|Mainstream Baptists hear Shurden, honor Lolley||| Print ||
By Brian Kaylor
ATLANTA-The New Baptist Covenant meets an important need, and historian Walter "Buddy" Shurden told Mainstream Baptists why and how.
Shurden addressed the Mainstream Baptist Network at a Feb. 1 breakfast held in conjunction with the celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta.
Shurden, who called the interracial conference involving representatives from about 30 North American Baptist groups "the most significant Baptist meeting I have ever been to," outlined four reasons why the New Baptist Covenant is needed:
Shurden began at the beginning for Baptists in terms of denominational life in the United States—the formation of the Triennial Convention in 1814. Luther Rice worked not only to raise money for missions, but also for denominational unity through that early 19th-century gathering.
Although clergy spearheaded the Triennial Convention, the celebration of a New Baptist Covenant was led by two Baptist laymen-former president Jimmy Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood.
Shurden called Carter "our Luther Rice" and praised the former president for his attempts over the last couple of decades to reconcile Baptists.
He also argued that the Atlanta gathering was sparked in large part from a desire to protect Baptist higher education. He credited former Mercer University President Kirby Godsey with helping start discussions that led to the event.
The New Baptist Covenant event was not an attempt to create a super-denomination, Shurden stressed. Although Baptists in 1814 needed a new denominational structure, Baptists today already have numerous denominational entities.
"The New Baptist Covenant Celebration is not an effort to form something together," Shurden explained. "It is an effort to say something together about what we ought to be doing together."
The celebration of a New Baptist Covenant marked a significant moment in Baptist life because it could become "a major step in racial reconciliation and gender recognition among Baptists in North America," Shurden asserted.
The Triennial Convention was started by "33 white guys" and remained "a white guys' club," but the New Baptist Covenant event included from the beginning African-Americans and women.
"One of the reasons this program has been as good as it has been is because there were voices other than our voices—white voices—around that table," he said.
Pointing to the New Baptist Covenant's focus on Luke 4, he declared that the celebration is helping Baptists "take seriously what Jesus took seriously."
He lamented that most churches and denominations spend very little of their budgets addressing the areas addressed in Luke 4-good news for the poor, freedom for captives, recovery of sight for the blind, release for the oppressed—which Shurden said were "what Jesus took seriously."
"This is not Democratic stuff or Republican stuff," Shurden asserted. "This is Bible stuff. This is New Testament stuff."
Also at the breakfast meeting, the Mainstream Baptist Network honored former Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Randall Lolley.
Lolley, who was unable to attend because his wife was recovering from an illness, was honored at the breakfast for his stand for traditional Baptist theological education.
Serving 14 years as president of Southeastern, Lolley resigned in the fall 1987 to protest trustees whose fundamentalist policies he said at the time were "contradictory to the dream which formed Southeastern."
At the breakfast, David Key, director of the Baptist Studies Program at Chandler, and Larry Hovis, coordinator for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, offered personal reflections and praise for Lolley.
Key asserted that when the history of the moderate Baptist movement is written, one chapter should be titled, "Randall Lolley's bold Baptist stand." Lolley's example should be remembered as Baptists work to support the future of theological education, he added.
Hovis called Lolley a "great, courageous Baptist preacher, prophet" and said Lolley served as a catalyst for many "free and faithful institutions and ministries" that network together today.
Hovis announced CBF of North Carolina's creation of the Randall and Lou Lolley Fund for theological education that will be launched formally in April.
Hovis also read a statement of greetings from Lolley, who said he was "honored beyond words."
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