Robert Parham has been one of the leading critics of the perceived relationship between the SBC leadership and the Republican Party.  It seems that he has changed his perspective since Carter and Clinton called for, and helped organize the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant (NBC) to meet in Atlanta at the end of January. 

Parham said, “In the wisdom of hindsight, I should have challenged Huckabee to consider the benefits from being on a high-profile program only a few days before the Georgia presidential primary. I should have urged him to be a Daniel in the midst of lions, or a lion in the midst of Daniels. I should have said that the NBC leaders ought immediately to ask him to reconsider his withdrawal.”

So much for the NBC not turning into a political event.  I take it this is confirmation that the timing of the celebration was planned to coincide with the Georgia primary. 

Parham goes on to say, “Given the predicted attendance of 20,000 Baptists in the Georgia World Congress Center and the nature of politicians to find a crowd, does anyone really think that Democratic presidential candidates will not bleed over to the NBC meeting? Of course, they will. What a splendid opportunity for them to press the flesh”

Well, actually, that is precisely what I did think, what many other Baptists also think, but when I ventured to mention this on several other occasions, including at the BGCT, I was told by NBC apologists that this was definitely not the case, and that I, and those who were critical of the potential political outcome of the gathering needed to focus on the social justice issues that would be addressed.  It wasn’t about politics at all, we were told.  Now, here comes Robert Parham, telling us that is is unreasonable to expect that, with a big Baptist meeting going on coincidentally just before the Georgia primary, and also, coincidentally at the same exact time, in the same exact location, that the Georgia Democratic Party happens to be having its annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant would not become a place for Democratic politicians to “press the flesh.”  Coincidentally, of course.  Too bad Huckabee decided not to come and join the party, and do some flesh-pressing of his own.  At least he had the opportunity, which justifies everything that weighs this gathering heavily on the side of secular, Democratic party politics. 

Yeah, right. 

My position on secular politics and politicians mixing with Baptist conventions and organizations remains the same, regardless of the party affiliation or the denomination or convention, and I am just as opposed to Richard Land and the SBC’s ERLC mixing with and endorsing Republican politicians as I am to the Democrats and their involvement in the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.  Parham’s admission simply confirms what I have said before, as well as my own decision to stay away from the NBC gathering.  Noting that the Jefferson-Jackson dinner is being held in the same building at the same time is just icing on that cake.  I doubt that there is any coincidence involved in planning the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant to begin on the same date that virtually all of the Democratic presidential contenders, and most notably Hillary Clinton, will be gathering for a dinner in the same facility.  You might get away with “Well, we invited other Republicans but they turned us down,”  though I don’t think that cuts it, but you can’t overlook such intricate advanced planning as this.


About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

16 responses

  1. Kaylor says:

    There is a difference between the Celebration being political and politicians showing up. Politicians will be politicians. But just because they are, does not mean that those planning the Celebration are planning a political event. The Celebration was planned first (over a year in advance) while the Georgia primary was not set until later. Thus, you cannot blame the Celebration for the fact that the Democrats later booked space nearby. Please get your facts right before spreading some conspiracy theory.

  2. Lee says:

    No, Kaylor, I’m not buying that this time around. It is not a coincidence. You’re not going to convince me that Carter’s advisors, and Clinton’s too, were not aware that the Jefferson-Jackson dinner was booked for the same night as the beginning of the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant, especially not with the involvement of African-American Baptist groups like the National Baptist Convention and the PNBC, who are intimately connected with Democratic politicians. Carter himself may have well influenced the decision to have the dinner the night the Celebration begins, in the same place. Parham pretty much defeats your argument anyway, with his, “Hey, so what’s the big deal anyway” attitude.

    Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are planning this event, primarily Carter. You’ve argued long and well against possible political motives and connections, but Parham shot a hole in your argument, and the job of trying to separate this event from partisan, secular political purposes is like trying to sort out the wiring behind the sound board of a church P.A. system. There are hundreds of wires, many of them looking the same, all tightly wound around each other to the point where you can’t tell which wire goes to which circuit. Huckabee obviously saw that, and decided to steer clear. And so shall I.

  3. Kaylor says:

    You are getting your time order backwards! Carter and Clinton could not have known about the dinner because it was not booked yet. The Celebration was booked first. You cannot blame the Celebration planners (who, by the way, are not the politicians) for the fact that another group later booked a meeting nearby. And if this is such a Democratic event, how do you explain Republican senators Grassley and Graham?

  4. Lee says:

    Grassley and Graham are window dressing. They are minor personages, compared to the entire Democratic presidential field. Parham was clearly hoping that Huckabee, the only Baptist in the Republican field, would reconsider, since his presence would have lent much credibility to the “We’re not being political” argument. I give Huck, or his advisors, credit for seeing that move for exactly what it was, and backing away.

    Jimmy Carter is a long, long time Georgia Democrat, arguably still the most influential Georgia Democrat, and still very well connected. A phone call from Jimmy would have guaranteed the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner date, and thus the presence of the entire Democratic presidential field in the same building on the same day as the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. Come on, Kaylor, are you saying Carter is not smart enough to pull something like that off, and that Clinton wouldn’t have used his influence to help make it happen? There is no way I would buy the argument that the “planners” were not in any kind of communication with the organizers, Clinton and Carter, through the whole process. That’s not a plausible argument. Grassley and Graham can talk until they are blue in the face, they will be like a straw fence against a wildfire in that crowd. There are far too many obvious connections here, along with Parham’s major change of heart, to accept the argument that this is all mere coincidence.

    I sincerely hope, for the sake of you and others like you, who sincerely believe that this is about something more significant than secular politics and a left-wing Baptist pep rally for the Democratic party, that your message will be able to be heard, and that something more is accomplished by this gathering. But I think getting publicity focused on the question of this being a possible link between the Democrats and left wing Baptists is exactly what the organizers Carter and Clinton were after when they came up with the idea. Otherwise, they would have used their own influence, which they could easily have done, to keep prominent Democrats away from Atlanta during the Celebration. This looks exactly like the same sort of thing that the religious right does with Republicans. If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck….

  5. Kaylor says:

    Wow, two prominent Republican senators are window dressing? Just how far will you stretch things to frame this the way you want? I think you are wrong to suggest that the Celebration planners (and I am not meaning Carter and Clinton) are making this a political event just because an actual political event was later planned nearby. However, I do wish there was more distance because we really need the Celebration to be what it is supposed to be about and not be about politics.

  6. Dylan says:

    What’s making this about politics is the fact that this event is the brainchild of two former Democrat Presidents, one of whom has a wife he wants elected. But that’s not all. The covenant event was scheduled to coincide with some African-American Baptists also meeting in Atlanta at the same time, and also known for extending invitations to politicians, mostly Democrats, to speak and participate. It’s not rocket science to figure out that the planners or organizers, or any one of a hundred people associated with the covenant, would have realized that. I, too, have trouble believing that there was no connection between Carter and the Georgia Democrats who have this dinner on an annual basis, related to the timing and location of it this year in particular, when it will be loaded with a dozen Democratic party contenders for President, including, most likely, Hillary Clinton. But the clincher is the article from Ethics Daily that is referenced here. The author writes like a kid who got his hand caught in the cookie jar. I suppose he is connected to the New Baptist Covenant in some way? And it only took a first year law student to figure that out. They don’t seem to be too upset at the fact that there are Baptists who are being critical of them because this meeting has political overtones.

  7. Kaylor has made many good points. There is not much else to say.

    First, have you ever been to the World Congress Center?

    I doubt you have. It’s huge. I watched several gymnastics/wrestling events at the World Congress Center during the 1996 Olympics. Huge. The GWCC is not a mere “building”

    You are assuming that the entire slate of Presidential candidates will attend. I have my doubts.

    As someone who was intimately involved with the Democratic Party of Georgia for 4 years (Young Dems and employee of John Lewis who is being honored at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner), I can tell you that Jimmy Carter is no longer involved in state politics. He left that game years and years ago. Jimmy is the most famous Georgia Democrat to be sure. But his influence is zilch. He doesn’t participate at the state level anymore.

    So your conspiracy theories about the dinner and Carter hold no water. Talk to someone more knowledgeable of the Georgia political landscape please. Further, it’s false and incorrect to paint the African-American denominations as intimately connected with Democratic politicians. Yes, African-Americans vote Democrat in high numbers. But where is this official relationship with the Dem party and politicians.

    However, perhaps you didn’t get the message, but one can be political without being partisan. Before the recent CBF/ABC gathering, Texas Baptist Joe Trull and Christian Ethics TOday hosted a one-day conference on that very subject. Interestingly, the word “political” is found no where in Parham’s article.

    Again, Clinton is not planning this event. Clinton described himself as a cheerleader. Cheerleader is not a synonym for planner!

    Further, how has Parham had a change of heart? Has Parham had a change of heart, Kaylor?

    BCE is a partner organization with the New Baptist Covenant. I doubt Parham has had a change of heart.

    Nonetheless, I was excited to see (as I posted on my blog) that 12 past BGCT Presidents have endorsed the upcoming Celebration.

  8. Lee says:

    I sincerely hope, simply because both BDW and Kaylor have been so focused on the non-political aspects of this gathering, that those things do not get covered up in the media by the political side of this. Apparently, Robert Parham is not as bothered by that as both of you are.

    I’d be disappointed if Jimmy Carter didn’t use his considerable influence among the Democratic Party of Georgia, along with Clinton’s involvement and presence, to get the date of their Jefferson-Jackson dinner to coincide with the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, just to give his Democratic colleagues a media platform and a chance to pull off the sort of thing that the Religious Right and Republicans do with frequency. You can bet that right before the Georgia primary, any Democrat still in contention for the nomination wouldn’t miss it. Carter and Clinton would not be nearly the politicians I think they are if they weren’t thinking of that.

    BTW, yes I have been to the Georgia World Congress Center, on several occasions, including the 1991 SBC at which then President George Bush spoke. That was no coincidence, either.

  9. Dylan says:

    Why would the former presidents of the BGCT wait until less than two months before the event to send a letter out encouraging people to go? If you are planning to go to something like that, wouldn’t you have made that decision before now, anticipating the travel arrangements and hotel costs? Come to think of it, I haven’t heard much about the registration at this point, or the hotel bookings, which are usually a sign of how many people will be there. Could it be that the registration is just not coming in, and this letter is an attempt to generate some more interest?

  10. […] Deep In the Heart – Parham: NBC is “Political” Robert Parham has been one of the leading critics of the perceived relationship between the SBC leadership and the Republican Party.  It seems that he has changed his perspective since Carter and Clinton called for, and helped organize the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant (NBC) to meet in Atlanta at the end of January…. […]

  11. rick davis says:

    Political is one thing, partisian is another thing. I screamed bloody murder a few years ago, when Ronald Reagan came to the SBC meeting in Dallas and said, “I know you cannot endorse me but I endorse you,” to wild applause.

    I am for the complete separation of church and state. It is good for the church and necessary for the state. This event blurs the lines, Kaylor and BDW.

    In addition, one of the larger groups to be represented at the NBC indicated they would not come if former President Clinton did not get an invitation. That is partisianship. If prominent GOP individuals do not want to be involved it is because the can use their time on friendlier (more partisian) audiences elsewhere.

    Stop posturing this thing as a a good chance to join hands and sing kum-by-yah. It is a partisian political gathering.

  12. rick davis says:

    Other than that, it is late and I am wondering why I cannot spell partisan any more.

  13. Kaylor says:

    What’s wrong with singing “kum-by-yah”? Holding hands and singing “Come by here, my Lord” sounds like something we should all want to be a part of!

  14. Chuck says:

    That politics is the impetus behind the timing and logistics of the Celebration is obvious. Lee, Dylan and Rick are right. Kaylor and Big Daddy are probably sincere, just very naive.

    However, it’s Carter’s theology, not his extreme politics, that should have traditional Baptists steering clear of any movement he heads up under the banner of “Baptist.”

    Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, if you’re a Baptist, the clear message of the gospel, including the exclusivity of Jesus Christ to save, should be central to any cooperative efforts undertaken in the name of “Baptist.”

    Jimmy Carter has not denied the reports or refuted the reporters of his seemingly pluralist comments regarding Judaism and Mormonism. He wouldn’t qualify to teach Sunday School in my or many of our Baptist churches, much less lead a movement purporting to uphold “traditional Baptist values” and offer a “new prophetic voice” along with an “authentic Baptist witness.” Unless “New Baptist” is to be taken as a literal title.

    So, since theology or doctrine can’t be what’s driving the NBC-support of the BGCT or other theologically conservative Baptist groups, national political causes likely are.

    Lee’s staying away because of the politics. I’m not there because of the keynoter’s theology.

  15. Kaylor says:

    Chuck: Have you ever heard Carter teach a Sunday School class or read any of them that have been published? He actually probably has a deeper understanding of Scripture than many Baptist Sunday School teachers and offers deeper insights than many Baptist Sunday School materials. And remember, even if he hasn’t denied the reports you mention, the Judaism one is completely unreliable and you are misinterpreting the Mormon one. I do not understand why you are grasping at straws to attack Carter.

  16. Chuck says:


    Use your own journalistic standards instead of sticking your head in the sand.

    Lerner may or may not be unreliable, and you are grasping at straws in your defensive, peculiar interpretation of Carter’s Mormon response.

    I’m not attacking Carter–I’m attacking pluralist theology and pluralist statements he’s been reported to make. Why don’t you ask him to explain himself instead of reading odd meaning into his simple answer to Newsweek’s simple question?