Thursday, January 11, 2007

Clinton and Carter to Baptists: "Come Over to the Dark Side"

From Baptist Press:
ATLANTA (BP)--Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have proposed the establishment of a broadly inclusive alternative Baptist movement to counter what they called a negative image of Baptists and to address poverty, the environment and global conflicts.

Carter and Clinton kicked off their plans with a news conference Jan. 9 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, flanked by leaders of moderate Baptist groups including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a breakaway group of an unverified number of churches that objected to the election of conservative leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. Carter and Clinton announced a “Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant,” tentatively set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, which they hope will attract 20,000 Baptists.

“This is a historic event for the Baptists in this country and perhaps for Christianity,” Carter said at the news conference.

About 80 leaders of 40 moderate Baptist organizations claiming to represent 20 million Baptists in the United States, Canada and Mexico met at the Carter Center for the announcement. Leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention were not invited to attend.

“This is an attempt to bring people together and say, ‘What would our Christian witness require of us in the 21st century?’” Clinton said, adding that his goal is to be a “cheerleader” for the group.

Chapman defended Southern Baptists’ record of ministering to the poor.

"Southern Baptists address world hunger in many ways, but a good example this past year was their giving $5.8 million, collected by the SBC Executive Committee, with every penny going solely to combat this global tragedy," Chapman said.

According to budget allocations, about 20 percent of funds collected for the SBC’s World Hunger Fund are used in the United States and 80 percent overseas.

“In the U.S. alone, Southern Baptists provided over 5 million meals,” he said. “The great difference in our approach from liberals is that in ministering to the body, we do not neglect the needs of the soul, and the Gospel was shared with over 500,000 people with over 32,000 professions of faith resulting.

“When we offer a loaf of bread, no strings attached, we also present Jesus as the Living Bread and lives are changed both physically and spiritually,” Chapman told BP.

The 2008 confabulation Clinton and Carter propose will coincide with a U.S. presidential election year. Clinton's wife, U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), is a possible candidate and has hired a consultant to advise her on religion. Democrats have made winning over "faith voters" a major election strategy.
(emphasis added)


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