Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Associated Baptist Press reviews Ecumenism Means You, Too

In the May 24 Associated Baptist Press story "In New Book, Baptist Prof Draws on U2's Music to Call for Christian Unity," senior news writer Bob Allen introduces ABP readers to Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity. (The "Comments" posted by readers at the end of the article, however, head off in a different direction.)

Interested in reading the book? Order Ecumenism Means You, Too directly from Cascade Books or via Amazon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bavarian Baptists and Lutherans in dialogue

It recently came to my attention that after six years of dialogue, in May 2009 a joint working group representing Baptists and Lutherans in the German state of Bavaria published a significant agreed statement: "Voneinander lernenmiteinander glauben: „Ein Herr, ein Glaube, eine Taufe“ (Eph 4,5). Konvergenzdokument der Bayerischen Lutherisch-Baptistischen Arbeitsgruppe (BALUBAG)." (Translation: "Learning from one another--believing with one another: 'One Lord, one faith, one baptism' (Eph. 4:5). Convergence Document of the Bavarian Lutheran-Baptist Working Group (BALUBAG).") Currently available only in German, the 26-page document is published online in PDF (click on hyperlinked title above). A press release (also in German) preceding the document's publication is available here. The dialogue and document gave special attention to the soteriological themes of justification and discipleship (distinctive emphases of Lutherans and Baptists, respectively), ecclesiology, baptism, and the Lord's Supper. This rich agreed statement is the product of the working group's use of the "differentiated consensus" methodology that produced the Lutheran-Roman Catholic (and now Methodist, too) Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification: the identification of matters of "fundamental consensus" and matters on which a "consensus with remaining differences" is possible. (Thanks to Richard Pierard and Curtis Freeman for bringing this document to my attention.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

John T. Ford on the ecumenical dimensions of immigration ministry

In light of renewed attention to the ethics of United States immigration policy in the wake of the signing into law of Arizona SB 1070 on April 23, I thought it appropriate to call attention to an article in the January 2010 issue of Ecumenical Trends highlighted in a previous post. John T. Ford, CSC, Professor of Theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., approaches the current situation as an opportunity for ecumenical cooperation and convergence in his article "Immigration Ministry: An Ecumenical Opportunity?", which appears on pages 10-14 of the issue, currently available online in PDF as a sample issue. Here's an excerpt to pique your interest:

The current strategy of deporting undocumented immigrants is not only minimally successful, it is also ethically questionable. With the exception of undocumented immigrants who commit crimes – and one must acknowledge the presence of criminals among the immigrant population – undocumented immigrants usually come to the United States to find employment, not to commit crime. Most undocumented immigrants are hard-working, law-abiding workers; their unique crime is their unauthorized entry into the United States. However, because of their illegal entry, the undocumented are sometimes unjustly lumped together with people who are guilty of serious crimes.

The failure to differentiate between undocumented immigrants and criminal immigrants does not recognize that most undocumented immigrants have not come for criminal purposes, but in order to support themselves and their families. Why is it necessary to deport undocumented immigrants who are working hard to support themselves and their families? Why is it necessary to break up families by deporting undocumented parents and leaving their children without support – children who were born in the United States and so are U.S. citizens?

While hoping and praying for a governmental solution – and judging from recent experience the wait may be long – people need to recognize that the United States is still a land of immigrants – as it has been since colonial times. And like the millions of immigrants in the past, most recent immigrants have come to stay. For the government, the problem is to find a just, humane way of dealing with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in the United States. For churches, the challenge is to find ways of ministering to these immigrants.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Baptists Today publishes my review of James Leo Garrett Jr.'s Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study

The new issue of Baptists Today (vol. 28, no. 5 [May 2010]) includes my review of James Leo Garrett Jr.'s Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study, published in 2009 by Mercer University Press ("Garrett Pens 'Treasury of Baptist Theological Heritage': A Review by Steven R. Harmon," p. 25). As Garrett supervised my doctoral dissertation and remains a significant influence on my own work, I accepted with some degree of fear and trembling the request to review what is likely to be the crowning achievement of Garrett's long and distinguished career as a Baptist theologian. Here's a snippet from the opening of the review:

James Leo Garrett Jr. supervised my doctoral dissertation. His insistence that theology must pay close attention to the historical context of its development and his ability to hold fidelity to the Baptist tradition and ecumenical openness in creative tension have probably influenced my own career as a theologian more than anything else. Nevertheless, I'll do my best to offer an objective assessment of this book's value.

Timed to coincide with the 2009 quadricentennial celebration of Baptist beginnings, this volume lives up to its subtitle. It treats in exhaustive detail four centuries of Baptist theology, defined as "the doctrinal beliefs of the people called Baptists" and drawing upon "their confessions of faith, the teachings of their major theologians, and their principal theological movements and controversies."

If you're interested in reading the full review--which includes mention of a few points at which I dissent from Garrett's characterization of some recent developments in the Baptist theological tradition along with expressions of my admiration for this important and helpful resource--but don't subscribe to Baptists Today or have library access to this news journal, the public back issues archive on the Baptists Today web site will make a PDF of this issue available later this year. I'll post a link on this blog when it's online there.