Saturday, December 31, 2016

A final Compline prayer for 2016

Remembering the past year and anticipating the one to come may be difficult for many this particular New Year's Eve. Here's something I wrote as my prayer for Compline on this night in which 2016 ends and 2017 begins (with a couple of echoes of the Book of Common Prayer and the New Zealand Prayer Book):

O God, it is night at the end of a long year. 2016 has brought us varied experiences. We have experienced you as God-with-us in "sacraments of the present moment" by which we receive the grace of your life-giving presence in various expressions of your creation--loved ones, strangers, creation itself, opportunities to participate in your work in the world for its salvation. For these graces we give you thanks.

We have also experienced or observed what has sometimes felt like your absence from this world--alienation instead of love, discord instead of harmony, exclusion instead of welcome, violence instead of peace, poverty instead of provision, hunger instead of nourishment, despair instead of hope. These things we lament, knowing that you lament them, too.

We have recognized, though often not as fully as we should, our own complicity in these things, our failures to lament them as we ought, and our refusals to participate in what you are doing to transform these aspects of our world in the direction of your good intentions for it during the past year. These things we confess as sin, and we ask for your forgiveness.

But this night ushers in a new day and a new year. For 2017 we ask the help of your Spirit, that in this new year we might delight in your will and walk in your ways that you have made known to us in Jesus Christ, for the glory of your name and for the good of your world.

Now guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ecumenical thoughts on post-election unity

Some thoughts from an ecumenist about the post-election call for American national "unity":

According to Ephesians 4, "making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (v. 3) entails "speaking the truth in love" (v. 15), which contributes to the body's growth toward mature unity (vv. 15-16).

The history of the modern ecumenical movement includes failures to do that (for example, the failure of the Conference on Life and Work to denounce the Reichskirche and recognize the Confessing Church as the authentic church in Germany, which greatly frustrated Dietrich Bonhoeffer) as well as more faithful acts (for example, the efforts of the World Council of Churches' Programme to Combat Racism in relation to the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches' expulsion of that church, with both forms of truth-speaking leading to eventual restoration of that church to ecumenical fellowship).

All this may be applied to this moment in our national civil life and the days ahead. Speaking truth is a way of embodying love for our national community. When people are publicly grieving and lamenting and calling for justice and engaging in acts of nonviolent protest, they are loving their national community and making their own contributions to its unity--not a quick and ultimately false unity superimposed on division and its causes, but a unity forged out of our earnest and honest contestation of what sort of community we are going to have. Let the truth-speakers speak, and let us enter into genuine dialogue with them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Pacific Journal of Baptist Research issue explores Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion plenary
book symposium panel session, Waco, Texas, May 24, 2016
The new issue of the Pacific Journal of Baptist Research (vol. 11, no. 2 [November 2016]) is devoted to a book symposium exploring my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press, 2016]). The four essays and my response to them are lightly revised versions of presentations made in a plenary panel session at a joint meeting of the National Association of Baptist Professor of Religion and the Baptist History and Heritage Society held on the campus of Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, May 23-25, 2016. The contents of the issue appear below:

Adam C. English     2
Editorial
David E. Wilhite     3
Baptists, Catholicity, and Visible Unity: A Response to Steven Harmon
Amy L. Chilton Thompson     12
Response to Steven R. Harmon’s Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community
Courtney Pace     16
Baptists, Catholicity, and Missing Voices: A Response to Steven Harmon
Andrew Smith     20
Description, Prescription, and the Ecumenical Possibilities of Baptist Identity: Reading Steven Harmon’s Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future
Steven R. Harmon     24
Locating the Unity of Christ’s Rule: A Response to Respondents to Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future 
Panelists (L-R): David E. Wilhite, Amy L. Chilton Thompson,
Courtney Pace, Andrew Christopher Smith
The issue is edited and introduced by Dr. Adam C. English, Chair of the Department of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Theology and Philosophy at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, who also moderated the NABPR/BHHS panel discussion. Contributors of the review essays are Dr. David E. Wilhite, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary; Dr. Amy L. Chilton Thompson, Adjunct Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California and Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California; Dr. Courtney Pace, Assistant Professor of Church History at Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee; and Dr. Andrew Christopher Smith, Assistant Professor of Religion at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

Read the full November 2016 issue of the Pacific Journal of Baptist Research as a downloadable PDF file here.

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

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 Oikoumenē: 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 (sharmon@gardner-webb.edu) and Elizabeth O’Donnell Gandolfo, Wake Forest University School of Divinity (gandoleo@wfu.edu) with any questions. http://secsor.org/uncategorized/2017-call-for-papers-available

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Neville Callam on Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future (EthicsDaily.com)

Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, devoted his July/August BWA Connect column to my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press). My previous Ecclesial Theology post linked the version of the column that originally appeared on the BWA web site; now EthicsDaily.com has published a version of the column as well.

Here's an excerpt:

....Many discerning readers will welcome not only the vision of the ecumenical future that Harmon espouses and commends, but also what Harmon’s excellent book implies and actually states concerning the proper work of theologians.

The project Harmon undertakes is done in the service of faithfulness to the Lord of the church. Harmon writes primarily as one who is dedicated to the service of the church and its unity. His is not a fascination with theological ideas for their own sake. His articulation of the vocational dimension of a theologian’s work is as clear and impressive as that offered by another outstanding contemporary Baptist theologian, Molly Marshall.

In richly documented chapters crafted by a competent Baptist ecumenical theologian, Harmon deals with a number of issues which Baptists may need to rethink in the light of the long and rich history of the one church of the living God of which they are a part. Readers will appreciate the clarity that marks Harmon’s book – a clarity that is born in a profound understanding of the issues themselves and also in enviable communications skills.

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future should be required reading for Baptist leaders....(read the full article on EthicsDaily.com)

Order Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Baptist World Alliance General Secretary on Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, devoted his July/August BWA Connect column to 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 column:

....Many discerning readers will welcome not only the vision of the ecumenical future that Harmon espouses and commends, but also what Harmon’s excellent book implies and actually states concerning the proper work of theologians.

The project Harmon undertakes is done in the service of faithfulness to the Lord of the church. Harmon writes primarily as one who is dedicated to the service of the church and its unity. His is not a fascination with theological ideas for their own sake. His articulation of the vocational dimension of a theologian’s work is as clear and impressive as that offered by another outstanding contemporary Baptist theologian, Molly Marshall.

In richly documented chapters crafted by a competent Baptist ecumenical theologian, Harmon deals with a number of issues which Baptists may need to rethink in the light of the long and rich history of the one church of the living God of which they are a part. Readers will appreciate the clarity that marks Harmon’s book – a clarity that is born in a profound understanding of the issues themselves and also in enviable communications skills.

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future should be required reading for Baptist leaders....(read the full article on the Baptist World Alliance web site)

Order Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church opens amidst withdrawals

General session of the Holy and Great Council of the
Orthodox Church at the Orthodox Academy of Crete
The "Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church," meeting June 19-26 in Crete, has opened amidst the withdrawals of five of the autocephalous patriarchates from the Council--most notably the Russian church headed by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The story is reported by multiple international media sources; below are links to a news story and an analysis feature released by Deutsche Welle:


World Orthodox Leaders Meet in Landmark Event

Why the Orthodox Church council planned over 55 years could fail before it starts

Update: Q&A at press conference dated June 10.

Press releases, documents, links to live feeds, videos, and photos related to the proceedings of the Council are available on the Council's website and Facebook page.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future now on Kindle

My latest book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press, 2016) is now available in the Kindle e-book format. On the book's Amazon Kindle page, one can download a free sample that includes frontal matter with preface, chapter 1, and a few pages of chapter 2--but without viewable footnotes. (The paid Kindle e-book does include access to the footnotes,)

Order the Kindle version of Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future from Amazon.

Order the print version of Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pilgrims Together: Baptist Identity and Christian Unity

Next week George Mason (Senior Pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas) and Laura Anne Rodgers Levens (Assistant Professor of Christian Mission, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky) will host a conversation with Curtis Freeman (Director of the Baptist House of Studies, Duke Divinity School) and me about our recent books on Baptist identity in ecumenical perspective and their implications for Baptist congregational and denominational life during a workshop at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Greensboro, NC. Both books will be available for purchase and signing at the workshop. The workshop will be offered 1:30-2:30 PM on Thursday, June 23. Details from the General Assembly workshop schedule follow below; see the end of the post for ordering information for both books.

Pilgrims Together: Baptist Identity and Christian Unity
Location: Auditorium I

Description: Join George Mason and Laura Levens for conversation with Curtis Freeman and Steve Harmon, whose recent books explore Baptist identity in relation to Jesus’ prayer that his followers be one.

Presenters: George Mason, Senior Pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas; Laura Rodgers Levens, Assistant Professor of Christian Mission, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky; Curtis W. Freeman, Director of the Baptist House of Studies, Duke Divinity School; Steven R. Harmon, Visiting Associate Professor of Historical Theology, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity.

Curtis Freeman's book Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists (Baylor University Press, 2014) is available from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

My book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press, 2016) is available from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Anticipating the "Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church"


I hope all Christians will join me in heeding Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's call to remember in prayer the upcoming "Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church" that will convene at the Orthodox Academy in Crete June 16-27, 2016.

This event, for which planning began in 1961, has been compared to the Catholic Church's Second Vatican Council in terms of its significance for the life of the Orthodox Churches, internally and in relation to other Christian communions and the contemporary world. It is the first such full council of the Orthodox Churches held since the Seventh Ecumenical Council--the Second Council of Nicaea in AD 787.

Here are some links for those interested in learning more about the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church:

The web site maintained for the Council includes an informative historical overview and texts of key pre-conciliar documents. Among the latter, the document Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World may be of particular interest to readers of Ecclesial Theology.

In February 2016 the World Council of Churches issued a press release on preparations by the patriarchs of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches for the Council.

Here is a link to an audio interview with Bishop and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware about the Council.

An article by Crux magazine editor John L. Allen, Jr. published today (June 7) includes text from Allen's interview with Rev. John Chryssavgis, an archdeacon and theological adviser to Patriarch Bartholomew.

Rev. Chryssavgis also wrote an article for First Things offering "brief clarifications on basic questions surrounding the Council."

The venue for the Council, the Orthodox Academy in Crete, was the location for the plenary meeting of the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches that I attended in October 2009 as a representative of the Baptist World Alliance. Below are some photos I took of the facility on that occasion.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Panel response to Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

Next Tuesday (May 24) a panel representing the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion and the Baptist History and Heritage Society will respond to my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press, 2016), followed by my own response. The two organizations are meeting at Baylor University's Truett Seminary. Baylor University Press will have copies of the book available for purchase and signing after the panel session with a special conference discount.

Order Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future from Baylor University Press or via Amazon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future at Calvary Baptist Church, Asheville, NC

I will be speaking on themes in my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press) at Calvary Baptist Church in Asheville, North Carolina (531 Haywood Road, Asheville, NC 28806) on Wednesday evening, April 20, 2016. A spaghetti dinner will be served at 5:30 PM ($6/person) prior to the teaching session, which will begin at 6:00 PM.

This educational opportunity is sponsored by the Pittman Center for Congregational Enrichment at Gardner-Webb University.

Contact Calvary Baptist Church with questions about the event: (828) 253-7301 or office@calvaryasheville.com.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future book signing at Gardner-Webb

I'll be signing copies of my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press) during the "Meet the Authors" event at Gardner-Webb University on Monday, April 11, from 3:00 until 5:00 PM at Dover Library on the Gardner-Webb campus in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the signing, courtesy of the campus shop.

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future is also available from Baylor University Press and via Amazon.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wordle rendering of Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

What's my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future about? Here's a rendering of prominent themes in the text courtesy of the Wordle word cloud generator.

Order Baptist identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community from Baylor University Press or Amazon.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Baptist News Global previews Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

Baptist News Global today published an article by news editor Bob Allen previewing 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 article:

Baptists tend to be the “problem children” of the ecumenical movement but have gifts both to give and receive from the broader Christian community, a Baptist theologian who teaches in the school of divinity at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C., says in a new book.

Steven Harmon, who previously served on the faculties of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., and Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C., argues in Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future, released March 1 by Baylor University Press, that Baptist communities and the churches from which they are separated need each other to be faithful to Jesus’ vision of a visibly united church in his high priestly prayer in John 17....(read the full article at Baptist News Global).

Order Baptist identity and the Ecumenical Future from Baylor University Press or Amazon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Pilgrim Community: Ecumenism, Baptist-Style

On Friday, March 18, I'm leading the workshop "Pilgrim Community: Ecumenism, Baptist-Style" during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina General Assembly at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. The workshop draws from arguments and proposals in my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press). If you're attending the assembly and already have a copy of the book, bring it and I'll sign it. If you don't yet have a copy, there's still time to get one from Amazon; I'll also have flyers with a code for a 20% discount and free shipping from Baylor University Press (exp. 3/31) available at the workshop and at the Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity booth.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

NABPR-SE 2016 program

The Southeast Region of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion will hold its annual meeting on Friday, March 4, 2016 on the Mercer University Atlanta campus (3001 Mercer University Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30341) in the Atlanta Trustees Dining Room in the Pharmacy Administration and Cafeteria Building. The meeting program follows:

National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, Southeast
2016 Southeast Regional Meeting
Friday, March 4, 2016
McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia


8:30-9:00        Registration and Refreshments (Atlanta Trustees Dining Room, Pharmacy Administration Building)
9:00-9:15        Opening Session (Atlanta Trustees Dining Room, Pharmacy Administration Building)
Welcome from the President—Steve Harmon (Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity)
Welcome from the Host—Graham Walker (McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University)
 Announcement of Program—Steve Harmon (Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity)
9:15-10:00      Presidential Address: “What Have Baptist Professors of Religion to Do with Magisterium?”
Steve Harmon (Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity)
10:00-10:15    Responses from Membership
10:15-10:30    Break
10:30-11:30    Open forum discussion: Being Baptist Professors of Religion—Challenges and Opportunities
11:30-12:00    Business Meeting
2017 SECSOR meeting—Raleigh, North Carolina
NABPR-SE meeting?
     Shaw University?
     Inclusion of undergraduate students?
Election of officers
Miscellaneous business

12:00               Adjournment for Lunch

Monday, February 15, 2016

William Henn on Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

Fr. William Henn
Fr. William Henn, Professor of Ecclesiology and Ecumenism at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, offers this endorsement of my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press):

"This book was written ‘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.’ Based on extensive experience of dialogue with other Christian...s, his richly documented and insightful treatment of such crucial themes as scripture, tradition, sacraments, authority, and the pilgrim church open fresh avenues for moving toward the unity for which Jesus prayed."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Henk Bakker on Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

Dr. Henk Bakker
Henk Bakker, Professor of Baptist Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands, offers this endorsement of my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press):

"Harmon’s book is a thorough and challenging appeal for visible unity in faith and order between Baptists, Catholics, and all other Christians. After all, ‘Baptists are dissenting catholic Christians’—they are a pilgrim community brought to visibility by ecumenical engagement. This is a must read for every Baptist student."

Friday, February 5, 2016

Michael Kinnamon on Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
Michael Kinnamon, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the USA, offers this endorsement of my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press):

"Steven Harmon challenges his own Baptist tradition to receive the gifts held in trust for the whole body of Christ by other churches, even as he implicitly challenges others to recognize the gifts that Baptists, with their 'pilgrim church theology,' bring to the wider church. I strongly endorse his essential premise: not only do Baptists need the ecumenical church, the rest of us need the full, mutually receptive engagement of Baptists if this movement for unity is to move. The book is creative, well researched, passionate, and practical."

Order Baptist identity and the Ecumenical Future from Baylor University Press or Amazon.

About the Book
Contents
Michael Kinnamon on Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future--Contents

What's inside my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community? Here's the table of contents:

Part I: The Baptist Vision and the Ecumenical Moment
1. A Radical Baptist Proposal
2. Seizing the Ecumenical Moment

Part II: Baptists, Biblicism, and Catholicity
3. One Sacred Story
4. One Contested Tradition
5. Radically Biblical, Radically Catholic

Part III: Baptist Identity and Receptive Ecumenism
6. The End of Baptist Denominationalism
7. Receiving the Gift of Magisterium

Part IV: Baptist Theology and the Ecumenical Future
8. The Ecumenical Task of Theology
9. The Theology of a Pilgrim Church
10. The Baptist Eschatological Vision and the Ecumenical Future

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

International Baptist-Methodist dialogue continues in Germany

The Baptist World Alliance has issued the following press release regarding the continuation of the international dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and the World Methodist Council this week in Elstal, Germany:

Baptists and Methodists hold third dialogue session in Germany

Participants at a preivous BWA/WMC dialogueThe Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the World Methodist Council (WMC) will be engaged in the third session of the international theological dialogue between the two Christian World Communions. Both teams will meet at the Theological Seminary at Elstal, Germany, from February 3-10.
Previous sessions of the BWA/WMC dialogue were held in the United States in 2014 and in Singapore in 2015.
The week of meetings will cover the theme, “Making Disciples: Baptism as Christian Initiation” and will explore topics such as “Ecumenical conversations and agreements on baptism in Germany” and “Regional soundings on baptism from various parts of the world” such as Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America.
Historical, theological, liturgical and ecumenical perspectives and understandings of baptism will be explored.
Relevant excerpts from international and regional ecumenical texts regarding baptism are being selected, collated and distributed, with participants encouraged to contribute material from their respective region.
Other activities will include a tour of the German capital of Berlin and a visit to the birthplace of Martin Luther. Protestants, Baptists included, will mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.
Luther had nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, German, in 1517, an act that sparked the Protestant Reformation movement and a major break from the Roman Catholic Church.
The BWA delegation comprises dialogue Co-chair Curtis Freeman, research professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke University Divinity School in the United States; Deji Isaac Ayegboyin, professor of Church History and African Christianity and at the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan in Nigeria; Valérie Duval-Poujol, professor of biblical exegesis at the Catholic Institute, Paris, France, and director for its Institute for Bible and Orientalism; Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in the US; Stephen Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland; and R. L. Hnuni, principal of Calcutta Bible Seminary in Kolkata, India.
Methodist representatives are dialogue Co-chair Tim Macquiban, minister of Wesley Church and superintendent minister in the United Kingdom; Paul W. Chilcote, academic dean and professor of historical theology and Wesleyan Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary in the US; Christine Gooden-Benguche, secretary, Jamaica District Conference, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas; Lauren Claire Matthew, minister in the Umngeni Circuit, Natal Coastal District in South Africa, district supervisor of studies of the General Committee of Education for Mission and president of the Youth and Young Adult Committee of the WMC; Ulrike Schuler, professor for Church History, Methodism, and Ecumenism at Reutlingen School of Theology in Germany; and Malcolm Tan, pastor, Barker Road Methodist Church in Singapore.
BWA director of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection, Fausto Vasconcelos, who serves as co-secretary along with Paul Chilcote, will also be present.
Baptist World Alliance®
© February 2, 2016

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future--About the Book

Here's the dust jacket flap "About the Book" description for my new book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community:

Baptists tend to be the “problem children” of the ecumenical movement. The Baptist obsession to realize a true church birthed a tradition of separation. While Baptists’ misgivings about ecumenism may stem from this fissiparous genealogy, it is equally true that the modern ecumenical movement itself increasingly lacks consensus about the pathway to a visible Christian unity.

In Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future, Steven R. Harmon explores the relationship of the Baptist calling to be a pilgrim community and the ecumenical movement. Harmon argues that neither vision can be fulfilled apart from a mutually receptive ecumenical engagement. As Harmon shows, Baptist communities and the churches from which they are separated need one another. Chief among the gifts Baptists have to offer the rest of the church are their pilgrim aversion to overly realized eschatologies of the church and their radical commitment to discerning the rule of Christ by means of the Scriptures. Baptists, in turn, must be willing to receive from other churches neglected aspects of the radical catholicity from which the Bible is inseparable.

Embedded in the Baptist vision and its historical embodiment are surprising openings for ecumenical convergence. Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future urges Baptists and their dialogue partners to recognize and embrace these ecumenically oriented facets of Baptist identity as indispensable provisions for their shared pilgrimage toward the fullness of the rule of Christ in their midst, which remains partial so long as Christ’s body remains divided.