Newswise — Wake Forest University School of Divinity will host the Southeast regional gathering of the New Baptist Covenant, April 24-25, 2009. Maya Angelou, Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest, will deliver the opening address and President Jimmy Carter will present the closing address. The theme of the conference is "This is God's Year to Act: Responding to a Society in Crisis." The conference 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 early 2008. The event brought together more than 15,000 Baptists representing more than 30 Baptist organizations. Bill J. Leonard, dean of the School of Divinity, noted that the gathering 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. Additional regional events are scheduled for Birmingham, Ala., and Norman, Okla.

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.

Leonard is co-chair of the regional event, along with Serenus Churn, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and Reuban Gilliam, pastor of North Winston Baptist Church. "We are delighted to host this interracial gathering of Baptists at Wake Forest University," Leonard said, "and hope it will be an occasion for extending networks of service in a time when so many churches, families and individuals are in dire need."

A Friday evening dinner sponsored by Baptists Today magazine will honor James Dunn, Resident Professor of Christianity and Public Policy at the School of Divinity, with a lifetime achievement award.

Register for reporter access to contact details