Monday, July 9, 2007

Concern over Southern Baptist Agenda Pushes Group to Seek Common Ground

They’re America’s other Baptists — the ones who appoint women pastors, work with theological liberals and line up more closely with President Jimmy Carter than with President George W. Bush.

Over the last 25 years they have watched with growing concern as their conservative Southern Baptist brethren came to define the religious tradition for the public.

Now these other Baptists, who are spread among many denominations, are pooling resources on humanitarian work and evangelism, hoping they can have a bigger impact.

Friday in Washington, two of the larger groups — the American Baptist Churches and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship — worshipped together for the first time. They planned to commission two missionary couples who are to represent both groups and will organize a national Islamic-Baptist dialogue to improve relations with Muslims.

“It is an effort to celebrate our common heritages as Baptist Christians and to affirm our commitment to work together more collaboratively,” said the Rev. Daniel Vestal, national coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “The Baptist witness is much richer and more nuanced than is characterized so often in the public square now.”

In January an even broader group of Baptists will host an Atlanta meeting “to speak and work together to create an authentic and genuine prophetic Baptist voice in these complex times,” according to a joint document they issued called a “North American Baptist Covenant.”

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