(RNS) -- Former President Jimmy Carter, who has met twice in the last
year with moderate Baptist leaders, called Friday (June 29) for a new
partnership among groups upset with the conservative leadership of the
Southern Baptist Convention.
"We should reach out to other traditional, or moderate, Baptists and
form a partnership that would greatly strengthen what we do," Carter
told a crowd of about 7,500 gathered for the 10th anniversary meeting of
the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
"If there are other Baptists who don't respond, forget them. Forget
them, and move on as Christians and as Baptists, just following Jesus."
Carter, who announced last year that he was no longer associated
with the Southern Baptist Convention, revealed that he had hosted two
meetings of moderate Baptists at the Carter Center, The Atlanta
He shared a consensus statement he had drafted on behalf of
participants in those meetings, which described the Bible as "inspired
and authoritative," said "all persons are inherently equal before God"
and rejected creeds as "instruments of doctrinal accountability." A
future partnership might focus on collaboration on education and
Officials at the gatherings included representatives of the
fellowship, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the Baptist General
Association of Virginia and other moderate-led state conventions.
In an interview before his speech, the former president said of the
statement: "In most cases, the agreements would be contrary to recent
policies of the Southern Baptist Convention."
Carter also said that if he had not been elected U.S. president, "I
would have accepted being president of the Southern Baptist Convention."
Before his decision to part ways with the nation's largest
Protestant denomination, Carter held meetings with leaders of the
denomination and the fellowship but "nothing much came of it."
In other business, the fellowship upheld its ban on hiring openly
gay persons or funding groups that "condone, advocate or affirm
homosexual practice," reported Associated Baptist Press, an independent
news service. By a vote of 701-502, delegates affirmed a policy
previously adopted by the fellowship's Coordinating Council.