Organizers of next year’s New Baptist Covenant Celebration unveiled a new Web site Wednesday promoting “an authentic and genuine Baptist voice in North America.”

“Our goal is to have a major demonstration of harmony and a common commitment to personify and to accomplish the goals that Jesus Christ expressed in his sermon to his own hometown of Nazareth,” former President Jimmy Carter says in a message on the main page of

The Web site traces roots of the New Baptist Covenant to a year ago, when Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood convened a group of 18 Baptist leaders representing 20 million North American Baptists at the CarterCenter.

Unanimous in their desire to overcome differences of race, culture, geography and convention affiliation, the group issued a North American Baptist Covenant, affirming common commitment to Baptist values like sharing the gospel, promoting peace with justice, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and marginalized and promoting liberty and respecting diversity in religion.

A follow-up meeting attended by 80 representatives of more than 30 Baptist organizations took place Jan. 9. At the end of that meeting, the group, representatives of organizations that are members of the North American Baptist Fellowship, announced plans to hold a convocation Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008, in Atlanta.

The theme of the historic gathering is Unity in Christ. The biblical basis is Jesus’ reading from the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue as recorded in Luke 4: 18-19:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the release of the captives, and the recovering of sight of the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

The three-day New Baptist Covenant Celebration begins on the evening of Jan. 30 with a keynote address by Carter. Other keynote speakers confirmed to date include Bill Moyers and Marian Wright Edelman.

Tentative themes for the four plenary sessions are: “Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant,” “Unity in Bringing Good News to the Poor,” “Unity in Respecting Religious Diversity,” “Unity in Seeking Peace with Justice” and “Unity in Welcoming the Stranger and Healing the Broken-Hearted.”

In addition to the plenary sessions, the convocation will feature special-interest sessions dealing with topics such as racism, religious liberty, poverty, AIDS, faith in public policy, stewardship of the earth, evangelism, financial stewardship and prophetic preaching.

Additional program information, including the names of other speakers, will be released as details are finalized.

On Wednesday the Baptist Center for Ethics announced plans for a free, online Bible study in the works to support the New Baptist Covenant Celebration. Scheduled for release June 1, the package will include student and leader guides, commentaries by faculty at Belmont University’s School of Religion, worship resources, online video and a DVD.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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