with Dr. Bill Martin

Will Prescott's 2-3-08 "Religious Talk" radio interview (28 MB MP3) with Dr. William Martin, Emeritus Professor of Religion and Public Policy at Rice University and Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice. Martin is the author of With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America and A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story.

Will and Dr. Martin use the typology in James W. Fowlers' book Stages of Faith to talk about the critical reflection upon faith that is brought about by the study of sociology of religion.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Stephenson's Scholarships Acknowledged

Yesterday's Dallas Morning News published a story about the scholarships that Bob Stephenson, founder of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, gave for Baptist Seminary students to attend the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. 178 seminary students, most of them doctoral candidates, attended the Atlanta meeting. Here's a quote from Bailey Nelson, a student at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta:

Bailey Nelson, the program's coordinator, said her involvement has been an inspiration.

"I am overwhelmed by the diversity of the group and the passion they show," Nelson said. "They are driven and hungry. Their big question is: What's next?"

Nelson said the meeting has been a watershed moment for many members of the group who are beginning to understand their role as Baptists.

"We can't wait for others to tell us what to do. It's time for us to decide for ourselves," she said. "It's not about becoming members of the power structure; it's about developing relationships."

Because there had been no contact among the seminarians prior to this week, Nelson said the students are exploring ways to keep in touch after the event. "There's been talk about starting a Facebook group to stay connected with each other through e-mail, and there are others who are talking about collaborating on a book."

Friday, February 01, 2008

Podcast: Walter Shurden's Speech to Mainstream Baptists

The coverage of the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant by Associated Baptist Press, Ethics Daily, by Bloggers like Melissa Rogers, Ben Cole, Brian Kaylor, Aaron Weaver, The Bold Confessor and others. Videos of the sermons and speeches are being posted online at the New Baptist Covenant website.

I have no desire to duplicate their fine efforts. Here's something unique to Mainstream Baptists. Dr. Walter Shurden, premier historian among moderate Baptists, gave a speech at the Mainstream Baptist Network breakfast this morning on the historical significance of the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. Here's a link to a podcast of his speech (31 MB MP3). Here's one of the many significant statements that he made:

"The Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant is not an effort to form something together, it is an effort to say something together -- about what we ought to be doing together."
What we ought to be doing together is taking seriously what Jesus took seriously -- promoting peace with justice, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick and marginalized, visiting the imprisoned and welcoming strangers.