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Moderate Meeting Envisions ‘New Day’ in Baptist Life

Twenty-five years of denominational strife have changed the landscape for Baptists in the South, spawning a “new day” for ministry and networking in the 21st century, say planners of a February convocation for mainstream Baptists.

Dozens of those state, national and international groupings have been invited to participate in the fourth annual MBN Convocation, scheduled Feb. 25-26.

Entity representatives will meet with clergy to envision “A New Day in Baptist Life,” according to an article in the upcoming Mainstream Baptist Network Journal.

MBN co-chairman Bill Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga., said the meeting is not intended to start a new organization or denomination but to act as a “catalyst” for discussion about how the various entities can network and share resources effectively in the future.

“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.

For moderates, division of the SBC led to multiplication of ministries for missions, evangelism and a variety of resources. For example, more than 2,000 Baptist students are enrolled in 15 theological schools that didn’t exist at the outset of the SBC struggle.

New state conventions have formed in three states—two conservative and one moderate—while Baptist entities in two states face court challenges over efforts to distance their trustee-selection process from denominational politics.

Scheduled speakers include Theo Angelov, immediate past general secretary of the European Baptist Federation. The EBF is one of several regional bodies within the Baptist World Alliance, the latest victim in the rift, which lost SBC funding in June over accusations that it was too liberal.

Other principle speakers are Penny Long Marler, an associate professor of religion at Samford University; Albert Reyes, president of the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio and current president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas; and Walter Shurden, a historian who directs the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University.

Along with plenary sessions, pastors will form panels to share experiences and insight about connecting with Baptist entities beyond their local church.

Wilson, along with co-chairman Bob Stephenson of Norman, Okla., said to their knowledge it will be the first meeting of its kind. “This gathering has great promise for forging a positive, proactive identity for authentic Baptists as we move into the future together,” they said. “We’re hopeful that the conversation begun in February will continue well into the future.”

The meeting will be held at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel Downtown. Registration details are available at the Mainstream Baptists Network Web site.