Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cameron Jorgenson on "Bapto-Catholicism"

Cameron H. J. Jorgenson
Continuing a series of occasional posts calling attention to recent doctoral dissertations by Baptists and others in the broader free church tradition working at the intersection of ecclesiology and ecumenical theology:
Cameron H. J. Jorgenson is Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. His dissertation "Bapto-Catholicism: Recovering Tradition and Reconsidering the Baptist Identity" (Baylor University, 2008) was supervised by Barry A. Harvey.


This dissertation is an exploration of a contemporary approach to Baptist theology which some have dubbed “Bapto-Catholic.” The Bapto-Catholic sensibility is described as an attempt to respond to the collapse of the Enlightenment project and its influence on modern Baptist thought. It provides an alternate narrative of the Baptist identity by drawing upon the resources of seventeenth century Baptist theology and the breadth of the Christian tradition in order to find solutions to the current difficulties in Baptist theology. The study proceeds in four major sections. The first section provides historical context for the movement, surveying the debates among Baptist historians, and between conservative and moderate Baptists, about the nature of the Baptist identity. Special attention is given to the controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention in the final decades of the twentieth century and the effect that the resulting schism had on Baptist self-conceptions. The second section assesses the Bapto-Catholic conversation, focusing on its initial programmatic work, the Baptist Manifesto, and its chief proponents and critics. Various conceptual “marks” of Baptist catholicity are also suggested. The third section explores Alasdair MacIntyre’s critique of modernity and his philosophical account of the nature of tradition. This section notes MacIntyre’s influence on Bapto- Catholic thought as well as his potential as a resource for future theological developments, especially with regard to the role of conflict and historicism in Baptist thought. The final section revisits the central question driving this study: what is Baptist Catholicity? It is suggested that the controversies surrounding the Baptist identity since the late twentieth century, and the emergence of the Bapto-Catholic project as an alternative proposal, are an excellent example of what MacIntyre calls an “epistemological crisis” wherein a tradition’s coherence is tested through internal conflicts and encounters with rival traditions. For this reason, the future vitality of the tradition is at stake and the Bapto-Catholic sensibility is an important attempt to discover new conceptual resources for the tradition. The future of the movement, however, may depend on its ability to provide a coherent account of authority and Baptist ecclesiology.

Posts in this series:

Jeffrey Cary on Jenson, Williams, McClendon, and free church ecclesiology

Aaron James on language, Eucharistic identity, and the Baptist vision

Scott Bullard on Eucharist, Unity, and Baptists

Derek Hatch on Mullins, Truett, and de Lubac

Jonathan Malone on Baptists, Ordination, and Catholic "Sacramental Consciousness"

Cameron Jorgenson on "Bapto-Catholicism"


  1. I look forward to reading the dissertation. I pastor a small, mid-western Baptist Church that offers what we call a Liturgical Service in addition to our traditional/contemporary service. In the Liturgical service we follow the Lectionary and the Church Calendar. It has a small attendance -- usually 15-20 people, but it meets a genuine need in our discipleship community. (go here to view the roll-out we used: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cobgKjLkbrw )

    However, we decided not to recite the creed ("no creed but the Bible"), so I am very interested to read Jorgenson's work. Do you have other recommendations?

  2. Mark, thanks for your comment. At the risk of being self-serving, I'd point to my book Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision (Paternoster, 2006): http://www.amazon.com/Towards-Baptist-Catholicity-Tradition-Studies/dp/1597528323

    In that book I do address the Baptist concern about creeds. I've also offered a brief rationale for a Baptist use of the creeds in worship here: http://ecclesialtheology.blogspot.com/2010/10/do-real-baptists-recite-creeds.html

    Grace and peace,

  3. Hi Steve. Is Cameron's dissertation available in print form? I'd rather avoid reading 200+ pages of text on a computer screen.

    Also, I've finally decided to go to Beeson for my DMin. Too bad you aren't teaching there anymore; your's was one of the names that attracted me to the school in the first place.

  4. Eugene, thanks for your comment and kind words, and congrats on the upcoming beginning of DMin studies. Cameron's dissertation is not yet published as a book, but he may very well have plans for doing so. In the meantime, there's always the computer screen!