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Jimmy Carter, Maya Angelou headline Baptist gathering at Wake Forest

April 9, 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’s Wait Chapel.  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.  Afterward, the event organizers decided to hold multiple regional meetings in order to offer greater opportunities for cooperation among Baptist ministries.  The regional meetings were held earlier this year in Birmingham, Ala., and Liberty, Mo.  Other meetings this year are scheduled for Norman, Okla., and Chicago.

The meeting at Wake Forest 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 Matthew Johnson, a Wake Forest University School of Divinity student and winner of the Next Generation Voices competition, a national competition to identify excellence among young preachers.  Carter will speak at 2:30 p.m. April 25 during the closing worship service. 

Seven 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. Except as noted below, all workshops will be offered at 3 p.m. on April 24 and at 9 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on April 25. 

The workshops are:

  • “Addressing Healthcare Issues in Our Parish/Communities,” led by Dr. Thomas Ginn of Salisbury Internal Medicine Associates in Salisbury, N.C.  Panelists include Janet Morton, parish nurse at Union Baptist Church of Durham, N.C.; Katherine Eagle, executive director of the Good Shepherd’s Clinic in Salisbury; the Rev. Herb Miller, pastor at First Baptist Church in Lexington, N.C.; and Dr. Fred Loper, executive director of the Baptist Medical/Dental Fellowship based in Oklahoma City.  Location:  Benson, Room 401D.
  • “Beyond the Vision Statement:  Strategies for Faithful Ministry,” a discussion by panel members including the Rev. Michael Usey, pastor at College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C.; the Rev. Amy Jacks Dean, co-pastor at Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.; the Rev. James Cook of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem; and the Rev. Prince R. Rivers of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.  Location:  Benson, Room 401A.
  • “Creation Care:  Rationale and Resources for Congregations,” a discussion by panel members including the Rev. Michael McClain, regional field coordinator for the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program in Washington, D.C. and Mark Jensen, Jesse Ball DuPont Associate Professor of Pastoral Care at the Wake Forest School of Divinity and chaplain supervisor at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.  Location:  Benson, Room 410.
  • “Strangers in the Land:  Ministry to Immigrants and Refugees,” led by the Rev. Gay Gulick, children and families minister at First Baptist Church in High Point, N.C..  Panelists include the Rev. Galo Maldonado, Hispanic mission pastor at Becks Baptist Church in Winston-Salem; Mark Kadel, affiliate director for North Carolina World Relief in High Point; and Nghinh Tan Nguyen and Hieu Thi Bui, members of the Vietnamese Baptist Mission at First Baptist Church in High Point.  Location:  Benson, 407.
  • “Baptist Identity Then and Now, Why and Why Not?” led by Bill J. Leonard, professor of church history and dean of the Wake Forest School of Divinity.  Panelists include Richard Pierard, church history professor, retired, from Gordon College in Wenham, Mass.; the Rev. Sir Walter Mack, pastor at Union Baptist Church in Winston-Salem; Lauren Waggoner, program director for the Baptist Theological Student Network in Atlanta; and Geneva Brown, member of First Baptist Church Highland Avenue in Winston-Salem.  Location:  Benson, Pugh Auditorium.  Note:  this workshop will only be offered at 9 a.m., April 25.
  • “Inviting in the Stranger:  Ministry to the Homeless,” a discussion with panel members including the Rev. Darryl Aaron, pastor at First Baptist Church Highland Avenue in Winston-Salem and the Rev. David Hughes, pastor at First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.  Location:  Benson, Room 409.
  • “Enabling the Church to Meet the Educational Needs of Youth,” a discussion with panel members including Marie Williamson and Willie Richardson, co-coordinators of the Youth Educational Enhancement Program (YEEP) at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Winston-Salem; Annie R. Hairston, who chairs the advisory boards of both YEEP and the Mount Zion Child Development Center; and Cleopatra Solomon, co-director of the Mount Zion Child Development Center and community resource officer for YEEP.  Location:  Benson, Pugh Auditorium.  Note:  this workshop will only be offered at 3 p.m. April 24 and 11:45 a.m. April 25.

Bill J. Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest School of Divinity and co-chair of the upcoming regional gathering, says Baptists 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 grassroots Baptists in learning about and extending common ministries together,” says Leonard.  “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.”  

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  For more information about the event, call 336-758-5121.

Editor’s note:  Credentialing will be required for all working media.  Please call Audrey Fannin at 336-758-4393 or email for more information.

Press Contacts:

Audrey Fannin
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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