The challenge in leaving a “feel good” meeting like the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant last week is knowing what to do now that it is over. The next steps are risky.
If participants do nothing concrete, they risk having good feelings as the meeting’s main legacy. (Although some things are already happening through new relationships.)
On the other hand, organizers know that creating a new super-convention is not the answer. But what is?
Are there steps Covenant Baptists can take that avoid the extremes of doing nothing and creating a formal union? I think so.
First we need to express appreciation to all those who organized, led and funded this experience. It was a massive success.
With all the normal work faced by a new university president, it is amazing that Bill Underwood would give so much of his time and the university’s resources to making this thing happen.
So with a tip of the hat to those who invested so deeply in this endeavor, let me suggest a few things (based on feedback I have heard since the conclusion of the Celebration) that might keep the movement going without institutionalizing it too much.
1. Covenant Baptists need a communication point. As much as I hate to ask Mercer to do anything else, the office on the university’s Atlanta campus seems to be a good place for this.
However, it would need to be a loose, widely supported effort to help the various participating groups to connect with one another. Not a new organization, but a communication point for existing Baptist groups that want to cooperate with one another around the issues raised at the meeting.
2. Continue finding ways, as individuals and groups,to keep the challenge of Luke 4 before Baptists. Commitments to tackling hunger, poverty, injustice and other forms of suffering can not be narrowed to specific legislation without losing a lot of people.
There needs to a strong commitment to the issue while allowing for various political solutions to arise.
3. Plan another gathering down the road. Maybe three or four or five years from now. There is no substitute for shared worship and face-to-face conversations. Relationships cannot be forced. But as David Goatley, president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, has said, organizers can create the “place” and “space” for new relationships to flourish.
But I think waiting a couple of weeks before mentioning the idea of another gathering to exhausted organizers might be wise.
Any other practical ideas or responses to these?
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.