A Masai tribal talking stick helped broker a deal in Washington last week.

With the U.S. government shutdown, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) made her Senate colleagues use this stick during their deliberations as a means of forcing each other to listen.

The talking stick, a gift from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), helped the congressional leaders to embrace cooperation over competition, leading eventually to a vote to reopen the government.

Cooperation over competition in the current U.S. political climate might sound like a utopian dream, but possibilities seem to be growing.

Albert Einstein, once wrote, “Nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish cooperation of many individuals.”

With our federal government finding itself splintered, there is hope that lawmakers can set aside bitter partisanship and ideological isolationism to achieve a common good for all people.

When cooperation replaces competition, those involved are permitted to maintain their individualism while understanding their communal attachments and responsibilities.

While the verdict is still out on whether our lawmakers can cooperate, there is one reality emerging that makes my heart sing.

Since assuming the responsibilities of my new job at the Baptist Center for Ethics, other Baptist leaders have spoken to me about a renewed emphasis upon future cooperation. These talks have left me extremely hopeful.

The moderate/progressive movement within Baptist life can no longer be defined by the last three decades.

For too long now, we have had to begin conversations with the preface “We are Baptists, but we are not … .”

Instead, these leaders are forging new ground that will embrace both our unique callings and a desire for cooperation.

Together, we can communicate a shared Baptist vision and work toward the gospel’s greater good for all.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1-5).

Several examples of this “cooperation” and “same-mindedness” have arisen over the last year.

BCE’s staff was asked to produce a short video for a Baptist News Global event honoring Babs Baugh and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. More recently, the Baptist World Alliance made a similar request.

Also, we have been asked to participate in the North American Baptist Fellowship and a Baptist/Muslim dialogue event with American Baptists.

In all these instances, BCE was enthusiastic about cooperating with such great partners.

As late as last week, the New Baptist Covenant informed us of an incredible live streaming event at Riverside Church in New York City on Thursday, Feb. 1.

The event is called “The Courage to Show Up,” which will be a conversation between bestselling author Brené Brown and community activist DeRay McKesson.

Instances like these make me proud to be part of the emerging Baptist movement.

As this new era for cooperation begins to develop, BCE looks forward to working alongside our historic partners plus reaching out to new cohorts.

The work we face is daunting with the issues multiplying overnight and the darkness proliferating. However, as a cooperating movement of Baptists, we can make a difference.

We can address the problems we are called to engage while supporting each other along the way. We can shine light into the darkness, burning brighter as a multitude of rays.

We can, like Sen. Collins, work to find creative ways to foster dialogue, cooperation and mutual respect.

Let us be of one mind and one love, so that the hope of Christ can break through to be seen by the world.

Mitch Randall is executive director of BCE and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter @rmitchrandall.

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