Thursday, February 14, 2013

Baptist World Alliance responds to papal resignation

Pope Benedict XVI with members of the joint delegations to the international theological conversations between the Baptist World Alliance and the Roman Catholic Church, December 2007
The Baptist World Alliance has issued the following press release in response to Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of his intended resignation:

BWA leaders laud Pope Benedict XVI

Leaders of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) expressed their appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI after the announcement of his intention to resign on February 28.
"I have deeply appreciated the inclusion by the pope of other Christian fellowships, such as the BWA, in serious discussions of matters that have confronted the Christian world," said BWA President John Upton.  "The pope has always been gracious in his welcome to the Vatican and respectful of the insights and opinions of other Christian communities."
General Secretary Neville Callam acknowledged "the ministry that Pope Benedict XVI has exercised, in particular his contribution to ecumenical relations." Callam took note of the pope's theological works and his pastoral ministry that have "provided the Christian community with a rich storehouse of spiritual reflections worthy of detailed study."
"I applaud the pope's openness to bilateral dialogues that have both strengthened understandings and furthered Christian witness," Upton said.  "The pope has demonstrated his love of the church and he will be remembered fondly for his scholarly and gentle leadership."
Callam recalled the private audience the pope gave to participants in the dialogue involving Baptists and Catholics during their meetings in Rome in 2007. In receiving the delegates, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the dialogue would result in "increase of understanding and cooperation between Catholics and Baptists."
Baptists and Catholics have participated in theological dialogue since 1984. The first round extended from 1984-1988 and the second from 2006-2010. Callam acknowledged the pope's support of the second round of the dialogue.
The BWA General Secretary said the pope's ecumenical openness was on full display during the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church where the Baptist community was represented by Timothy George, dean and professor of divinity, history and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School in the state of Alabama in the United States.
"We convey best wishes on a well deserved retirement," Callam stated. "His immense contribution to world Christianity will not be forgotten and we pray for him God's blessings in the coming years."
Baptist World Alliance®
© February 14, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Clergy react to pope's resignation"--The Shelby Star

An article on today's issue of the local newspaper The Shelby Star includes quotes from me and area clergy responding to yesterday's announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will retire at the end of the month. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the story:

Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and on Feb. 28 will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The announcement sets the stage for a conclave in March to elect a new leader for the world's 1 billion Catholics.

Clergy in Cleveland County reacted to the news with thoughts about the 85-year-old pope and prayers for him and the Catholic Church.

“I admire Pope Benedict for knowing that he needs to retire and doing so,” said Rev. Dr. Valori M. Sherer, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Shelby.

Dr. Steve Harmon of Gardner-Webb University met Benedict in 2007 at a meeting in Rome between the Baptist World Alliance and the Roman Catholic Church.

"I came away with the sense he was a gracious, kind and caring person," Harmon said.... (read the rest of the article at The Shelby Star)

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Prayer for the Papacy" at Associated Baptist Press

The Associated Baptist Press is running a commentary piece titled "Prayer for the Papacy" that I wrote this morning in response to today's news regarding the announced retirement of Pope Benedict XVI at the end of the month. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the commentary:

The pope has prayed for me, and following the announcement of his retirement at the end of the month, I’m returning the favor by praying for him and the future of his office.

Don’t get the wrong idea: Pope Benedict XVI hasn’t direct-Tweeted me, and he’d have no reason to remember meeting me. But during a private papal audience with the members of the joint delegations to a meeting in Rome of the ecumenical dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and the Roman Catholic Church in December 2007, my family and I were included in this pledge of prayer:

“Dear friends, I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the important work which you have undertaken. Upon your conversations, and upon each of you and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the Holy Spirit's gifts of wisdom, understanding, strength and peace"....(read the full commentary at Associated Baptist Press)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Denomination: Assessing an Ecclesiological Category now in paperback

Denomination: Assessing an Ecclesiological Category, ed. Paul M. Collins and Barry Ensign-George (Ecclesiological Investigations, vol. 11; T & T Clark International, 2011), a book to which I contributed the chapter written from a Baptist perspective ("The Ecumenical Dimensions of Baptist Denominational Identity"), is now available in paperback. The hardcover version is steeply priced at $110.00 USD, but the paperback format has been released at a much more affordable $29.95 from the publisher or $29.05 via Amazon. (Amazon shoppers will also note the availability of the book in Kindle format for $14.82.)

Information about the book from the publisher's web site follows:

About Denomination

The term "denomination" is now widely used to describe a Christian community or church. But what is a 'denomination'? In this highly creative collection of essays, representatives of all major Christian traditions give an answer to this question. What does the term mean in their own tradition? And does that tradition understand itself to be a 'denomination'? If so, what is that understanding of 'denomination'; and if not, how does the tradition understand itself vis à vis those churches which do and those churches which do not understand themselves as 'denominations'? In dialogue with the argument and ideas set forth in Barry Ensign-George's essay, each contributor offers a response from the perspective of a particular church (tradition). Each essay also considers questions concerning the current landscape of ecumenical dialogue; ecumenical method and the goals of the ecumenical movement; as well as questions of Christian identity and belonging.

Table Of Contents

Introduction Paul M. Collins\ 'Denomination as Ecclesiological Category: Sketching an Assessment' Barry Ensign-George (Reformed/Presbyterian)\Anglican 'Denomination: An Anglican Appraisal' Paul Avis\Baptist: 'The Ecumenical Dimensions of Baptist Denominational Identity' Steven R. Harmon\Lutheran: 'The Lutheran Church: Church, Confession, Congregation, Denomination' Gesa Thiessen\Methodist: 'United Methodism: Its Identity as Denomination' Russell Richey\Orthodox: 'The Orthodox Church on Denomination' Elena Vishnevskaya\Pentecostal: 'The Denomination in Classical and Global Pentecostal Ecclesiology:A Historical and Theological Contribution' Wolfgang Vondey\Quaker: 'Denomination beyond the North Atlantic Ecclesial World' Ann Riggs\Reformed/Presbyterian: 'Presbyterianism and Denomination' Amy Plantinga Pauw\'Is there a future for denominationalism? Reflections from the perspective of Roman Catholic ecclesiology and from the perspective of the future of the ecumenical movement' Peter de Mey\'Afterword: A Global Perspective' Kirsteen Kim


“'With the collapse of classical ecumenism and the emergence of new divisions in the church, the time is ripe for a fresh theological look at the contentious issue of denominationalism. This volume tackles the thorny issues cleanly and forthrightly. Both those who are repelled by the whole idea of denominationalism and those who want to retrieve and fix it will find this splendid volume invaluable in thinking through their positions.' - William J. Abraham, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, USA.” – William J. Abraham,
“... an important collection... looking at the issue of denominationalism from theological, ecumenical and sociological perspectives... Highly recommended.” – Church of England Newspaper,
“'What is a denomination? Does it differ from a convention, fellowship, synod, or church? Is it primarily a sociological or a theological term? Denominational consciousness stands for particularity relative to the whole church. The premier ecclesiologists who discuss the nature, function, and relevance this term in an ecumenical age display the diversity of their denominational points of view. As denominations wane in the West and never quite take hold in cultures that do not share the history that generated them, will the gifts that each preserves for the whole church be lost? These analysts throw distinctive light on these issues and by so doing relativize the narrowness of denominational consciousness and help expand the vision of the larger church in which the denominations participate. This topic and these superb treatments of it provide a unique entrée into the ecumenical vision that people from all the denominations will appreciate. As a whole the book represents a quiet, conversational but brilliant essay in comparative ecclesiology that no course in ecumenism can neglect.' - Roger Haight, S. J., Scholar in Residence, Union Theological Seminary, USA.” – Roger Haight, S. J.,
“As the blurb states,this book will indeed be a text for my next course on "Unity in Division". Itoffers challenging perspectives on bringing theological perspectives to thesocial realities which shape many churches in today's western world- and beyond.” – One in Christ

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Are Baptists still nonconformists?" (ABPnews Blog)

My post "Are Baptists still nonconformists?" appears on the Associated Baptist Press ABPnews Blog. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the post; click on the hyperlinked title for the full text at the ABPnews Blog:

Not long after our move to work at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity my wife Kheresa read Monique Truong’s Bitter in the Mouth (Random House, 2010), a novel rooted in Truong’s childhood experiences as an “outsider” Vietnamese-American in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, where her family settled after the fall of Saigon in 1975 and where we now live. One morning Kheresa read to me a sentence that follows a reference to the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in nearby Shelby: “As far as the Southern Baptists were concerned, Episcopalians were third on the list of local religious nonconformists” (after one of the characters in the novel and Catholics).

That sentence struck me as delightfully ironic, for in seventeenth-century England the 1662 Act of Uniformity officially made Baptists the “Nonconformists” (along with Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Quakers)–because of their dissent from the doctrines and practices of the established Church of England, the progenitor of the Episcopal Church in the United States....(read the full post at the ABPnews Blog)