(Note: Asterisks denote links to documents at the end of this article.)
The Alliance of Baptists formed around a *covenant 32 years ago. “In a time when historic Baptist principles, freedoms, and traditions need a clear voice,” the covenant began. It created clarity from which the Alliance thrived. For more than three decades seven commitments have inspired the Alliance to become a community dedicated to the inclusion of all persons, to pursuing justice and to developing partnerships in mission.
But it can only be “in a time” for so long.
The Why Baptist event two years ago celebrated the covenant’s 30th anniversary with a fresh look at its seven commitments. The event spawned conversations beyond its own conversations. The Alliance board of directors formed a committee under Daniel Miles’s leadership to look at the covenant. By fall 2017 the board felt it imperative that some amendments be made.
A statement on the inclusion of women in ministry—“The freedom of the local church . . . [to] ordain whom it perceives as gifted for ministry, male or female”—now excluded. A statement on God’s call committed us to social and economic justice, but not specifically to racial justice. The board determined racial justice must be added to the covenant and that binary gender language should be
removed. With those mandates it commissioned a covenant revisioning team to study the covenant and recommend any additional changes.
So, a year ago I had the pleasure of joining a wonderful group of people—Nancy Sehested, Ned Parker, Andrew Gardner, Cristina Garcia-Alfonso, Malu Fairley-Collins and Sally Sarratt, with Paula Clayton Dempsey as the staff liaison—to work together on revisioning the covenant. At the 2018 Annual Gathering in Dayton, Ohio, we kicked off the review of the covenant by hosting table conversations for 150 people, which yielded 19 pages of information.
Over time we became convinced that the Alliance covenant needed more than just a few amendments. The covenant was created “in a time” that was uniquely tied to a rejection of the conservative movement of the Southern Baptist Convention. We believe the times in which we live call for a *new Alliance covenant and mission. We think we preserved a core of the original covenant along with its 22-year-old mission and added dimensions needed for the living of these days. In order to help you understand how we reached our recommendation, you may read the *report we made to the board.
At the upcoming 2019 Annual Gathering in Washington, D.C., we will kick off a year-long discussion on this proposed covenant with more table conversations. We submit this recommendation as the beginning of a process. We expect the community to wrestle with our proposal and to make it better by the time we meet in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2020, where the board hopes we will approve an Alliance Covenant and Mission for the next generation.
I hope you will take time to click the links on this page to read the current covenant, the recommended covenant, as well as the report to the Alliance board of directors, and begin forming thoughts to share at our gathering in D.C. Thank you for the privilege of starting the conversation.
Tim Moore is chair of the Alliance of Baptists’ covenant revisioning team. He also is the writer-in-residence and former pastor at congregational partner Sardis Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.