Friday, October 14, 2016

"Real Baptists Pursue Church Unity"

The new issue of Baptist World, the magazine of the Baptist World Alliance, includes my article "Real Baptists Pursue Church Unity" (vol. 63, no. 4, October-December 2016, pp. 9-10). The article is part of a feature section of articles on Baptists and unity, with other contributions by John Briggs, Elizabeth Newman, Ross Clifford, and Frank Rees and several news articles reporting on various regional and national expressions of Baptist involvement in the pursuit of Christian unity. The issue is available online; an excerpt from the beginning of the article follows:

The experiences of many Baptists and the impressions of many of their external observers run counter to the assertion made by this article’s title. Baptists have their origins in ecclesial division, and their subsequent history is marked by ever-increasing intra-Baptist divisions. Division is certainly a DNA sequence in the genetic code of “real Baptists.” Yet intertwined with it are genetic markers of an impulse toward ecclesial unity, and Baptists are being “real Baptists” when they allow that impulse to move them toward the full participation in the life of the Triune God and in the life of the body of Christ that Jesus prayed would mark his followers: “that they may be one, as we are one” (John 17:22 NRSV)....(read the full article and other articles in this issue here)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Baptist Identity, the Whole Church, and God's Future (Boiling Springs Baptist Church)

If you're in the Boiling Springs, NC area, at 5:00 PM this Sunday (September 18) I'm doing a talk at Boiling Springs Baptist Church (down Main Street from the Gardner-Webb campus) related to my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press): "Baptist Identity, the Whole Church, and God's Future." I'd enjoy having you join the conversation. The address of the church for GPS purposes is 307 S Main St, Shelby, NC 28152; the venue will be the Lighthouse Room in the church's educational space.

Interested in reading Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future? Order from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Molly Marshall on Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

In her Baptist News Global opinion column "Can a Baptist Be a Catholic?" published today, Molly T. Marshall, President and Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas, references my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press). Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the column:

A cadre of Baptist scholars has been writing about emerging catholicity, the holy desire for unity among all ecclesial communions. Taking tradition more seriously as a source for theological construction, these Baptists urge usage of the ancient creeds of the apostolic heritage of the whole church to supplement their reading of Scripture. A leading theologian in the movement, Steven Harmon, contends, “Baptists have their own distinctive ecclesial gifts to offer the church catholic, without which even the churches currently in communion with the bishop of Rome are something less than fully catholic themselves.”

As a staunch Baptist I, too, long for catholicity. In many respects the future of Christianity depends upon a greater ecumenicity .... (read the full column at Baptist News Global)

Interested in reading Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future? Order the book from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Baptist Catholicity: An Introductory Bibliography (David Rathel)

David Rathel, a Ph.D. student in theology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, has posted a bibliography of publications connected with "Baptist Catholicity" on his blog "David Rathel's Research Page." It includes my books Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision and Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community, as well as a chapter on "'Catholic Baptists' and the New Horizon of Tradition in Baptist Theology" that I contributed to the book New Horizons in Theology (published in the series of annual volumes of the College Theology Society).

Interested in Towards Baptist Catholicity or Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future? Click on the hyperlinked titles to order them from the publishers, or follow this link to my Amazon author page.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

On Trump, violence, and ecclesial complicity

Yesterday's crossing of a line by a presidential candidate, as egregious as it was, is symptomatic of a pervasive malady afflicting the American church as well as its cultural context: credence in the "myth of redemptive violence" (Walter Wink's coinage). It's time to declare the renunciation of all forms of violence and the embrace of the nonviolent way of Jesus a matter of status confessionis for the church (a state of affairs in which the fundamental essence of the Gospel the church confesses is at stake).

This will include forsaking the Niebuhrian realism that has been the received ecclesial justification for American foreign policy since the 1950s, in the Cold War and in the "war on terror." Its pervasive influence was evidenced in the 2008 presidential election campaigns, with both John McCain and Barak Obama crediting Niebuhr's influence on their political philosophies. It can be argued that Niebuhrian realism, offered to the polis by the church, undergirded both the invasion of Iraq under President Bush and the escalation of drone strikes under President Obama (I assert this as someone who voted enthusiastically for Obama twice and continues to admire him and his presidency).

All this is to say that as the church we must both denounce what happened yesterday in Wilmington, North Carolina, and repent of our complicity in the formation of a culture in which those words actually strike a chord with some Americans, so that as followers of Jesus Christ we might actively live into the shalom of the reign of God.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Towards Baptist Catholicity's 10th anniversary

This month is the tenth anniversary of the release of my book Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision in the series Studies in Baptist History and Thought, published in the UK by Paternoster and co-published in the USA by Wipf and Stock. I'm grateful that the book has continued to find new readers, and I'm gratified to hear from some of them that the book has transformed their understanding of what it means to be Baptist and helped them to embrace their Baptist heritage along with the larger Christian tradition. (Many thanks to David Wilhite for requiring his students at Baylor University's Truett Seminary to read Towards Baptist Catholicity in his Christian Texts and Traditions I course in the M.Div. core curriculum there.)

Interested in reading Towards Baptist Catholicity? Order from the publisher or via Amazon.

If you've read Towards Baptist Catholicity already, I hope you'll consider posting a review to Amazon and/or Goodreads.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Martyrs' Memorial, Oxford

Last week I was in Oxford (UK), a setting that frames the first chapter of my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future. The chapter begins:

In December 2010 a joint international commission of the Baptist World Alliance and the Catholic Church met in Oxford, the "city of dreaming spires," to envision the ecumenical future and how their communions might take concrete steps toward inhabiting it together (p. 3).

Chapter 1 concludes with these two paragraphs that reference the Martyrs' Memorial and its inscription shown in these photos taken in Oxford last week:

Baptists and members of other communions who take up this book’s challenge to journey together toward the ecumenical future will likely not enjoy such warm relationships with many from their own tradition, for some of the greatest obstacles in this journey are located within particular communions rather than between them. Each day of the 2010 Baptist–Catholic conversations in Oxford, delegates passed the Martyrs’ Memorial as they walked along St. Giles’ across from Regent’s Park College. The inscription below the monument’s Gothic spire reads, "To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI."
The date and the explanation of the monument’s origins are not-so-subtle clues that the monument is not really about the Protestant martyrs named in its inscription. The year 1841 fell in the midst of the most vitriolic period of public debate in England over the proposals of the Oxford Movement. The final tract of the Tracts for the Times was published that year. In Tract 90 John Henry Newman, then four years away from his reception into the Catholic Church, had argued that the Tridentine expression of Catholic doctrine could be reconciled with the teachings of the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles. The Tractarians’ opponent Charles Golightly, an Anglican cleric in Oxford, succeeded in raising funds for the construction of the memorial through a national subscription campaign. Its message, directed against this early form of receptive ecumenism in the Church of England, was clear: "Roman Catholics are the epitome of evil, for they murdered the founders of your national church. Don’t even think of moving in their direction, liturgically or theologically."

Baptists whose vision includes an ecumenical future in full communion with Catholics and other Christians are already the occasional object of similar rhetoric from some members of their own communion. Like the leaders of the Oxford Movement, the contributions of these catholic Baptists may bear the fruit of a more widespread Baptist reception of the gifts of Catholics and other Christians in a way that becomes evident only many decades after their lifetimes. I have written this book in the hope that the tribe of those who long for the visible unity of Christ’s church might increase among Baptists, and that other Christians might recognize them, so that together we can make our pilgrim journey toward the ecumenical future (pp. 18-19).

Interested in reading more? Order Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Engaging and Celebrating the Work of Paul Fiddes

I'm writing this post from the UK, where I'm participating in a Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy seminar addressing the theme "Trinity and Participation: Engaging and Celebrating the Work of Paul Fiddes." Fiddes is a distinguished Baptist theologian who is Professor of Systematic Theology at Oxford University and Principal Emeritus of Regent’s Park College, the Baptist-related college of Oxford University (photo is of the portrait of Fiddes hanging in Helwys Hall, the dining hall at Regent's Park College). We're meeting at Regent's Park College to present and discuss papers exploring various aspects of these themes in Fiddes's thought. My own contribution is a paper titled "Trinitarian Koinonia and Ecclesial OikoumenÄ“: Paul Fiddes as Ecumenical Theologian." Our papers may be downloaded from the Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy page; they will be revised for eventual publication as a collection of journal articles.

Young Scholars in the Baptists Academy is an initiative of Georgetown College, supported by a grant from Lily Endowment, Inc. Additional funding and support is provided by the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Third series of international Baptist-Catholic ecumenical conversations planned

During its annual gathering in Vancouver earlier this week, the Baptist World Alliance announced that it would participate in a third series of international  bilateral ecumenical conversations with the Catholic Church beginning in 2017. The BWA press release follows.

Baptists and Catholics to begin third round of dialogue in 2017

The Baptist World Alliance is to begin a third round of theological dialogue with the Catholic Church in 2017. This was announced by General Secretary Neville Callam in his report to the BWA General Council at its meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in July.

“On the basis of discussions between BWA and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), a third round of Baptist-Catholic dialogue will commence soon,” Callam wrote.

In May this year, preparatory meetings were held between Baptist representatives Frank Rees of Australia, Paul Fiddes from the United Kingdom and Timothy George of the United States “with a team from the Catholic Church to consider the focus and methodology for the upcoming phase of the Baptist-Catholic dialogue,” Callam stated.

“This joint preparatory meeting decided that the next phase of dialogue, which could commence in June 2017, should have clear continuity with the first two phases and should focus on the subject of common witness to Jesus Christ,” Callam elaborated. “A final statement on the purpose and plan for the upcoming dialogue is to be concluded in the near future.”

The first round of Baptist-Catholic dialogue occurred from 1984-1988 and the second round from 2006-2010. “We would be pleased to build on these two previous dialogues and explore new areas of discussion,” Cardinal Koch, president of the PCPCU, said in a letter to Callam in February. “These official dialogues were cause for great celebration and gratitude to God,” Koch declared.

The BWA and the Vatican have experienced close cordial relations in recent times, building on the goodwill that emerged out of the first two rounds of dialogues. In October 2013, Timothy George represented the BWA at the Thirteenth Ordinary General Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

In October of the following year, 2014, Valerie Duval-Poujol, a French Baptist biblical scholar, represented the BWA at the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that discussed important issues facing contemporary families.

Roy Medley, recently retired general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the USA, was a fraternal delegate of the BWA at the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church which took place in Rome in October 2015.

The BWA leadership was represented at the March 2013 inauguration of Pope Francis I.

A four-year dialogue between the BWA and the World Methodist Council is currently underway, which runs 2014-2017.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

AAR-SE Constructive Theologies Call for Papers

The 2017 American Academy of Religion--Southeast Region Constructive Theologies Call for Papers is now available. See link following the section CFP below for new submission instructions this year (online form plus e-mail to section chairs).

AAR: Constructive Theologies

In keeping with the conference theme “Utopia and Dystopia,” the Constructive Theologies section invites proposals for presentations on the theme of eschatology, broadly construed. Topics for consideration might include the relationship between future-oriented and realized eschatology; visualizations of the Kingdom/Kin-dom of God; eschatology and ecology; eschatology and embodiment; etc. Constructive Theologies also invites proposals for three co-sponsored sessions: (1) “The Reformation, 500 Years Later” with History of Christianity; (2) “Theological Visions of Hope amidst Modern Dystopias” with Bible and Modern Culture; and (3) “Womanist Practical Theology” with Women, Gender and Religion. For the co-sponsored session on Womanist Practical Theology, we especially seek papers that explore how womanist theological approaches interrogate, disrupt, and enrich theological scholarship, pedagogy, or activism. Contact Steven R. Harmon, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity ( and Elizabeth O’Donnell Gandolfo, Wake Forest University School of Divinity ( with any questions.