David Goatley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, urged Baptists gathering from several different denominations not to allow borders to separate them from one another. Goatley, who is also president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, addressed the opening session of the Baptist Border Crossing on April 2 at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in the Kansas City area.
The Baptist Border Crossing is the second regional meeting modeled after last year’s Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta (the first regional gathering was in Birmingham). Goatley praised the efforts of both events.
“We’re thankful for [the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant] experience and for the other regional expressions,” said Goatley. “And we want to thank you for being bold enough to go where Baptists in this part of the country have not gone before.”
Goatley used the analogy of children coloring pictures to explain his hopes and goals for Baptists. He noted that young children don’t always color within the lines, adding that he is excited by such actions even though teachers may tell children otherwise.
“They color all over the place,” Goatley explained about young children. “They have no political commitment to the lines.”
“Those black lines that were drawn on those pages in the coloring books were not able to capture the imagination of those child artists,” Goatley added. “They saw the lines, but they were not forced to conform to the lines, unlike you and I who so often deal within the lines that someone else has drawn.”
Goatley argued that God is calling Baptists to color outside the lines.
“God has this habit of calling us outside of the lines that we have been coloring in, calling us outside of the walls and the borders” Goatley argued. “May God help us to color outside the lines.”
He connected this attitude to Peter being led by the Spirit in Acts 11 to cross borders and reach out to the Gentiles.
“It wasn’t Peter’s bright idea to go beyond the border, to cross the border, to color outside the line,” Goatley stated. “It was God’s revelation.”
The co-chairs of the Baptist Border Crossing Network also brought greetings. Wallace S. Hartsfield, II, pastor of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, and Jim Hill, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, led the planning efforts for the gathering.
“We’re hoping that the different traditions could come together and could just get to know all the various traditions and learn how to respect one another,” Hartsfield explained. “It could also be a time of reconciliation because I think that we all know that there are some scars that unfortunately we have left on one another.”
“I thought [the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant] was such a wonderful national meeting,” Hill stated. “But I really thought, you know, what we really need is to know each other where we live, in the communities where we serve, so that all the Baptist traditions might understand each other, respect one another, and learn from one another, and collaborate for the sake of the Kingdom.”
Goatley is an ordained Baptist minister who has been a pastor, university professor and seminary professor. In addition to journal articles and book chapters, he is the author of the book Were You There?: Godforsakenness in Slave Religion and the editor of the book Black Religion, Black Theology: Selected Writings of J. Deotis Roberts.
The Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention is an international Christian missions agency founded in 1897 that helps churches extend their witness to the ends of the earth. It is a global relief and development agency that helps improve the quality of life in marginalized communities around the world.
Other plenary speakers for the Baptist Border Crossing, which continues through April 4, will include evangelist Carolyn Ann Knight, Jimmy Carter, Baptist World Alliance President David Coffey and author Tony Campolo. Additionally, breakout sessions by facilitators from the various Baptist groups will deal with issues such as poverty, peacemaking, religious liberty and diversity.
Visit www.baptistbordercrossing.org/default.aspx to learn more.
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com and an editorial assistant for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.