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Baptists and Orthodox Hold Exploratory Talks

Teams representing the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople held ex- ploratory talks on the island of Crete that could lead to the commencement of formal international dialogue between Baptist and Orthodox Christians. The Ecumenical Patriarchate enjoys the status of “fi rst among equals” among Eastern Orthodox prelates, and is widely regarded as the representative and spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians.

The two teams, which met from October 30 to November 2, reviewed earlier discussions between the BWA and the Orthodox Church and proposed that any international dialogue should be aimed at increasing mutual understanding and knowledge of each other; the exploring of a common witness to the world; and the encouragement of common action on ethical and moral issues, among other things. “The aim of the Baptist-Orthodox dialogue is to respond to the Lord’s prayer to his Father for his disciples ‘that they may all be one . . . that the world may believe’ (John 17:21),” said BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, who led the BWA delegation. “Facing this challenge today, we believe that we should continue to explore our common ground in biblical teaching, apostolic faith and tradition as well as practical Christian witness, together with our remaining differences.” Callam expressed the hope that Baptists and Orthodox will be able to commit to as BWA General Secretary Neville Callam sharing a meal with Archbishop Irenaos of Crete and George Tsetsis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate


Baptists and Pentecostals Plan Dialogue

Representatives of the Baptist World Alliance and of the Pentecostal tradition met from December 13-15 to set guidelines for an upcoming international dialogue between Baptists and Pentecostals. BWA General Secretary Neville Cal- lam, who led the BWA delegation, said he “was pleased that the time had arrived in which Baptists and Pentecostals could meet to consider how they might work to- gether in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer for the unity of the church.” Callam encouraged participants to think creatively about how, in future years, Baptists and Pentecostals might cooperate more fully in a number of areas, including mission and evangelism. Cecil Robeck, Jr., professor of Church History and Ecumenics at Fuller Theological Seminary in the state of California in the United States, represented the Pentecostals and co-chaired the planning session with Callam.

Robeck expressed delight on behalf of the Pentecostals at the invitation to open this discussion, noting that while the Pentecostal World Fellowship does not currently have in its mandate such ecumenical discussions, the chairman of that international body, Prince Guneratnam of Malaysia, has encouraged its members toward greater ecumenical openness and had given his blessings to this dialogue with the Baptist World Alliance. The meeting, held at Beeson Divin- ity School, Samford University in Bir- mingham, Alabama, in the US, issued a statement with proposals on how a future dialogue may proceed. “The purpose of the dialogue is to examine what it may wide a dialogue as possible, in truth, love, mutual respect and transparency. Participants left the meeting mean for Baptists and Pentecostals to walk together in step with the Holy Spirit,” the statement read. “Our intention is for the dialogue to be holistic in its evaluation of faith and practice.” A series of questions are to be explored in any future talks. “Are there areas on which we already agree? What can we offer to one another as sisters and brothers in Christ? Who are we as we walk together? What does it mean for us to walk together? How do we walk together in the Holy Spirit?” It is anticipated that teams will meet an- nually from 2012 through 2014, beginning in Quito, Ecuador, in August. Findings and recommendations for consideration by the two bodies are expected to be presented in 2015.

Members of the BWA delegation were Callam; Fausto Vasconcelos, BWA director of the Division on Mission, Evangelism, and Theological Refl ection; Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, senior editor for Christianity Today, and host of the meeting; Bill Brackney, Millard R. Cherry Distinguished Professor for Christian Thought and Ethics at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada; and Curtis Freeman, research professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School, in the state of North Carolina, in the US.

Gardner-Webb University with the understanding that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would examine the proposal developed by the Crete meeting and deter- mine whether to remit it to the Orthodox churches with a view to securing their participation in the proposed Baptist/ Orthodox international dialogue. The delegations shared fellowship with the Orthodox community in Crete as guests of His Eminence Archbishop Irenaos of Crete. Members of the BWA team were Steven Callam; Harmon, professor of Christian Theology adjunct at School of Divinity in the state of North Carolina in the United States; and Paul Fiddes, professor of Systematic Theology at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. The Orthodox team comprised Gen- nadios of Sassima of the Ecumenical Patri- archate of Constantinople and professor of Orthodox theology and canon law; George Tsetsis, a former permanent representa- tive of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches; and Konstan- tinos Kenanidis, general director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete.

It is expected that a decision on whether formal dialogue will take place will be made by March 2012.


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