- ... Few [American] Catholics believe that a [Presidential] candidate is disqualified [solely] by being a Mormon. The reason is obvious: Catholics are accustomed to having heretics in the White House. Jews likewise are not offended that the president is not one of their own. This is and always has been a dominantly Protestant country. With the exception of JFK, who, sad to say, was not much of a Catholic, Catholics are accustomed to having presidents who are, in their view, religiously wrongheaded. Evangelicals, by way of contrast, are accustomed to thinking of America as a Christian nation, meaning a Protestant nation. For many who lack a fully developed ecclesiology, America is something very much like their church. You don't want a heretic as the head of your church...
- - Fr Richard John Neuhaus, "Mitt Romney on Faith in America," First Things "On the Square" blog (Friday 7 December 2007)
Thousands of Baptists - black, white, theologically conservative, moderate, Republican and Democrat - opened on Wednesday a historic meeting that former president Jimmy Carter called "the most momentous event" of his religious life.
The gathering is billed as the broadest of its kind among Baptists across North America since they split over slavery in 1845. The cause is unity across racial, theological and political lines and an end to their internal divisions.
"For the first time in more than 160 years, we are convening a major gathering of Baptists throughout an entire continent, without any threat to our unity caused by differences of our race or politics or geography or the legalistic interpretation of Scripture," said Carter, 84, who spearheaded the new movement.
Up to 20,000 Baptists are expected to attend the three-day gathering, called the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, in Atlanta. Over 30 organizations representing 20 million Baptists are making the unity effort on the common platform of the gospel - salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ - and biblical mandates such as helping the poor.
It's an assembly that has never happened before, the Baptists emphasize... Carter, a longtime Bible teacher and a Baptist since he was a child, described animosity among Christians as "a cancer metastasizing in the body of Christ" and it's that divisive image of Christians that is prevailing today, he said...
Dispelling early rumors that the convocation may be a Democratic rally considering it takes place just ahead of primaries on Super Tuesday and involves former president Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore, Carter stressed to the media, "We are doing everything we can and have for the last two years to avoid any sort of racial division, philosophical division, theological division, geographical division or political division here at this assembly."
Also clarifying that they are not trying to exclude anyone, including the conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Carter said he and SBC President Frank Page exchanged positive letters recently and hopes they can work together.
Carter and many other Baptists had severed ties with the SBC after the conservative resurgence when conservatives took control of the denomination in the 1970s and 1980s. SBC remains the largest US Baptist and largest Protestant denomination in the country.
While SBC head Page and other top leaders from the conservative group are not participating in the Atlanta meeting this week over concerns of a possible political slant, pastors and lay members from Southern Baptist churches are attending, Carter affirmed.
- Lillian Kwon, "Carter Launches Bold Baptist Movement to End Factions," Christian Post (Thursday 31 January 2008)
UPDATE: Now Mr Carter has, in virtue of the office and appurtenant dignities irrefrageably annexed unto his very person, been exercising his Sixtus Sense.