The New Baptist Covenant: Will It Work?

Jimmy Carter's attempt to unite Baptists may be a bridge too far for some.

Since his time in office, President Jimmy Carter has gone all-in on one specific mission: to unite Baptists toward common ministry, doing so through the New Baptist Covenant (NBC).

Those unfamiliar with Baptist history may not immediately grasp the significance of this goal. While current divisions among Baptists have more to do with doctrine and views of Scripture, original divisions were racial in nature. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was created in 1845 because the then-unified denomination, which included northern Baptists, refused to allow slave owners to serve as missionaries.

While SBC leaders like Russell Moore recognize that “racism is alive and well” in Southern Baptist churches, the SBC has publicly repented of its racist past and, more recently, repudiated the Confederate flag as a symbol of “horrific injustices against our African American brothers and sisters in Christ.” Its lobbying arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has condemned specific acts of racism in America, like the shooting of innocent blacks by police.

The NBC was formed in 2007 and, according to its website, strives to create “vibrant, inclusive Baptist communities, building bridges in places previously marked by division. We are called by God to champion the weak and oppressed, honor the diverse workings of the Holy Spirit and to share the love of Christ.” Baptists tied to the NBC have been carrying out such ministries for years now, but in light of recent events, its focus on diversity and cooperative ministry is newly relevant.

Southern Baptists have yet to formally opt in to the Covenant, partly due to ongoing political skepticism. As then–SBC president Frank Page told Christianity ...

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