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Politicians, Preachers Headline 2008 Baptist Confab Program

Former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore are scheduled to once again share a platform–alongside Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and two Republican U.S. senators–at a 2008 New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta, a program committee announced Thursday.

Also joining previously announced speaker– former President Jimmy Carter, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman and veteran broadcast journalist Bill Moyers–at the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 gathering at the Georgia World Congress are two well-known African-American Baptist pulpiteers, a Baylor preaching professor and a Baptist pastor who is a woman.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Clinton was present alongside Carter at a January press conference in Atlanta announcing a major meeting aimed at unifying Baptists in North America across racial, political and theological lines around 21st issues including peace, justice, diversity and concern for the poor, but wasn’t officially announced as a confirmed speaker before Thursday’s press release.
 
A longtime member of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />ImmanuelBaptistChurch in Little Rock, Ark., the 42nd U.S. president’s politics sometimes created problems for his home congregation, when officials of the Southern Baptist Convention publicly called on the church to “discipline” him over policies like his pro-choice stance on abortion and on gays in the military, and for his affair with a former White House intern that led to his impeachment charge by the House of Representatives in 1998 and acquittal by the Senate in 1999.
 
After leaving the White House, he established the William J. Clinton Foundation to advance global issues including health security, economic empowerment, leadership development and racial, ethnic and religious reconciliation.
 
Clinton’s vice president for eight years, former presidential candidate Al Gore, attends NewSalemMissionaryBaptistChurch in Carthage, Tenn. Last year he starred in “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary film about global warming that won two Oscars.
 
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is one of 11 Republicans officially running for their party’s nomination as president. A graduate of OuachitaBaptistUniversity and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Huckabee was a pastor of Southern Baptist churches in Pine Bluff and Texarkana, Ark., and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention before entering politics in 1992.
 
Diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes and informed by doctors he would not live more than 10 years if he did not lose weight, Huckabee shed 110 pounds. His 2005 book Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork recently came out in Spanish.
 
Other confirmed speakers include Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of Corinth Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, whose memberships on his official biography include the “BaptistChurch.”
 
Ebony magazine called another confirmed speaker, Charles D. Adams, one of the country’s “greatest black preachers.” He has been pastor of HartfordBaptistChurch in Detroit for 36 years and is former president of the Detroit Branch of the NAACP, the largest branch in the country.
 
Another prominent African-American Baptist leader on the program is William J. Shaw, pastor of WhiteRockBaptistChurch in Philadelphia and president of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc.
 
Other scheduled speakers include:
 
–Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at EasternUniversity, author of 30 books and founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.
 
–Joel Gregory,  professor of preaching at Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary and author of Too Great a Temptation, chronicling his rise and fall as co-pastor of the 29,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, at the time regarded one of America’s leading mega-churches.
 
–Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of CalvaryBaptistChurch in Waco, Texas.
 
“Baptists from across North America are working together in The New Baptist Covenant because of our common commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed and because of our compassion for people who poor and hurting,” said David Goatley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention
 
“We are doing the hard work of staying the course despite human differences of race, culture, and traditions, and this opportunity to build unity and community in unprecedented ways is a new venture, indeed,” said Goatley, who also serves as president of the North American Baptist Fellowship and a member of the New Baptist Covenant executive committee. 
 
Announced Jan. 9 at the CarterCenter in Atlanta, the celebration will feature five plenary sessions under the program theme “Unity in Christ” and based on Luke 4:18-19. They are: Unity in Seeking Peace with Justice, Unity in Bringing Good News to the Poor, Unity in Respecting Diversity, Unity in Welcoming the Stranger and Unity in Setting the Captive Free.
 
In addition to the five plenary sessions, the celebration will feature special-interest sessions focusing on topics such as racism, religious liberty, poverty, the AIDS pandemic, faith in public policy, stewardship of the earth, evangelism, financial stewardship and prophetic preaching.
 
Additional program information, including the names of special interest session speakers, will be released as details are finalized. More information on the New Baptist Covenant and the 2008 Celebration is available at www.newbaptistcovenant.org.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
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