Sunday, January 21, 2007

That we all may be one

An article in today's Washington Post caught my attention: Carter, Clinton Seek To Bring Together Moderate Baptists. The article talks about President Carter's desire to form a Baptist coalition that would rival the Southern Baptist Convention. He stresses the fact that he is not looking to form a wholly political group with a religious affiliation, but to change the image of Baptists in the world's mind.
"We hope . . . to emphasize the common commitments that bind us together rather than to concentrate on the divisive issues that separate us," Carter said. "There's too much of an image in the Baptist world, and among non-Christians, that the main, permeating characteristic of Christian groups is animosity toward one another and an absence of ability to cooperate in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood."
It was this particular part that struck me. I'm not a Baptist, I'm currently a member of the Episcopal Church, but the Episcopal Church has quite a bit of division within it at the moment as well. Today, in the "Prayers of the People" (a prayer lead by a lay reader and read responsively with the entire congregation) the prayer began:
Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church;
That we all may be one.
(Prayer of the People, Form III, page 387, Book of Common Prayer)
And this should be the desire of all good Christians, that we can put our differences aside and see the common thread that binds us. I don't know what political goals Carter and Clinton may have in mind for this new organization, there are some undoubtedly. I'm not sure how setting up a rival group will promote unity. But I do understand the desire to present a more tolerant image of the Baptist religion than the SBC gives. And, if the SBC is going to be political, which they obviously are, there is no reason this group can't do the same.

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