The New Baptist Covenant, a conglomeration of some 31 Baptist denominations in the U.S.A. and Canada, was conceived of and instituted earlier this year by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both of whom claim to be Baptists, with Carter having been active in the Southern Baptist Convention until the 90s and still a Sunday School teacher in his home church. A convocation of the NBC is planned for next January in Atlanta. Among the speakers are Carter, Clinton, Bill Moyers, Al Gore, and Marian Wright Edelman, as well as a number from the religious community. Although it seems cast as a mini-democrat convention, republican senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley are also slated to speak, their only bona fides, one presumes, being that they're Baptists, though one also wonders about the "token" thing.
The themes for the plenary sessions of the convocation are: Unity in Seeking Peace with Justice; Unity in Bringing Good News to the Poor; Unity in Respecting Diversity; Unity in Welcoming the Stranger, and Unity in Setting the Captive Free. A bothersome snag has just been introduced into this mix of high-flown "unities," to wit, the information that Baptist denominations that are "welcoming" and "affirming" to homosexuals are not invited to the party. These terms generally mean the approval/sanctioning of such things as ordination to ministry of homosexuals and same-sex marriages.
Two of the uninvited denominations are The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Members of the two bodies, however, can participate as individuals. A third denomination that is not participating is The Alliance of Baptists, currently consisting of over 120 congregations. Its head office is in Washington D.C. At its annual meeting in April 2004 in Dayton, Ohio, the Alliance adopted a "Statement on Same Sex Marriage" which: (1) Supports equality in marriage for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples throughout the U.S.; (2) Opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment which would restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.
Former president Carter is indelibly on the record as supporting state-sanctioned civil unions for gay couples. The Federal Marriage Amendment may never be enacted, but a multitude of states have already made such an amendment part of their state constitutions. So…since the NBC is actually a Carter clambake (Clinton describes himself as merely a cheerleader, whatever that means), how does this new gaggle of Baptists address the "Unity in Respecting Diversity" theme?
Carter and Clinton are part of the left in the Democrat Party, and the party (at least the left fringe) is practically mesmerized either by homosexuals or the homosexual vote. In his hearing the other day before Senator Ted Kennedy's Health Committee, Bush's nominee for the surgeon general post, Dr. James S. Holsinger, was lambasted at the very outset by Kennedy over a paper Holsinger wrote in 1991 for the United Methodists describing the harmful physical effects of male homosexual behavior. Three members of the committee, Senators Clinton, Obama, and Dodd, didn't show up for the hearing, but Obama and Dodd, without benefit of even examining Holsinger, had already publicly denounced him as a homophobe, real or potential.
The overwhelming consensus among Baptists is that homosexual behavior is totally unacceptable, sinful. They believe this because the Holy Bible is unmistakable in its absolute denunciation of homosexual practices, actually lumped in with those of such other perversions as bestiality. Homosexuality is excoriated in scripture just the same as fornication and adultery, sins of the worst kind with regard to family and its place in society, not to mention in the sight of God.
Carter, of course, knows this as a life-long Baptist and Bible scholar but has attempted – for whatever purpose – to form an organization of people who in the main absolutely disagree with him on this matter, an extremely important one that goes straight to the heart of the primary unit in society – the family. One wonders, then, what his actual purpose is in forming the NBC. He is also bound to know that the so-called "mainline" denominations have been wilting on the vine for decades trying to accommodate homosexuals in an official way, welcoming them already in worship and even membership but being terribly conflicted over ordination and same-sex unions, since scripture undeniably militates against both.
Against this backdrop is the pronouncement – probably his first – of far-left John Edwards, a self-described Methodist raised as a Southern Baptist, when he announced for the presidency last December, namely, that upon taking office, he would immediately mandate homosexual-acceptance in the military, something Bill Clinton tried as virtually his first official act in 1993, only to be turned around by the military itself. One wonders if Carter, using a religious group, is attempting to advance and gain respect for what is predominantly a democrat issue and among the most divisive, at that, especially in the South. This would be "pure" politics.
The NBC may be in for a bit of rough going, since most Baptist ministers probably are not looking forward to facing their congregations while admitting to having led them into an organizational/doctrinal quagmire involving one of the sorest – if not the sorest – problems in both denomination and the country itself currently. Indeed, homosexuals have taken on an importance far outweighing their position in the society, demanding to be pampered and pandered to even by folks who consider their behavior abominable and them, because of it, as, at least potentially, self-destructive.
So…the question remains regarding the New Baptist Covenant: "What's it all about…actually?"