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‘We are the leaders we have been waiting for,’
NCC’s Bob Edgar tells Baptists in Atlanta

Atlanta, June 23, 2006 — “We are the leaders we have been waiting for,” Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, told more than 400 moderate Baptists from across the South Thursday at an ethics organization's luncheon during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly at the Georgia World Congress Center here.


The luncheon honored the 15th anniversary of the Baptist Center for Ethics, a pioneering agency which sponsors the popular Website and publishes church-centered curriculum materials on ethical and moral issues. 

Edgar told the pastor leaders, God is calling all Christians to learn how to walk together “in the footsteps of Jesus,” actively leading today’s world to affirm values that Jesus taught and practiced, while addressing the challenges of “fear, fundamentalism, and Fox News”.  


Edgar, an ordained Methodist minister, is a former seminary president and served six terms in Congress from Pennsylvania prior to becoming the NCC general secretary. 

Acknowledging that Baptists sometimes have had trouble with the National Council of Churches, Edgar said, "You might be interested to know we've got lots of Baptists" in the NCC. He pointed to the Council’s membership that includes more than 15 million Baptists in six different Baptist conventions.   

"What we all have in common, whether inside the Council or not, is the spiritual leadership of Jesus Christ," Edgar said. 

“Studying the Scripture,” he said, "I find there are five directions God is calling us to walk together with Jesus:" 

w Peace. “We must engage in a relentless pursuit of peace, seeking reconciliation within families, communities, nations and the world of nations, reaching across boundaries that divide, building bridges instead of walls,” he said. “Whether in Sudan or in Iraq or in a neighborhood gripped by crime or violence, Jesus would have us be peace-makers, not just peace-lovers.”


w Poverty. “We are challenged by the life of Jesus, who gave himself for the poor and outcast, the despised and rejected,” Edgar said. “We must take concrete actions that reduce poverty in our own time and place, anchored in Jesus' passionate concern for 'the least of these.' This challenge must not be confined to personal generosity, but community action, and national policy--going to the root of the problem, finding solutions that work and that last.”


w Planet Earth. “The biblical Christian is also called by the Scriptures to exercise reverential stewardship of this God-given planet, rooted in mankind’s earliest encounters with the Creator, beginning in Eden,” he said. “We must fight the efforts of many to pillage and pollute, to waste and destroy the natural environment on which life itself depends. The wise management of the finite resources of the earth is a God-given mandate that the church is accountable to fulfill.”


w People's rights. “The person who would be Jesus' disciple will be found standing in strong defense of people's rights, believing that such dehumanizing acts as racial or gender discrimination, torture, and  invasion of privacy are an affront to the will of God for his creation,” Edgar said. “The church should be the first line of protection for the disadvantaged, the powerless, the overlooked.  They have no other advocate but Christ and his followers”


w Pluralism. “We who would claim the name of Christ must express his hospitality in the face of the whirlwind of cultures, languages and races that our world presents us in the form of accelerating pluralism in every community where we serve,” Edgar said. “Jesus remarkably found kinship with those his own religious hierarchy condemned, those his culture rejected, and those his own heritage devalued. Jesus saw only God's priceless creative will and boundless love when he looked into the faces of the Samaritan, the stranger, the Other.  A God who finds joy in populating the world with such extravagant diversity certainly must find grief in our rejection of this banquet feast.”


Edgar shared with the Baptist leaders his experiences in pre-war Baghdad, where he worshipped with Iraqi Christians as part of a religious delegation seeking a peaceful settlement without war.  He also told of a youthful life-changing exposure to Martin Luther King, Jr., and of later serving on the Select Committee on Assassinations as a Congressman, probing the deaths of King and President John F. Kennedy.


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of Churches has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 35 member faith groups come from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Orthodox, Evangelical, African American and Living Peace traditions and include more than 100,000 local congregations with 45 million members. 


The Council sponsors the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the advocacy website, and the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.  Its member communions underwrite humanitarian work through Church World Service, a sister agency.


Related Story:  Fox News fans respond to Bob Edgar's comments.


Bob Allen of the Baptist Center for Ethics staff contributed to this story. CBF photo by Mark Sandlin.

Contact NCC News: Daniel Webster, 212-870-2252


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