Most advance news stories from secular media give considerable attention to the fact that the largest Baptist body in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, is not participating with other Baptists in Atlanta this week.
It is valid news, but not something those most deeply involved in the historic Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, that begins tomorrow, are focused on.
Others Baptists don’t really expect cooperation of any kind from the SBC leadership. Just a few years ago, they watched the pouting, whining and childish withdrawal of the SBC from the world-wide fellowship of the Baptist World Alliance. So the Baptists in Atlanta this week are rallying around a shared passion for proclaiming the Gospel and ministering to those in need — and aren’t waiting on the SBC to join in.
These other Baptist groups aren’t paying much attention to what Southern Baptists — who were invited to participate — have to say about this unprecedented gathering. But reporters are.
For example, an article in the Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean, gave considerable space to remarks by SBC President Frank Page, who earlier condemned the gathering as having a “smoke-screen left-wing liberal agenda.”
More recently, according to the article, Page has said he will not attend the meeting but will pray for its success.
He should have stopped there. But Page went on to say: “…I urge this meeting to seek to find practical ways that the Gospel might be applied in ministry to precious persons across our nation and world.”
That is exactly what organizers have planned from the outset. There is something typically Southern Baptist about a non-participating critic “urging” other Baptists to do something — even if it is a good something already planned.
Indeed, the diverse Baptists gathering in Atlanta will focus on the call of Christ to share the good news and minister to those who suffer. It is that urging that brings them together.