Earlier this year, former presidents Carter and Clinton, along with some other folks, announced the forming of something called the New Baptist Covenant and also announced that there would be a convention of sorts in Atlanta in January 2008 sponsored by the NBC. The NBC is to be made up of Baptists throughout the nation, and it is hoped that 20,000 Baptists will take part in Atlanta. Coincidentally, it is scheduled in the same time-frame and in the same city as a meeting of the three large African-American Baptist denominations, thus perhaps capitalizing on a large crowd already on the scene – if, of course, the black Baptists see fit to attend.
Notwithstanding its spiritual/religious nature, the movers and shakers of the NBC are both politicians by trade and neither is a trained theologian or ordained minister. Other main players are to be Al Gore and Bill Moyers, also from the field of politics and also democrats, though Moyers has a seminary degree and is among the farthest left fringe of the party. A few days ago, possibly being struck by the rather partisan appearance of the thing, Baptist republican senators Graham and Grassley, along with president wannabe republican Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and also a Baptist and ordained minister, were invited to participate and accepted.
Then came last weekend and former president Carter's remarks, one of which was made to an Arkansas newspaper and was in part this: "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history."
That was too much for Huckabee, who decided to opt out with these words: "While I continue to have great respect for President Carter as a fellow Christian believer and Baptist, I’m deeply disappointed by the unusually harsh comments made in my state this past weekend regarding President Bush, and feel that it represents an unprecedented personal attack on a sitting president by a former president which is unbecoming the office as well as unbecoming to one whose conference is supposed to be about civility and bringing people together. … I feel it would be best for me to decline the invitation and to not appear to be giving approval to what could be a political, rather than spiritual agenda." The remark was made to the Florida Baptist Witness. Conclusion: Huckabee realizes the NBC to be a political entity, notwithstanding its high-flown religious rhetoric.
In addition to the above, to get a perspective on the possible reason Carter has for starting up this NBC clambake, notice this remark he made in London on 19 May with reference to outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient." In other words, Carter can be malicious in spewing vitriol, insulting one of the most important men in the world…right in that man's own country.
Until a few years ago, Carter was a high-profiler (perhaps the highest) in the Southern Baptist Convention, by far the largest group of Baptists in the country, numbering some 16 million and fielding 10,000 missionaries throughout the world. He didn't approve of the doctrinal changes taking place in the denomination among its leaders but could do nothing about it, except whine. He finally sort of broke with the SBC, like some thousands of others did over the doctrinal questions, though they moved on. Apparently, Carter hasn't.
In the initial confabs leading to the NBC, there were no participants from the Southern Baptist Convention. They were not invited. Lately, Carter, perhaps realizing how bad that looks, has been talking with Southern Baptist preachers who are bloggers, hoping obviously for some sort of SBC participation, but in a very unofficial way. The pertinent questions: Is he just "getting even" with the SBC leadership/membership with this new organization. What is its purpose, notwithstanding some five goals outlined in the propaganda? Is it to be a new super-denomination of some sort? Huckabee was thinking about civility and "bringing people together." Carter automatically negates those things with just a few remarks.
In a meeting last April, according to Associated Baptist Press, Carter said, "The most common opinion about Baptists is we cannot get along. … I have been grieved by the divisions of my own convention." He obviously referred to the Southern Baptist Convention, though the ABP categorized him as a "former Southern Baptist." What neither Carter nor the ABP mentioned is the fact that Baptists frequently disagree on everything from church polity to theology, and, in this case, Carter’s view has not prevailed in his denomination, ergo, his denomination is excoriated as negative. Cheap shot, in other words.
It remains to be seen how this scenario plays out. One wonders how long it will take for the spiritual leaders of the denominations to begin wondering if they're being snookered by the former presidents. The conclave will take place in the same month as the 2008 presidential primaries start rolling, and Clinton's wife, Senator Clinton, needs all the help she can get in the South. What better way than to have Baptist hubby Bill hobnobbing with fellow Baptists in Atlanta!
Van Gower, writing for Southern Voice in December 2004: "Former President Jimmy Carter confirmed this week that he supports state-sanctioned civil unions for gay couples, in response to a letter from two veteran Atlanta gay rights activists and questions from Southern Voice." Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in September 1996, which states categorically that neither the federal government nor any state must recognize a civil union (same-sex marriage). This is mentioned to indicate that the harmoniousness of the NBC may be wrecked once the details and discussions are underway. Most Baptists view homosexual behavior as condemned out of hand in the scriptures, and marriages between men so off-the-wall as to be laughable, not to mention sinful.
And then there's the matter of financing the New Baptist Covenant. How? Only the Shadow knows, unless the C-twins have decided.