Nobel Peace Laureate Al Gore will speak at a luncheon scheduled for Jan. 31, 2008, from noon to 2 p.m., in Atlanta, in the Thomas Murphy Ballroom at the Georgia World Congress Center.The $35 ticket is pricey. The opportunity is priceless.

Name a more extraordinary opportunity. When will readers ever get to hear a former vice president, who won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election by over half-million votes, who won seven years later a Nobel Peace Prize after winning an Oscar and an Emmy, and who is Baptist?

Of course, the answer is probably never. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Add to the distinctiveness of the speaker the distinctiveness of the community with whom we will lunch. We will break bread with the best leaders among North American Baptists, and probably many of the best Baptist leaders from around the world.

While the speaker and the fellowship will be terrific, I think a third factor makes this luncheon even more important, one with a spiritually deeper meaning. I offer it with a tentativeness that will only be validated with time.

I wonder if in the long arc of the moral universe God is leading goodwill Baptists to come together at the beginning of a new epoch around a pivotal passage, that contains Jesus’ moral mission statement, and to fashion a robust network that will be committed to placing the environment at the apex of our moral agenda.

After all, the environment traverses almost every issue ”global poverty, war, health, racism, immigration, international debt and natural resources. The biblical mandate to care for the environment is crystal clear from Genesis 2:15 to Luke 4:19 with the announcement of the year of jubilee. Yet too few goodwill Baptists have placed environmental responsibility at the heart of our moral agenda. If we did, we could help to provide the moral energy for needed change.

No speaker has better credentials than Al Gore to seal the scientific consensus about global warming with the moral obligation to be stewards of the earth. I think he will effectively inform and morally motivate goodwill Baptists to take their first substantive and collective steps toward becoming muscular environmentalists.

Early last year, after attending the January meeting at the Carter Center, when the New Baptist Covenant gathering was announced, I was concerned that Gore was not mentioned as a program leader. I voiced my concern, recommending his inclusion. I was disappointed with rationale for his non-inclusion. I was dumbfounded when program planners dumped the environment from the workshop list, saying wrongfully that the foundational passage did not address environmental issues.

Given Gore’s addition to the program and his remarkable year of recognition, perhaps the hand of providence is indeed at work in this gathering.

Don’t miss this luncheon. Order your tickets today. See what will happen among goodwill Baptists for the global good.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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