Need for church response grows as HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to spread

By Carla Wynn Davis
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Photo: Carla Wynn Davis

ATLANTA-About ten years ago, when Wayne Smith stepped in his first HIV/AIDS education class, the other students started applauding. A member of Central Baptist Church of Bearden in Knoxville, Tenn., Smith didn't realize how significant his church affiliation would be. For those gathered, Smith's presence sent a message.

"The church had come. It wasn't Wayne Smith. It wasn't Central Baptist Church Bearden. It was somebody from some church in this town has come," Smith said.

Baptists wrestle with ways to find common ground with other faiths

By Sue H. Poss
CBF of South Carolina

Photo: Joel McLendon

ATLANTA-As Baptists seek common ground to work with people of other faiths, they face the challenge of finding ways to be relevant in an interfaith context while retaining their own distinctive identity.

"We often don't reach out to other faiths because we are scared of losing what's essential about our Baptist faith," said Noel Erskine, associate professor of theology and ethics at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Ga. "We are so afraid of losing our identity that we are not relevant in a multi-faith context."

Rogers challenges churches to engage in justice issues

By Jeff Huett
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Photo: Joel McLendon

ATLANTA-Participants at a session held in conjunction with the New Baptist Covenant celebration in Atlanta received a lesson in "going upstream" to address the root causes of injustice.

Melissa Rogers, a visiting professor of religion and public policy at the Wake Forest University Divinity School in Winston-Salem, N.C., led a special interest session that focused on matters at the intersection of faith and public policy.

Pastors: World waits for authentic messengers

By Norman Jameson
Biblical Recorder

ATLANTA-People outside the church will hear a gospel message only from a passionate messenger who lives an authentic, transformed life, said two pastors leading a special interest session on evangelism at the celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta Feb. 1.

"The proclaimer of the good news must be gripped and transformed by the presence of the living word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit," said Brenda Little, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church of Christ in Evanston, Ill. "Saved and satisfied is not going to work."

Public servants & preachers challenge Baptists to welcome 'the stranger'

By Robert Marus
Associated Baptist Press

Photo: Rod Reilly

ATLANTA-The biblical command to "welcome the stranger" encompasses support for all of those on society's margins, prominent preachers and public servants told participants at the celebration of a New Baptist Covenant Feb. 1.

In the Friday-morning plenary session of the Atlanta event, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Texas preacher Joel Gregory and former Surgeon General David Satcher insisted the plight of immigrants, the hungry and people lacking proper health care should be of utmost concern to followers of Christ.

Mainstream Baptists hear Shurden, honor Lolley

By Brian Kaylor
Baptist General Convention of Missouri

Photo: Carla Wynn Davis

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:

College students unite to serve Atlanta following Baptist celebration

By Patricia Heys
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

ATLANTA-More than 80 students from eight colleges and universities will participate in a day of service Feb. 2, the day after more than 15,000 Baptists gathered in Atlanta for the celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

The students, who attended the interracial meeting that drew Baptists from throughout North America, are part of the Baptist Collegiate Fellowship.

Novelist Grisham calls fellow Baptists to respect diversity

By John Pierce and Tony W. Cartledge
Baptists Today

ATLANTA-Best-selling author John Grisham contrasted the Mississippi Baptist church of his childhood with the greater openness of his current congregation, University Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., in a rare public address concluding the Jan. 31 evening session of the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

In a message titled "Respecting Diversity," Grisham told of how his childhood church was not open to racial diversity or the inclusion of women in leadership roles. The biblical cases for exclusion were based on literal interpretations of selected scripture passages, he said.

Global ills take center stage at Baptist convocation

By Hannah Elliott
Associated Baptist Press

ATLANTA (ABP)-Baptists focused attention on social and global ills—materialism, climate change, HIV/AIDS and apathy—during the second day of a unity meeting in Atlanta.

Tony Campolo, Al Gore and John Grisham provided the notable speeches of the day, speaking at the New Baptist Covenant meeting.

Campolo, an author and social activist known for his brash northeastern brogue and socially progressive theology, told thousands of Baptists attending that they must "straighten out" their values when it comes to "which Jesus they preach."

Panelists, participants explore interfaith relationships

By John Pierce
Baptists Today

ATLANTA-Three Baptist leaders known for building ecumenical and interfaith relationships faced the issue of how to relate to persons of other faiths while holding to their own Christian convictions.

One panelist, pastor Gerald Durley of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, referenced a "Peanuts" comic strip in which the character Sally brags about convincing a boy in her class to agree with her religious convictions-after she hit him with her lunchbox.