As one who was part of writing the founding covenant of the Alliance of Baptists, I delight in this recommendation for a new covenant and mission statement. It’s timely.
It’s time to find fresh words for our identity and purpose. The process behind this recommendation, as well as its product, is a witness to the collaborative relationships at the heart of our Alliance life.
The contexts or the soils from which this proposed covenant and mission and the founding covenant grew are different, so very different. In 1986-1987 we were a group of 15 or so Southern Baptists not “at home” and looking for a new home. With our clear “No’s” to the prevailing movement toward an excluding, oppressive orthodoxy, we seized the opportunity to envision a Baptist network that embodied the clearest “Yes’s” of our calling and vision. The energy of a new possibility led us – as one founder expressed it – “to put up the flag and see who salutes.”
This recommended covenant and mission statement sees what we, the founders, could not see as clearly: “the systems of white supremacy, patriarchy and abusive power;” “the earth sacred” under urgent threat; “full respect to gender, sexual, racial and ethnic identities,” and the danger of our Baptist practice of dissent and freedom fostering separatism and individualism. And, in addition, there is a spirit in this document not explicit in the founding covenant: lament, gratitude and naming the guidance of Spirit.
I’m thinking that a covenant and mission statement is like an anchor. It is a self-definition that keeps us steady in place. Like an anchor we put it down, again and again, to secure us in our stance toward God, each other and the world. But sometimes we throw an anchor out beyond us as a way to pull ourselves in its direction. In this sense this revision also is a summons. This new statement of covenant and mission challenges us to become who we promise to be within our life in community.
Mahan Siler is one of the founding members of the Alliance of Baptists. He retired in 1998 as pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.