Fourth Annual Mainstream Baptist Convocation

February 25-26, 2005

at the Downtown Renaissance Hotel in Atlanta, GA

 

 

Envisioning 'A New Day in Baptist Life'

Click Here for Tentative Schedule

By Robert O'Brien

What might be called the "Baptist Diaspora" -- a wide array of Baptists dispersed by a quarter century of denominational discord - will gather in Atlanta, Feb. 25-26, to envision "A New Day in Baptist Life."

 

The gathering, at the fourth annual Mainstream Baptist Convocation, will "begin a conversation that attempts to envision what the Baptist landscape might look like as we proceed into the 21st Century," said MBN co-chairs Bill Wilson and Bob Stephenson in a letter distributed to some 70 Baptist agencies, institutions and entities.

 

MBN's goal, the letter said, is to host a representative gathering of Baptist clergy and laity, along with representatives from all entities that have emerged in the last 25 years or have been de-funded by the Southern Baptist Convention across the years.  The convocation is also open to churches, associations, conventions, and organizations that have chosen to withdraw from official SBC connection or have chosen to partner with the new entities or network across the entire spectrum of Baptist life.

 

"We will not seek to start a new organization or denomination," Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga., said in an interview.  "MBN is acting as a catalyst to get an impressive array of Baptist Christians who have grown out of the conflict to explore how we can network and use our resources effectively.

 

"Baptists have a chance to create a positive future for authentic ministry that is proactive and focuses on the good things we can do collectively and individually - rather than on the pain inflicted by fundamentalists," Wilson said.  (Click here to read Wilson's challenge to Baptists.)

 

Missionaries Sarah and Larry Ballew, fired by the SBC International Mission Board for not signing the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, agree with that.

 

"Is there life after the IMB?" ask the Ballews, who have returned to their mission field in Macau, China, focusing on a positive future. "We can answer that question with a resounding YES!" (See article at this link)

 

The Ballews represent just one example of what a multitude of fired, resigned or early retired home and foreign missionaries, seminary professors, denominational leaders, and others are doing in ministry - in life after the SBC.

 

Division Produces Multiplication

 

Baptists now live in an era in which division has produced multiplication of efforts that have only begun to explore the possibilities for expanded ministries in missions, evangelism, church growth, Baptist journalism and literature and publishing, human needs, religious liberty, church history, Christian ethics, chaplaincy endorsement, and theological education.

 

The proliferation of ministries includes a boom in theological education.  More than 2,000 Baptist students are preparing for ministry at what now totals at least 16 theological schools outside the SBC.  That includes five schools of other denominations that have allowed establishment of Baptist studies programs on their campuses, led by Baptist professors. (See list at this link.)

 

Controversy has resulted, also, in separate state conventions forming in each of three states - Virginia, Texas and Missouri. That could soon possibly affect North Carolina.

 

In Texas and Virginia, fundamentalists split from Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) to form the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, respectively.

 

The reverse happened in Missouri, where the fundamentalists maintained control of the original state convention, while moderates split off to form the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. Five Missouri Baptist agencies also split from the older convention -- Word & Way newspaper, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, Windermere Conference Center, and Missouri Baptist Foundation.

 

The original state conventions in Virginia and Texas -- the BGAV and BGCT -- have maintained a stance that their churches are free to make their own decisions about who to partner with and support financially. Those options include the SBC, the Baptist World Alliance, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

 

The five Missouri agencies, plus Shorter College that split from the Georgia Baptist Convention, all still face court challenges to their right to split.

 

Convocation Plenary Session Speakers

 

Dr. Theo Angelov is immediate past general

secretary of the European Baptist Federation. He is

described as one of the brightest thinkers among

European Baptists, and has a powerful vision of

the future of Baptist life worldwide. Angelov, a

scientist and engineer turned minister, with a Ph.D.

in biochemistry, has also served as pastor in

Bulgaria and as president of the Bulgarian Baptist

Union.

 

Dr. Penny Long Marler is associate professor of

religion at Samford University. A keen observer of

Baptist life and well suited to help Baptists think

about the future, she is highly respected as a

teacher, writer and researcher in sociology of

religion, faith development, religion in America,

theories of religious change, and congregational

dynamics.

 

Dr. Albert Reyes is president of the Baptist

University of the Americas, a Hispanic school in

San Antonio, Texas, and the recently elected

president of the Baptist General Convention of

Texas. He has served as a missionary, pastor,

church planter, missiologist, and educator, as well

as chair of the Hispanic Task Force for the White

House Initiative for Academic Excellence with the

U.S. Department of Education. He has been a

progressive thinker and dreamer for many years in

Baptist life.

 

Dr. Walter Shurden, a long-time Baptist

historian professor, speaker and author, directs The

Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University. A

prolific author and keen observer, he is renown

for his insights and his prophetic voice regarding

the Baptist family.

Other Program Features

 

Besides guest speakers, the convocation will invite avariety of local church pastors to serve on panels and share their methodology, insight, and thought process for making connections with Baptist entities beyond their local church. "We believe those panels will be especially insightful for those who depend on local church support," MBN co-chairs Bill Wilson and Bob Stephenson said in their letter of invitation to the convocation.

 

"This gathering has great promise for forging a positive, proactive identity for authentic Baptists as we move into the future together, Wilson and Stephenson said. "To our knowledge, no gathering of this nature has ever been attempted, and we're hopeful that the conversation begun in February will continue well into the future."

 

Convocation Registration and Exhibit Contacts

 

To make a room reservation for the MBN Convocationon "A New Day in Baptist Life," call the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel Downtown at 404-815-5022 or 888-391-8724. The hotel is at 590 West Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30308; Fax: 404-815-5350. Contact the hotel by February 7 to get a convocation room rate of $99 per night. (See details at this link).

 

A required $50 registration fee will cover program fees, a Friday night banquet and a Saturday morning breakfast. Convocation registrations need to be made through national Mainstream Baptist Network, PO Box 3301, San Angelo, TX 76902-3301; email: carolscott@txbc.org; phone: 325-659-4102.

 

For exhibit space, contact Emily Row by February 1, 2005; phone: 325-659-4102; email: emily@txbc.org; mailing address: PO Box 3301 San Angelo, TX 76902-3301.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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