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Gathering discusses Baptist-Catholic dialogue report By Steven Harmon

The offi cial report of the second round of dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and the Catholic Church, The Word of God in the Life of the Church: A Report of International Conversations between the Catholic


and the Baptist World Alliance, 2006-2010, was presented and discussed at the BWA Annual Gathering in Jamaica.

panel consisting of some members of the BWA delegation to the dialogues introduced the major sections of the report, focusing on key statements of agreement between Baptists and Catholics. A dialogue session following these brief presentations provided opportunities for attendees to ask for clarifi cation of terms and concepts in the report, express concerns about how aspects of the report might be received in their national contexts, and asked questions about the experience of the dialogue and the process by which the joint delegations produced the report. One question inquired about the most surprising things the


Baptist and Catholic delegations learned about one another. Baptists discovered that despite the offi cial status of Catholic magisterial teaching, there is a wide diversity of Catholic thought refl ected in debates that lead to the formulation of magisterial teaching, including many perspectives that converge with convictions more distinctive of the Baptist tradition. Catholics in turn discovered that members of the Baptist delegation were surprisingly well- versed in Catholic doctrine and liturgy in a way that was diffi cult for the Catholic delegation to mirror, especially given the diversity of Baptist faith and practice.

Another question concerned the manner and process by which

the delegations to this and other international theological dialogues in which the BWA engages represent Baptist convictions. Reponses emphasized that when the BWA engages in dialogues that aim at fuller expressions of the unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17, it does so in keeping with Baptist polity. Neither the BWA nor any of its member unions can make decisions about matters of unity on behalf of local congregations, and the members of the delegations to dialogues speak for themselves as Baptists but in doing so seek to represent both the convictions held by most Baptists and the diversity that belongs to the Baptist tradition. During each annual meeting of the dialogue with the Catholic Church, members of both delegations presented and discussed papers on focal themes that helped them go deep within their respective traditions to discover and fi nd ways to articulate possibilities for consensus. Rather than negotiating compromises or creating new agreements, they worked to discern convergences that are already there in the two Christian world communions, yet have largely gone unrecognized by Baptists and Catholics. The resulting report is commended to Baptists and Catholics as a study document intended to stimulate refl ection and further dialogue rather than as an offi cial statement of either communion.

Steven Harmon teaches Christian

theology at Gardner- Webb University School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, USA.

22 BAPTIST WORLD MAGAZINE BWA to dialogue with Methodists

planning meeting for the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) international dialogue with the World Methodist Council (WMC) took place at the Wesley Chapel in London in the United Kingdom, from August 28-29. The BWA Executive Committee and General Council, in


March and July of this year, respectively, endorsed a proposal that the BWA begin the process of preparation for a theological dialogue with the WMC. The dialogue is planned for 2014-2018 and will explore the

theme, Faith Active in Love: Sung and Preached, Confessed and Remembered, Lived and Learned. “Participation in bilateral dialogues is an expression of BWA’s commitment to continue the mission of God whose Messiah prayed for the unity of the church so that the world might believe” BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said, extrapolating from the Gospel according to John. “In asking how we might manifest

Panelists at the forum were Paul Fiddes, professor of Systematic

Theology at Oxford University; Timothy George, dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama; Steven Harmon, a professor at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina; Curtis Freeman, research professor of Theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina; Elizabeth Newman, professor of Theology and Ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia; and Anthony Peck, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation.

Panelists Timothy George of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School (left) and Paul Fiddes of Oxford University, during discus- sions on the Baptist- Catholic dialogue report


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