i first heard of this a few months ago and it has recently come up again with carter's new book recently having been released.
here is the back story from the january 21 issue of the washington post:
Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton
are leading an effort to forge dozens of small and
medium-size, black and white Baptist organizations
into a robust coalition that would serve as a counterweight
to the conservative Southern Baptist Convention...
On Jan. 9 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, the two
ex-presidents brought together the heads of 40
Baptist denominations and organizations to launch
a year-long organizing effort that they hope will
climax with the celebration of a "New Baptist
Covenant" in early 2008. Clinton described himself
as just a "cheerleader" for the effort and declined to be
One of the main organizers, William D. Underwood,
president of Mercer University in Atlanta, said the
covenant's members will spend the coming months
identifying joint projects to undertake in international
aid, domestic poverty relief and missionary work.
"We're not against any other group
of people of faith," he said. "We're against the fact
that 100,000 people died last month of malaria.
We're against the fact that hundreds of
thousands of Africans face starvation each year
now, although i am a southern baptist, i am not so elitist as to think that the sbc is the only denomination containing god loving and obeying christians. i have friends, mentors, and heroes from various denominations including the general baptist, pcusa, pca, anglican, and non-denominational churches.
this to say, i do not feel threatened by a group of people coming together forming a new denomination.what i am wary of is the founding of a new denomination on principles contrary to, or other than scripture.
the quote above from organizer william underwood bothers me. he has made a false dichotomy between churches that care about meeting the physical needs of the people in the world and those who stand against the teachings of other faiths.
it is possible to stand against teachings contrary to scripture *and* reach out to the needy. one need not say " we are not for religious battles, we are for helping the needy." the gospel based church does both. in addition, one can be against what other "faiths" believe, and not be against "people". this language only serves to muddy the waters. i am sure mr. underwood would be against the beliefs of those who sacrifice babies in the name of their gods, but you would never know it from the way he worded his statement.
(for the record, for all of its faults, the southern baptist convention is one of the largest providers of disaster relief in the country. see here, here, and here)
but what about mr. carter? what are the beliefs that he feels so strongly are not represented by the southern baptist convention, the denomination of which both he and clinton were once members?
for starters, he has recently stated in an interview with belief.net (found here) that one need not accept christ to be saved. he bases his answers on a mind bending, smattering of out of context biblical references.
this ex- president, who many christians listen to and respect his word on christianity out rightly, who teaches sunday school, is *wrong* about the gospel.
so this is where the new baptist denomination is starting. i do not fear for the sbc because of numbers or competition. i fear for the soul's of those who follow any gospel based on something other than the gospel of jesus christ, no matter what the denomination.
mr. carter would do well to heed the words of the apostle paul to the church at galatia:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him
who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to
a different gospel-- not that there is another one, but there
are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of
Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach
to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let
him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again:
If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you
received, let him be accursed(1:6-9)
[read al mohler's excellent coverage of this same interview here]