3 prominent Republicans join Carter, Clinton, Gore on New Covenant roster
By Greg Warner
Published May 17, 2007
ATLANTA (ABP) -- Organizers for next January's New Baptist Covenant gathering announced the speakers for the historic three-day meeting -- with former President Jimmy Carter making good on a pledge to enlist prominent Republican Baptists to complement the mostly Democratic headliners.
Republican Senators Lindsay Graham (S.C.) and Charles Grassley (Iowa) join Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee as recently named participants for the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta, billed as the broadest Baptist meeting in America since Baptists divided over slavery before the Civil War. Organizers hope to attract 20,000 people to the gathering.
Carter already has enlisted former President Bill Clinton and Al Gore, the former vice president who came within 537 Florida votes of succeeding Clinton. They all are Democrats, as is ‘60s-era presidential adviser Bill Moyers, now a journalist and author.
Although the meeting will occur in the heat of the presidential-nomination season, Carter eschewed any political intention for the gathering. Clinton's involvement sparked criticism the event would become a campaign rally for wife Hillary, the Democratic presidential frontrunner. But the only presidential candidate on the program is Republican Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor and governor of Arkansas.
Carter acknowledged his effort was slowed initially by criticism the group was dominated by Democrats. "It may have been a mistake to single out me and Bill Clinton as two politicians," he said. But the group's effort to enlist Republican speakers was "completely successful," Carter said. "Every Republican we have invited has agreed to come."....
Rather than the racial, theological and social conflict that has divided Baptists for decades, the Covenant group plans to demonstrate Baptist unity around Jesus' compassion agenda, outlined in his inaugural sermon recorded in the fourth chapter of Luke's gospel.
Those themes comprise the core of the "New Baptist Covenant," a statement drafted in April 2006 in a meeting at the Carter Center attended by some of the same Baptist leaders. The statement says the Covenant partners are "committed to promote peace with justice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and marginalized, welcome the strangers among us, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity."
This bodes well for the return of Baptists to their egalitarian, radically individualist, compassionately communitarian, and socially progressive roots.