Yesterday I posted on the "hundreds" gathered for a New Baptist Covenant gathering in Atlanta. This is further proof of my inability to estimate time, size, and numbers in a crowd. Apparently, registration at the NBC exceeded 16,000. Just a few off from my estimate. Just wanted to get that corrected.
Onto the second day of the gathering.
I arrived late (sue me) to the morning gathering and was only able to hear part of Tony Campolo’s address to the gathering on "The Bible Speaks about the Poor." I know I missed out. You, like I, will have to rely on the video posting of Campolo’s message which you can find here. I heard several comments throughout the day about how amazing it was which I would expect nothing less from Campolo. He’s a straight-shooter.
The testimony of Naw Blooming Night Zan, Joint General Secretary of the Karen Women’s Organization in Burma was incredibly powerful as she spoke about the ravages of oppression these past 60 years in Burma at the hand of the Burmese military regime. Her presentation was so humble, so unlike the intensity of the facts she presented. In outlining what is needed, Night Zan stated that praying is not sufficient. Some might take offense at that statement but they would be wrong to do so. How true it is that we are quick to pray but to not recognize that our steps of action are an indispensable part of prayer. This is a common strand throughout the NBC.
Marian Wright Edleman, Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, was a force to be reckon with as she presented statistic after statistic about poverty among children. She nailed it and nailed "apathy" to the wall. She talked about the cradle-to-prison pipeline in America that is supported by the unlevel playing field. When she talked about America’s low rank among nations in the area of education among children, she correctly challenged us on the fact that Americans throw a fit over being out-ranked in the Olympics but not over being out-ranked in the areas that really matter like science and math. One of the many quotes that I loved was "Church ought to be the locomotive and not the caboose" in regards to social justice issues. You can see her message here.
I attended the breakout session "Breaking Cycles of Poverty" this afternoon with panelists Tom Prevost, CBF Together for Hope Coordinator; Chris Gray, FCS Urban Ministries, Atlanta; and Diana Garland, Dean of Baylor University School of Social Work, Waco, Texas. It was exactly as I hoped it would be with a wonderful discussion of practical ideas on breaking cycles of poverty. You can read a very informative article on the session here. This was my first choice among the many sessions offered due to personal passions but especially in regard to some new responsibilities at the church I serve. Faith organizations are needed to step up and take a very active and engaged role in alleviating poverty. Churches have been fairly decent in their charitable responses; however, charity is not what is needed. Transformation is needed and churches need to lead the way. The church I serve is beginning this Sunday the CBF study "It’s Time". Our prayer as we begin this journey is that our congregation will catch this same heart for being the presence of Christ in our community. After this breakout session today, I have some very practical ideas to suggest to the family back home as we finish our study and ask the question, "What next?"
There is so much to process and take in here.Tonight the question was posed to the participants, "What’s next?" We have gathered together. We have celebrated our diversity. We have spoken of issues that are to be owned by faith communities. What are the next steps? Not only for us as individual communities and churches but as a New Baptist Covenant. We don’t need to have a convention for a sake of having a convention. What will this really look like after the family celebration here in Atlanta ends? No one has the answer to that question yet. And I like that. I like it because it makes me feel like I am part of the decisions. The planners of this event don’t have it planned out. They brought us all to the table and they are listening. And I appreciate that and as a result, I feel ownership and a responsibility to the next steps.