Reflecting on the Alliance of Baptists
The Alliance of Baptists met in mid April in Atlanta, Georgia. We were hosted kindly by the good folks of Northside Drive Baptist Church. Here are some reflections on my time at the annual gathering of the Alliance.
The Numbers. For such a small denominational group, we are a powerhouse of participation. Over 400 people came to the meeting, representing over two thirds of the churches that are members of the Alliance? Unprecedented.
Words and Action. I love the way leaders in the Alliance take seriously their call to mission, social justice, and meaningful change for the sake of the gospel. I like making decisions by consensus, hearing reports about multi-year partnerships with Baptists in Cuba, Zimbabwe, and the Republic of Georgia, learning how new organizations spin out from the Alliance, yet remain connected, and seeing the ecumenical an interfaith initiatives and partnerships.
Digging Deeper. I love the substance of conversations that take place at the Alliance. In a workshop “Leading Women” I hosted over 40 women as we talked with Karen Thomas Smith, Chanequa Walker-Barnes, and Melissa Browning in depth about leadership. We questioned the concept of “empowerment,” described double binds faced by women, and grappled with complexities of race and class that cannot be ignored while talking about gender. We heard stories of institutionalized sexism and racism in Africa and North America. We talked about the problems of white privilege and the struggle to sustain change over time, while trying to nurture hope. We talked about how to start a coup or at least continue a revolution for equality, access, and meaningful change in the church.
Connections. In my longitudinal study of pastors, we explore the embodied, relational and spiritual character of learning and leading in ministry. As Baptists departed the SBC in search of new connections that were more faithful and shaped by freedom, Alliance founder Jim Strickland liked to say, “The Alliance attracts the real brains of the operation.” I tend to agree, yet I’m relieved that we’re not just concerned about our powers to think or argue about Baptist ideas and principles. No, we are interested in acting, and we understand the essential quality of embodied, relational knowing. This commitment to do more than think and talk, means we love to be together, do our work together, embodying the presence of Christ and the spirit of the Holy. By coming face-to-face, talking, eating, worshiping, singing, we are knitting together our many calls and churches into something bigger than who we are alone. More importantly, we are bearing witness to the power of God’s love and work in the world.
Eileen Campbell-Reed is Co-Director, Learning Pastoral Imagination Project and Coordinator for Coaching, Mentoring & Internship, create Central Seminary. She blogs at Keeper of the Fire and tweets at @ecampbellreed