The premier event on Thursday morning at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting in Memphis will be the Baptist Center for Ethics’ screening with a panel discussion of a new DVD that challenges Baptists to nurture the common good with their Jewish neighbors.
From 9 to 10:15 a.m., June 19, in the Cook Convention Center on the Mezzanine level in the Sultana room, BCE will present “Good Will for the Common Good: Nurturing Baptists’ Relationships with Jews,” a DVD documenting past anti-Semitism and proposing a way forward for constructive partnerships between Baptists and Jews.
Seating is limited.
A panel discussion will follow the viewing of the 31-minute documentary-style DVD. Panelists include Mike Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and John Finley, pastor of First Baptist Church, Savannah, Ga.
Smith is one of the central figures in the DVD. He and Rabbi Rami Shapiro co-wrote Let Us Break Bread Together: A Haggadah for Christians in 2005.
They are currently writing a book on the Ten Commandments ad the Sermon on the Mount.
In an April e-mail interview, Smith said that the dialogue format of their forthcoming book “allows us to explore our different starting places, reach conclusions (whether similar, at odds, or simply different), and force each other to try to think more clearly. In the process we also hope to model at least one way in which Jews and Christians may engage in respectful yet honest conversation. In the end, the model may be more important than any given conclusion.”
Finley’s church viewed “Good Will for the Common Good” two weeks before it left earlier this year on a mission trip to Cuba with a Reform Jewish congregation located one block away.
“Our trip to Cuba was the first combined mission effort that we know of between Baptists and Jews in the United States and included 24 members from Congregation Mickve Israel and 13 members from First Baptist Church,” said Finley, who noted that the two congregations had had close relationships for over 200 years and had worked on the trip planning for three years.
Calling it “an excellent tool in promoting synergy between Baptist and Jewish congregations,” he said, “We would recommend the DVD enthusiastically to any CBF church which is interested in fostering deeper relationships between Baptists and Jews.”
In addition to the story of Smith and Shapiro, the DVD features two other stories of constructive relationships between Baptists and Jews.
One is that of Immanuel Baptist Church and Congregation Ohabai Sholom in Nashville, Tenn. Each year these congregations, with St. George’s Episcopal Church, sponsor a Thanksgiving morning race that has raised over $1 million for homeless ministries.
The other story centers on Southside Baptist Church and Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Ala. The temple worshipped in Southside’s sanctuary when the temple underwent renovation in 2001-02.
The DVD includes clips of Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss, director of adult Jewish educational outreach at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Ala., and Jonathan Levine, director of community services at the American Jewish Committee in New York. Hausman-Weiss and Levine spoke at a 2004 Baptist-Jewish goodwill luncheon sponsored by the Baptist Center for Ethics.
During the past quarter century, the relationship between Southern Baptists and Jews has hit rock bottom. Goodwill Baptists must take initiatives to turn around relationships, advancing the common good with their Jewish neighbors.
We must reframe the relationship in new ways through the virtues of wisdom, balance, courage and justice, the very virtues which form the DVD chapters.
If you are in Memphis, I hope you will join us.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.