When I was younger in my BC days, I went to a beer joint/pool hall called the “Blues Bar” along with my cousin and his friends. When daddy found out that I have been to this place, he questioned me as to my intention of doing something like that, as the bar was known for being a place where shooting guns was as common as shooting pool. I tried to dodge daddy’s questions by referencing the friends I went with were more friends of my cousin than friends of mine. Daddy responded with words that ring in my ears to this day. He said; ‘You may not be able to pick your family, but you can certainly pick your acquaintances‘. Which brings me to the point of today’s post.
During my time of sitting up with my mother at the hospital recently, while she was asleep, I would peruse the Google search engine for various items. One such item of interest to me was the connection of North Carolina Baptist with the New Baptist Covenant Celebration recently held in Atlanta. What peaked my interest was the advertising of this event in the Biblical Recorder, the state paper for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. I began this search out of curiosity and the more I searched the more I began to see connections that most NC Baptist may not be aware.
First allow me to lay some basic ground work. Before anyone tries to attack this post saying that I am presenting this from a biased perspective. I do admit my bias as to my suspicions that this celebration was not what it was billed to be. Let us look to an independent news agency for their explanation of the event. I, for one, have always stated this celebration was not about getting Baptist together for expanding the kingdom as much as it was for getting them together to expand the Democratic party base. As Naomi Schaefer Riley stated:
The New Baptist Covenant is officially apolitical. But with Mr. Gore and former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton on the roster of speakers at a meeting jammed last week between the Florida primary and Super Tuesday, one might be forgiven for doubting this claim.
It seems that an independent news agency such as The Wall Street Journal, would be one that is unbiased. However, it appears that Robert Parham, Editor at Ethics Daily, disagrees. He said her article had too many errors. In a response that is classic liberal smack down, he addresses her title at the Wall Street Journal in a degrading way. What Mr. Parham forgets is that an Editor for Friday’s Taste page, in the Wall Street Journal would have more readers than the Editor of Ethics Daily.
Therefore, from an independent news agency, this celebration was about politics, not Baptist politics mind you, but secular politics. Does that mean that those involved were there to promote the Democratic Party? No, that is not what I am saying. I do believe that many people involved in this event were there simply to do the various duties within their convention. This celebration was planned, with different motives other than uniting Baptist to move forward to overcome poverty, aids, global warming, promote civil rights for gays and other issues it seems that conservatives are accused of not caring for. Allow me to note two other items and then draw some connections of North Carolina Baptist that many may not be aware.
If this celebration was about bringing everyone together, where was everybody on Thursday and Friday? You see we heard about the expected 20,000 people and then the count of over 12,000 people that attended on Wednesday evening at the opening ceremony. But we have never been given any other numbers for the attendance when the other Baptist meetings closed out their conventions. It seems that most left and went back home. One example is the Al Gore luncheon. I am not going to try and argue the purposes of the the media not being allowed into his luncheon. I am not going to even try and argue how he presented our responsibility of God’s creation when he is an avowed evolutionist. But 2500 people attending a luncheon, at $35 a head mind you, does not make a grand statement to me as to the 12,000 Baptist reported at the Wednesday opening ceremony. Also, it seems that 2500 people paying $35 a head could have used that $87,000 to help feed these poor that this celebration was supposed to unite the Baptist that were present. It also seems that the food to feed 2500 people at $35 per plate was a bit extravagant. Certainly paying $35 for rubber chicken, uncooked green beans, hard dinner rolls, unsweetened tea, and carrot cake could have been better used feeding the homeless in Atlanta–where most were right outside the World Congress Center.
Also, with this celebration promoting unity among diversity, I have to ask a question. Where were the invitations for two groups? Everyone knows that the SBC was not invited. There never was an official invitation sent to the SBC. Therefore, there was no way for the SBC to decline to be involved. The SBC probably would not have accepted the invite, but the fact remains they were not invited. And you can now understand why, as you peruse the speakers manuscripts you find the the SBC was the favorite ‘whipping boy’ of many speakers. If President Carter believes this is an official representative of the SBC, then he has another thought coming.
The second group that was not invited were the Gays and Lesbians. According to this news article the diversity that the New Baptist Covenant calls for was not even allowed a voice in the arena. How pious and even hypocritical of Former President Carter in his opening talk to point to things that have divided Baptist as “He cited a laundry list of issues that have divided Baptists-the role of women in ministry and marriage, varying accounts of creation, legalized abortion, civil rights for gays, separation of church and state, and the death penalty.” This opening talk came a year after the Alliance of Baptist were not given invitations to be at the celebration. We certainly want to promote civil rights for gays but we will not allow them to be part of this celebration, because it is not politically expedient. Of course this did not seem to bother the Alliance churches because many of them already have a voice as they are connected to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The Fellowship is strongly connected with the celebration and thus, the Gays and Lesbians are represented through this group.
Allow me to now make come connections that should cause NC Baptist to pay attention. As you look to the committees that were structured for the planning of this celebration you will notice some very well connected NC Baptist. First I want to point your attention to the Program Committee and you will not that Dr. Bill Leonard is a member of this committee. Dr. Leonard is the Dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University. You will remember that this is the divinity school that would not take a stand against receiving Gay and Lesbian Students to study for the ministry. It is not about the students themselves, but the fact that we have a Divinity School that does not support the scripture as speaking to the issue of homosexuality. Second, I want to point your attention to the Finance Committee. You will note that Dr. Mike Queen, Pastor of First Baptist Wilmington being involved in that committee. Dr. Queen, you will remember is a former President of the Executive Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. While this does not really concern me as Dr. Queen is a pastor of an autonomous church, it would concern me if he were serving in a leadership position within our state convention at present. Third, there are 2 other NC Baptist connections serving on the Communications Committee that does concern me. One is Mrs. Ruby Fulbright. Mrs. Fulbright, as you know, is the Executive Director of WMU-NC. The same WMU-NC that recently
left moved out from under the umbrella of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina because they wanted to ‘do missions with other groups’. It seems that Mrs. Fulbright may have found another source of funding outside of NC Baptist by taking part in this celebration. Also, it concerns me to find Dr. Tony Cartledge listed as a member of this committee. It does not surprise me, but it does concern me that we have a professor teaching in a NC Baptist college/divinity school that will attend a celebration that puts down bible believing Baptist as being some fundamentalist idiots. Why does it concern me? Campbell University has a desire to still have access to the students in NC Baptist churches. These NC Baptist churches have repeatedly voted to align ourselves more fully with the Southern Baptist Convention, and we are sending our students to a school whose professors, at least one, openly plan a meeting to speak against the very rallying cry of the SBC.
I know that some may try to point out that Richard Brunson was a presenter in a break out session as reported by the Biblical Recorder. (The Recorder’s coverage of this event is another subject for another post. Suffice it to say when a state paper gives more coverage to an out of state meeting that the BSCNC was not participating, than to the Ex.Com. meeting going on the same week, it seems a little out of kilter.) As I understand it, the Baptist Men of North Carolina Director was invited to express to those that wanted to know, how we involve ourselves in Disaster Relief.
Which brings me back to my opening story. As NC Baptist we may not be able to choose those that God leads to become part of our fellowship. We certainly need to hold high the blood stained banner while lovingly and firmly communicating that we will not allow anything to compromise our doctrine in that banner. But we also need to remember we can choose those with whom we associate.