Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014
This cluster group seminar is funded by a grant from the Analytic Theology Project of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame. The Analytic Theology Project is in turn funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
What do Baptists and Catholics have in common?
That sounds like the set-up for a joke of some sort–or at least for a very brief response, given the anti-Catholicism that has marked much of the Baptist tradition (even when we were defining ourselves over against the Church of England).
When the Baptist World Alliance and the Catholic Church engaged in a series of international conversations from 1984 through 1988 to see what they might be able to say together, the two communions were actually able to say a great deal about their agreement on “God’s saving revelation in Jesus Christ, the necessity of personal commitment to God in Christ, the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, and the missionary imperative that emerges from God’s redemptive activity on behalf of humankind,” as paragraph 2 of the 17-page report “Summons to Witness to Christ in Today’s World” summarized the matters on which Baptists and Catholics were able to say something together about our common commitment to the good news of our testimony that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
That report also identified deep differences evident in those conversations that warranted continued exploration: theological authority and method; the shape of ecclesial koinonia; the relationship between faith, baptism, and Christian witness; and the place of Mary in faith and practice.
When I served as a member of the Baptist delegation to a second series of conversations between the BWA and the Catholic Church from 2006 through 2010, we directly addressed those ongoing differences. The result was a nearly 100-page report, “The Word of God in the Life of the Church,” published last summer and presented at the annual gathering of the BWA in Jamaica that July. The document is not a description of our differences. It is rather a statement of our surprisingly substantial consensus on the church’s participation in the koinonia of the Triune God, the authority of Christ in Scripture and tradition, baptism and the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper, Mary as a model of discipleship, and the ministry of oversight (episkope) and unity in the life of the church.
We presented these agreements as a “differentiated consensus”: paragraphs set in bold type expressed our basic consensus, followed by paragraphs set in regular type that offered commentary on the nature of that consensus and/or identified the ways in which there are remaining differences in how each communion understands and embodies what Baptists and Catholics have been able to say together.
Having said these things together, Baptists and Catholics now have the responsibility of “reception” of the report. In a “Glossary of Key Ecumenical Terms” in my book Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity, I offered the following definition of that task:
I posted the final #BaptistsCatholics tweet on January 3 of this year. Here’s the tweet-by-tweet “Twitter edition” of the bold-type consensus paragraphs from “The Word of God in the Life of the Church,” sans hashtags and URLs:
7. The one God exists from eternity in a life of relationship–a koinonia of persons
7. Jesus Christ, God’s self-revelation, draws us into communion with God & each other
7. The Word of God in the church in the fullest sense is Christ himself
11. The church is a koinonia (fellowship) grounded in the koinonia of the triune God
11. Believers are joined in koinonia through participation in communion of Triune God
11. Believers also in koinonia through participation in community gathered by Christ
11. “Communion ecclesiology” expresses the heart of the nature of the church
12. Principle of koinonia applies both to local church & to gatherings of congregations
12. Local church does not derive from universal church, nor is universal a mere sum of local forms
12. There is mutual existence & coinherence between local and universal church of Christ
16. The koinonia of the church may also be understood as a ‘covenant community’
16. Covenant is God’s initiating relationship with us & our commitment to each other & God
16. Church is gift in being gathered by Christ, & gathers in response to call of Christ
16. Koinonia of church is both gift & calling, as unity of church is both gift and task
20. Communion with triune God & whole church is continually actualized in Eucharist/Supper
20. In Euch we share communion not only w/ congregation but whole church in time & space
20. Because we hear word of God in eucharist, it is a sharing in both word and sacrament
23. Local churches must be in visible communion w/ each other, or communion lacks fullness
26. Local churches have communion w/ each other to hear Word of God & find mind of Christ
37. The Bible is the divinely-authorized written norm for faith and practice
37. The normativity of Scripture is principally located in the worship of the church
37. The Bible was canonized by and for the worshipping community
37. Bible supplies narrative content of acts of worship that recall/represent acts of God
37. Scripture is the source of story of the triune God in which worshippers participate
41/42. God is the author of Sacred Scripture…through human instrumentality
46. OT and NT together form coherent story that requires a Christ-centred interpretation
56. Bible is written embodiment of living tradition handed down through work of H. Spirit
56. The source of this process of transmission is the living Word of God, Jesus Christ
58. Scripture & tradition coinherent–mutual indwelling & interweaving of 1 in the other
58. Scripture and tradition should not be considered as separate and unrelated sources
58. Scripture & tradition = 2 streams flowing together from same source: God’s revelation
63. Apostolic tradition distinguished from merely ecclesiastical trad; apostolic normative
73. Sacraments/ordinances = signs through which God acts, visible signs of invisible grace
77. Sacrament and ordinance express both God’s gift of love & faith-filled human response
77. Sacrament/ordinance becomes intersection between divine commitment & human commitment
79. Christ central to meaning of sacraments/ordinances & their relationship to the church
81. There is a coinherence between sacraments/ordinances and preaching of the Word of God
83. Baptism and the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper are central to the life of the church
85. Sacraments/ordinances are encounters w/ Christ that transform worshipers by the Spirit
85. No experience of salvation is fully whole without entrance of the believer into church
85. There can be no experience of grace apart from faith
91. Rel. of faith & sacrament/ordinance involves faith of individual believer & community
93. We baptize in obedience to Christ’s command ‘Go therefore..baptizing them’ Mt 28:19-20
93. Baptism has its foundation & meaning in the doctrines of the Trinity and Christology
93. Through baptism we are brought more deeply into the communion of the triune God
93. Through baptism…we [also] share in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ
97. Faith is always necessary for baptism
101. Initiation into Christ & his church is a process wider than the act of baptism itself
101. Can recognize different forms of initiation as an entire journey of faith and grace
107. Baptism is with water, in name of Father & Son & Holy Spirit, & a once-for-all event
109. In baptism we are united with other believers in the church of Christ (1 Cor 12:13)
113. Baptism signifies forgiveness of sins and new birth
116. Eucharist/Lord’s Supper is essential to the church & celebrated in obedience to Jesus
119. The Bible must play a formative role in the liturgy of the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper
121. There is a trinitarian pattern in the order of worship of the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper
125. Christ is really present to his disciples in celebration of Eucharist/Lord’s Supper
130. There is a strongly ethical & eschatological dimension to the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper
133. Mary has significant place in NT–witness to Christ, mother of Savior, called blessed
133. Beliefs about Mary should be rooted in, warranted by, & not contradicted by Scripture
135. Mary belongs to the Jewish people….Mary may be called ‘Daughter of Israel’
137. A number of Old Testament passages may be interpreted as referring to Mary
139. The Gospels present Mary as ‘hearer of the Word’–a disciple who heard, obeyed Word
140. Jesus conceived by Spirit, born of Virgin Mary–sign of divine origin & true humanity
143. Mary is properly named the Theotokos or ‘God-bearer’–safeguards identity of Christ
146. Mary has a special calling in plan of salvation, but also redeemed by Christ by grace
150. Mary is a model of discipleship in faithful listening and obedience to God’s Word
154. Mary is not only a member, but also representative figure, of the church of Christ
156. The church prays with Mary and learns to pray like Mary in the communion of saints
159. The representations of Mary in particular cultures are subject to the gospel as norm
162. Christ is the head of the church, her founder, creator and cornerstone
162. The church owes her whole existence to Christ, who is her ‘episkopos’ (1 Pet 2:25)
162. Christ nourishes/sustains church with Gospel & celebration of sacraments/ordinances
165. Episkope (oversight) is Christ’s gift to church to enable ministry of people of God
165. Christ calls whole people of God to share in his ministry as prophet, priest & king
165. The episkope of some is a gift of Christ to enable & equip body of Christ as a whole
168. Our differing patterns of episkope seek to be faithful to Scripture & apostolic trad
173. Episkope is exercised in personal, collegial and communal ways in the church
176. Episkope primarily exercised in local church, but always in communion w/ wider church
179. Personal episkope is established by Christ for the good of the church
182. One principal purpose of the ministry of episkope is the promotion of Christian unity
184. Jesus’ prayer for unity (=both spiritual&visible) sets out vocation of all Christians
186. The unity of the church reflects its apostolicity, expressed both by faith & ministry
186. Ministry is apostolic if it hands on apostolic faith & fulfills missionary mandate
200. Past failures of both Baptists & Catholics must be addressed with due repentance & appropriate action
The report itself says those things much more fully and with all the necessary qualifications and distinctions. I hope this radical abridgement of the essential Baptist-Catholic consensus expressed in “The Word of God in the Life of the Church” will pique the interest of ABPnews Blog readers enough to encourage further reception of the report—which is not necessarily agreement with its take on Baptist-Catholic consensus, but “the process by which worldwide communions, national churches and denominations, local parishes and congregations, and individual Christians become informed about, consider, and act upon the proposals and agreements that result from bilateral and multilateral ecumenical dialogue.”
That sort of reception starts with reading—even if it’s only 140 characters (or less) at a time.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
What do Baptists and Catholics have in common?
That sounds like the set-up for a joke of some sort–or at least for a very brief response, given the anti-Catholicism that has marked much of the Baptist tradition (even when we were defining ourselves over against the Church of England).... (read the full post at ABPnews Blog)
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Friday, January 3, 2014
Monday, December 9, 2013
December 9 (Nahum 1:15; James 3:18)
On his very first Christmas, we began reading with our son Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz. Besides demonstrating the wonderfully varied ways children around the world say “peace” in their own languages, the book declares that “all around the world today, children will wish for peace, hope for peace, and ask for peace.” The children—and adults—of the world share a hope for peace because all people are created in the image of the God whose hope for the world is peace. We also share a hope for peace because the world currently lacks the peace for which God created the world and toward which God is moving the world.
It’s appropriate that the first week of Advent’s focus on hope is followed by the second week’s focus on peace, for “peace” sums up in a word the biblical vision of the world for which God and people hope. Today’s text from Nahum is a call to envision this future peace: “Look! On the mountains the feet of one who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace!” (1:15). The whole book of Nahum is a contrast of two stories with different end-pictures: the story of violence that underwrites the present evil order of things, epitomized by Nineveh, city of the violent Assyrian empire, which ends in “devastation, destruction, and desolation” (2:10), and the radically other story of God’s goal of peace for all creation, epitomized by Jerusalem, city of those who seek the peace of God’s reign. Today’s text from James makes the same contrast, for the antidote to the diabolical wisdom of the world that leads to conflict is the heavenly wisdom that leads to “a harvest of righteousness…sown in peace by those who make peace” (3:18).
As we join God in wishing, hoping, and asking for peace this Advent, let us also join God in working for the peace for which we hope. Such pictures of the end, suggested the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, are “enough to make me change my whole life” (Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief, ed. Cyril Barrett [University of California Press, 1967], p. 57). Nahum tells us how to change our lives in light of this end: “Celebrate your festivals”—in other words, worship and in so doing be transformed by and become participants in the story of the peace of God’s reign, and “fulfill your vows”—in other words, live out the practice of peacemaking mentioned by James that we take on in our covenantal vows to live as the people of God, joining God in what God is doing to move the world toward its end of peace.
We won’t have to look very hard to find where God is working for peace. Wherever there is war, violence, division, and interpersonal conflict—in short, wherever there is broken relationship—God is already at work to realize the divine hope of peaceful community. Let us be open to opportunities to join in during this Advent season.
(Download the complete 2013 Gardner-Webb University Advent Devotional Book)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
In 1979–80 conversations were held between representatives of the Orthodox Church of Georgia and the ‘Evangelical Christians-Baptists’ of Georgia in a situation of oppression by the Communist state. The agreed document that emerged from this dialogue is printed here, and is preceded by an article which expounds it from a Baptist perspective, sets it in the wider context of Baptist theological and ecumenical theology, and relates it to the practices of the present-day Baptist Church of Georgia. The stated purpose of the dialogue was to achieve reconciliation and unity between Orthodox and Baptist Christians in Georgia, first by agreeing substantial matters of doctrine and then by adopting a common liturgy and common sacramental life. Among the range of subjects reviewed, including the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints, nationalism, confession and icons, the discussion on baptism is perhaps the most adventurous, and remains promising though flawed. The document does not represent the views of the present-day Orthodox Church of Georgia, and its contents clearly reflect the political pressures under which it was composed. However, it is of historical interest, and some will see it as a sign of hope for co-operation in the mission of God.
The full text of this article is published online by Taylor & Francis, the journal's publisher, in advance of its print publication as part of a rapid online publication program explained as follows: "For most journals, accepted articles are copy-edited and typeset and appear in a 'Latest articles' list on the journal's webpage. This counts as formal publication. They are identical to the print edition in every way except that they lack page spans. They may be formally cited using their DOI and year of publication. These 'Latest articles' are later assigned to a particular issue of the journal, and given page numbers." Thus the time during which the article is available in this fashion may be limited; it is possible that at some point after being assigned to a specific print issue that article may only be downloaded through libraries that have electronic access subscriptions to Taylor & Francis journals. In the meantime, readers of Ecclesial Theology may try to access the article by clicking on the hyperlinked title above.
Monday, November 11, 2013
A previous post reported on Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam's address to the World Council of Churches in a plenary session on unity during the Tenth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea on November 5. Here is a video recording of the unity plenary (unfortunately audio and video are not fully synchronized); Callam begins speaking at 48:40 (click on this hyperlink to watch in a separate window on YouTube at the point that begins Callam's address). Callam's address is a grateful celebration of the progress that has been made toward full visible unity, an honest lament of the churches' failures in seeking this unity and incisive identification of contemporary impediments to the quest for visible Christian unity, and a stirring challenge to the churches to live into Jesus' prayer that his followers might be one in a way that the world can see, that the world might become unified under the Lordship of Christ.
I hope readers of Ecclesial Theology will listen to Callam's address and the other addresses in the unity plenary in their entirety. Below is a transcription of a portion of the "lament" portion of Callam's remarks:
We have reason to lament the painful divisions that still remain. We are the body of Christ, and we should reflect the koinonia inspired by the vision of the perfect unity existing in the Godhead. We are not what we should be. We lament persistence in cherishing our peculiarities and in failing to draw sufficiently from the from the well of divine provision that is able to quench our thirst for unity in the truth. We lament our inclination to seek in other expressions of the church a replica of the church to which we belong. We have not been content to seek in other churches, as much as in our own, signs of the one church of our Lord Jesus, nor have we been sufficiently vigorous in giving expression to the depth of communion in faith that already exists.
[Another previous post reproduces a BWA press release summarizing Callam's address and reporting on participation in the assembly by at least 77 Baptists from 24 countries.]
Friday, November 8, 2013
Washington, DC (BWA)--Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam said the unity of the church, wherever and whenever it exists, should be celebrated.
Callam, who was speaking during the 10th assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Busan, South Korea, lauded the work of the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC to aid the church in its quest for visible unity. The commission has published such ground breaking documents as Baptism Eucharist and Ministry (BEM), which came about through extensive theological engagement in the Christian ecumenical community. He argued for detailed study of the most recent Faith and Order documents, The Church: Towards a Common Vision and Baptism: Towards Mutual Recognition.
Callam also took note of bilateral theological dialogues that have taken place between various Christian traditions. These, he said, have resulted in an "increase in understanding" and have "facilitated responsible rapprochement between Christian communions."
Despite these and other signs of progress, Callam acknowledged that disunity is a stain on the church's life and witness. There is "persistence in cherishing our peculiarities" and an unwillingness to see "signs of the one church of our Lord Jesus" in other churches other than one's own. Callam asserted that the church has failed to "reflect the unity for which our Lord prayed in John 17."
Such disunity has "compromised our faithfulness in mission;" has led to a failure to confront social and other injustices such as racism, poverty, exploitation and disease; has resulted in self-centeredness that leads to the degradation of creation; and has caused a failure to "respect peoples of other faiths who are all creatures of the one God and inhabitants of a shared planet."
The appropriate response to Christian disunity, the BWA leader claimed, is "to repent of the sin of our divisions, to petition God's forgiveness and to pray for the joy of full communion."
Callam called the assembly's attention to serious challenges that compromise the mission of the church because of disunity. These include conflicting positions on moral issues, which pose difficulty for the unity of the church. "Churches are actually participating in the entrenchment of divisions in society by offering disparate teaching on issues that profoundly affect people's lives. The current situation is intolerable."
The solution, Callam asserted, is for the church "to commit, with greater urgency, to the search for convergence around the sources of authority in the church, and on how to interpret responsibly the sources we regard as authoritative."
Callam urged the Faith and Order Commission to provide additional resources, in a variety of media formats, to aid persons involved in assisting the church's quest for unity, especially at the international level.
At least 77 Baptists from 24 countries, including BWA President John Upton, attended the WCC meetings, held October 30 to November 8 in Busan, South Korea's second largest metropolis after capital city Seoul. The assembly, normally held every seven years, elected a 150-member Central Committee that includes eight Baptists. The Central Committee serves as the chief governing body of the WCC until the next assembly. It meets every 12 to 18 months and is responsible for carrying out the policies adopted by the assembly, reviewing and supervising WCC programs and for adopting the budget.
Four BWA General Council members were elected to the WCC Central Committee - Samson Ayokunle from Nigeria, Yam Kho Pau from Myanmar, Karl Johnson from Jamaica and Carroll Baltimore of the United States. Other Baptist Central Committee members are Marceline Mbingasani Maluavanga from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joyanta Adhikari from Bangladesh, and June Totten and Angelique Walker-Smith from the US.
Note: This is an experiment in posting via iPhone using the Blogger app. Please pardon any resulting formatting oddities.