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Jimmy Carter, Maya Angelou to address regional New Baptist Covenant gathering at Wake Forest

March 12, 2009

President Jimmy Carter and writer Maya Angelou will speak at the Southeast regional gathering of the New Baptist Covenant April 24 and 25 at Wake Forest University.  Angelou, Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest, will deliver the opening address.  Carter will give the closing address.  The New Baptist Covenant gathering at Wake Forest is free and open to the public.

The regional gathering grew out of the initial Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, held in Atlanta in 2008, which brought together more than 15,000 Baptists representing more than 30 Baptist organizations.  Bill J. Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest School of Divinity and co-chair of the upcoming regional gathering, says that the 2008 Celebration was the most racially, theologically and regionally diverse gathering of Baptists ever held in the United States.  Afterward, the event organizers decided to hold multiple regional meetings in order to offer greater opportunities for cooperation among Baptist ministries.  The first regional meeting was held in January in Birmingham, Ala.  Other meetings this year are scheduled for Liberty, Mo.; Norman, Okla.; and Chicago.

The meeting at Wake Forest University will include worship services and workshops offering strategies for churches to respond to pressing social and spiritual needs in a time of economic crisis.  The theme of the gathering is “This is God’s Year to Act: Responding to a Society in Crisis.”  The event begins with a prayer and praise gathering at 12:30 p.m. April 24.  Angelou will speak during the opening worship service beginning at 1 p.m., along with a seminary student selected in a national competition to identify excellence among young preachers.  Carter will speak at 2:30 p.m. April 25 during the closing worship service. 

“While Baptists share many common beliefs, they often disagree as to how to interpret those beliefs,” says Leonard.  “What they can agree on, however, is that they are called to live out the mandates of Christ to care for persons in need. The regional meeting seeks to deepen those connections by linking grass roots Baptists in learning about and extending common ministries together.  It is an effort to bring Baptists together around common service in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and the imprisoned.”   Six workshops during the two days will be presented in Benson University Center, led by individuals from the Southeast working in ministries related to education, homelessness, health care, the environment, immigration and strategies for ministry.

Joining Leonard as co-chair of the regional gathering are two Winston-Salem pastors.  They are the Rev. Serenus Churn of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and the Rev. Reuban Gilliam of North Winston Baptist Church.  The steering committee for the event includes a diverse group of individuals representing more than 40 churches and organizations from three states.

Additional keynote speakers include two pastors from Charlotte.  The Rev. Clifford A. Jones of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church will speak at 7:30 p.m. April 24 and the Rev. Amy Jacks Dean of Park Road Baptist Church will speak at 10:30 a.m. April 25.  Both will speak in Wait Chapel.

A dinner sponsored by Baptists Today magazine will honor James Dunn, Resident Professor of Christianity and Public Policy at the School of Divinity, with the annual Judson-Rice Award for his lifetime of achievement.  The dinner will be held at 5 p.m. April 24 at the Bridger Field House at Wake Forest’s BB&T Field.  The event is open to the public, but reservations are required.  Call Baptists Today at 877-752-5658 or visit for more information.

A full schedule for the New Baptist Covenant regional gathering at Wake Forest University is online at

Press Contacts:

Audrey Fannin
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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