Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was joined at the Baptist Border Crossing by evangelist Carolyn Ann Knight. (Photo: Brian Kaylor)
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter encouraged Baptists to put aside disagreements, urging them instead to unite behind "the gospel's simple message" that "we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ."
Carter addressed the second session of the Baptist Border Crossing at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in the Kansas City area on April 3. He was joined by evangelist Carolyn Ann Knight, who also focused on the importance of working together to make it "our number one priority ... to help somebody get to Jesus."
The Baptist Border Crossing is the second regional meeting modeled after last year's Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta. Carter, who also addressed the first regional event in Birmingham, Ala., played a key role in initiating the New Baptist Covenant movement.
Focusing on the need for Baptists to work together despite differences, Carter compared disagreements over numerous issues to the biblical debates about eating meat sacrificed to idols or whether Gentile believers should follow the Jewish rules. Instead, he pleaded for Baptists to focus on sharing the Gospel.
"Paul made it vividly clear that no substitute of any issue—no matter how important—instead of the good news about salvation could be acceptable," Carter argued. "That it was an abomination to divide Christians one from another and to subvert evangelism for Christ."
"You see, these and other very divisive questions are important to Baptists," Carter added after listing several controversial theological and political issues. "But compared to the gospel message, they have the same status as eating the meat of idols or whether you have to become a Jew first before becoming a Christian."
Knight used the story of Jesus healing the paralytic with four friends in Acts 5 to talk about how Christians need to work to help bring others to Jesus. She urged those at the event to be willing to do the hard work to reach out to those who do not know Jesus.
"We all know somebody that we can talk to about the message of salvation, the power of God, the love of the Savior, and the joy through the Holy Spirit," Knight stated.
"Lift the Savior up," Knight added. "Lift him up, lift him up!"
Knight is a graduate of Bishop College in Dallas, Texas, Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Cornel West of Princeton University says she is an "organic intellectual rooted in the best of the prophetic African American preaching tradition." She travels extensively throughout the nation speaking at churches, conferences and on college campuses.
Other plenary speakers for the Baptist Border Crossing, which concluded April 4, were Baptist World Alliance President David Coffey, author Tony Campolo and North American Baptist President David Goatley. Additionally, breakout sessions by facilitators from the various Baptist groups dealt with issues such as poverty, peacemaking, religious liberty and diversity.
Visit www.baptistbordercrossing.org to learn more.
Carter noted his excitement about last year's Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, which came from seeing 15,000 Baptists come together "to learn how we could—we Baptists—could better serve the Prince of Peace."
He added that "we proceed, still, planning for another of our meetings in two more years with thanksgiving for what's already occurred, with high hopes and expectations, but also with humility and prayer that our deliberation will be guided by the spirit of Jesus Christ, with no criticism, no criticism of others and no exclusion of any Christian."
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com and an editorial assistant for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.