VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 8/25/15)—American Baptists join with the larger Baptist family in the US and globally in offering prayers for President and Mrs. Carter and their family. President Carter has been a faithful and courageous leader in Baptist life in our nation and globally, and his efforts in striving for peace, seeking justice for the poor and oppressed, and fighting disease have inspired many to offer their lives in service to others.
Among Baptists in North America, he has been a strong voice for unity and commitment to following Jesus in his call as expressed in Luke 4: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 (NRSV)
In recognition of his own exemplary witness in these areas, American Baptists presented Carter with the Dahlberg Peace Award, one of the denomination’s highest honors.
“The recent news of his cancer has taken us all by surprise. As fellow Christians, we know that even in these trying circumstances his faith in Christ is a bedrock of hope and peace to him,” said ABC General Secretary A. Roy Medley. “His grace and even humor in announcing the medical findings, as well as his continuing commitment to those causes which are deeply rooted in his faith continue to inspire us in service to Christ and the world.”
Carter, who served as 39th president of the United States from 1977-1981, convened leaders of more than 30 Baptist organizations in 2007 to form the New Baptist Covenant, charging the group with identifying opportunities for fellowship and cooperation that would build bridges across the barriers of race, theology and geography that divided Baptists and diminished their witness. More than 15,000 people attended the inaugural gathering of the New Baptist Covenant in 2008.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies Executive Director Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, a New Baptist Covenant board officer, describes Carter’s contribution to Baptist life in this way: “President Carter is what some of us refer to as a ‘Goodwill Baptist’ or a ‘Red Letter Baptist.’ He is more concerned about what pulls us together as Baptists and what pushes us out in service and ministry in the world than he is about what divides us. He focuses most on the declarative message of Jesus, which some Bibles publish in red ink, rather than on secondary theological reflections. I believe that it was in this spirit that he initiated the New Baptist Covenant movement. He prepared a table and invited all Baptists to it while others drew circles and excluded others from joining in.” Read more.
“We affectionately offer our prayers for him, confident in the promise of Christ, ‘I am with you always,’ said Medley.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.