which we here present is the result of five meetings between Baptists
and Roman Catholics in the years 1984-1988. The conversations
were sponsored by the Commission on Baptist Doctrine and Interchurch
Cooperation of the Baptist World Alliance and the Vatican Secretariat
for Promoting Christian Unity. They were the first international
conversations between our two bodies.
theme was "Christian Witness in Today's World." Our primary goal
was to come to a mutual understanding of certain convergences
and divergences between the Baptist and Roman Catholic world confessional
families. Additional goals included:
1. To establish
relations and maintain a channel of communication through conversation
for mutual as well as self-understanding.
2. To identify
new possibilities as well as to clarify existing difficulties
in regard to a common witness in view of the current world situation
and the mandate of Christ to proclaim the gospel.
3. To address
existing prejudices between our two world confessional families.
initial conversations, where we experienced God's presence and
God's blessings, these objectives were in large part fulfilled.
What we achieved in these conversations is an encouragement to
similar efforts at various levels in church life.
session the main work was theological discussion. Scholarly papers
were presented and discussed by participants. Bible studies related
to the selected themes, and visits to local communities in the
places where the meetings took place, enriched our conversations.
In each location leaders of the Baptist and Roman Catholic communities
visited the group and shared with them the support of their good
wishes and their prayers.
this report, with thanks, to the bodies that sponsored our conversations.
The sixteen of us who have been participants have been conscious
of the Spirit of God at work among us, and have formed in the
course of these years friendships that have been full of encouragement
and edification. As this report is completed, we remember fondly
one of our members, Rev. Jerome Dollard, O.S.B., who was suddenly
called from this life on December 26, 1985.
us who took part in the conversations regard our experience together
as a great gift from God. We hope other Baptists and Roman Catholics
will have the grace of a similar experience. In that spirit we
offer this report to Baptists, Roman Catholics and others for
their study and their prayerful reflection.
July 23, 1988
TO WITNESS TO CHRIST IN TODAY'S WORLD:
Report On The Baptist-roman Catholic International Conversations
I. THE CONVERSATIONS IN REVIEW
the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Baptists and Roman Catholics
have entered into conversation with one another at numerous levels.
Only in the past five years, however, have they undertaken a series
of conversations at the international level. Jointly sponsored
by the Commission on Baptist Doctrine and Interchurch Cooperation
of the Baptist World Alliance and the Vatican Secretariat for
Promoting Christian Unity, these conversations have focused on
a subject of concern to both bodies, namely, "Christian Witness
in Today's World."
2. In this
series of five conversations Baptist and Roman Catholic participants,
composed of church leaders and scholars, discovered a remarkable
amount of consensus on both general and specific issues. Agreement
centered on God's saving revelation in Jesus Christ, the necessity
of personal commitment to God in Christ, the on-going work of
the Holy Spirit, and the missionary imperative that emerges from
God's redemptive activity on behalf of humankind. There were,
of course, some significant differences on both general and specific
issues. We often noted that divergences appeared among representatives
of the same communion as well as among those of the two communions.
3. The conversations,
held annually in various locations, explored the following topics
relative to common witness. The first, meeting in West Berlin,
July 18-21, 1984 focused on "Evangelism/Evangelization: the Mission
of the Church." The second, assembled in Los Angeles, June 24-30,
1985, addressed the issues of "Christology" and "Conversion/Discipleship,"
aspects of "Witness to Christ." The third, convened in New York
City, June 2-7, 1986, explored ecclesiological issues under the
title of "The Church as Koinonia of the Spirit." The fourth, held
in Rome, July 13-18, 1987, directed itself to specific issues
standing in the way of improving common Christian witness, that
is, proselytism and restrictions on religious freedom. The fifth,
located in Atlanta, Georgia, July 18-23, 1988, sought to gather
the fruit of the entire series.
II. COMMON STATEMENT
statement does not offer a summary of the individual sessions.
It attempts, rather, to synthesize the discussions over five years
and to articulate our shared response to the revelation of God
in Jesus Christ as this has been given to us in the Bible and
in the faith and practice of our respective communities.
witness to Christ
5. Our common
witness rests on shared faith in the centrality of Jesus Christ
as the revelation of God and the sole mediator between God and
humankind (1 Tim 2:5). We come to know Jesus Christ
through the Scriptures, especially of the New Testament, which
we share in common as the source and sustainer of our faith. That
knowledge is experientially confirmed by the internal witness
of the Holy Spirit, is handed down by the community of believers,
and is certified by the authoritative witness of the church throughout
the ages. We are also aware that God set forth in Christ "the
mystery of his will" (Eph 1:9). All human language is inadequate
to express the mystery of God's grace and love manifested in the
life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We strive, with Paul as
our guide, to gain "insight into the mystery of Christ" (Eph
6. The distinction
between the person and the work of Christ, while helpful to later
theology, does not capture the riches of the biblical testimony
to Jesus Christ. The christological statements in the New Testament
express the faith of individuals and groups. In their earliest
forms such as we find in Paul's resurrection paradosis (1 Cor.
15:1-11) and in the "kerygmatic" speeches of Acts (e.g. 2:22-24;
3:14-16; 4:10-12; 10:40-43) Jesus is proclaimed as the one who
God raised up (or made Lord and Messiah) for our sins or in whose
name we are saved. The doctrine of the person of Christ cannot
be separated from the message of the saving work which God accomplished
in and through Christ.
7. The New
Testament speaks of Jesus in different ways. The Synoptic Gospels
present Jesus as the one who proclaims the advent of God's reign
and enacts it in his ministry (Mk 1:14-15). He calls sinners
to repentance (Lk 5:32) and conquers the power of evil (Lk
11:19f.). He takes the side of the sick and the marginal in his
society (Lk 4:16-19). He gathers disciples who were to
be with him and to be sent by him (Mk 3:13-15). He possesses
a unique familiarity with God and teaches those who follow him
to pray to God as Father (Mt 6:7-15) and to walk in loving
trust in God's power and presence (Mt 6:25-33). He summons
those who would follow him to love God and neighbor with whole
heart, mind and soul (Mk 12:28-34) and gives his life as
a ransom that others may be free (Mk 10:45).
8. The Gospel
of John is a rich source for understanding Christ and its language
and perspective gave shape to the christological formulation of
the councils. It was written in order that people might believe
that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing
they might have life in his name (Jn 20:31). Jesus is presented
as the Word who was with God from the beginning and through whom
all things were made (Jn 1:1-3): This Word became flesh
and dwelt among us so that his glory could be seen. He was full
of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). Eternal life was to know
the one true God and Jesus Christ whom God had sent (Jn 17:3).
Access to this eternal life was by way of faith. The Christian
was summoned to confess with Martha, "Lord, I believe that you
are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world"
(Jn 11:27). Through the death and resurrection of Jesus
the Holy Spirit was given for the remission of sin (Jn
20:22-23). Through the witness of the Paraclete the disciples
were made witnesses to Christ (Jn 15:2627). Jesus in dying
prayed for them that the Father keep them in his name and make
them one (Jn 17:11).
is proclaimed as the one who descended from David according to
the flesh and is designated Son of God in power according to the
Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead (Rom
1:4). He is also the suffering servant and the Son of Man who
came not to be served but to serve (Mk 10:45). He is the
Savior born for us in the city of David (Lk 2:11) and the
one who, though equal to God, emptied himself, taking on the form
of a servant, being born in human likeness (Phil 2:7).
work of Christ is presented under a variety of metaphors such
as justification (Gal 2:16; Rom 3:26-28; 5:18),
salvation (2 Cor 7:10; Rom 1:16; 10:10; 13:11),
expiation and redemption (Rom 3:2425; 8-:32) and reconciliation
(2 Cor 5:18-20; Rom 5:10-11). These expressions
point to the ontological, objective event wherein God has begun
the restoration of a fallen humanity to relationship with himself
and has inaugurated a renewal of creation through Christ's death
on the cross and resurrection from the dead. The offer of salvation
from God in Christ is received in faith which is a gift of God
"who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge
of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4).
of our witness to Christ has revealed that our two communions
are one in their confession of Jesus Christ as Son of God, Lord
and Savior. The faith in Christ proclaimed in the New Testament
and expressed in the first four ecumenical councils is shared
by both of our churches. Our discussion uncovered no significant
differences with regard to the doctrine of the person and work
of Christ, although some did appear with regard to the appropriation
of Christ's saving work. We believe that this communion of faith
in Christ should be stressed and rejoiced in as a basis for our
discussions of other areas of church doctrine and life, where
serious differences may remain.
affirming that the Scriptures are our primary source for the revelation
of God in Jesus, we give different weight to creeds and confessional
statements. Roman Catholics affirm that Sacred Scripture and sacred
tradition "flow from the same divine wellspring" and that "the
church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from
the Holy Scriptures alone" ("Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation,"
9). The faith of the church expressed in its creeds through the
ages is normative for Catholics. Baptists, while affirming the
creeds of the first four ecumenical councils and producing confessional
statements in their history, do not hold them as normative for
the individual believer or for subsequent periods of church life.
For Baptists, Scriptures alone are normative.
call to conversion
inaugurated his public ministry by announcing the advent of God's
reign and by summoning people to be converted and to believe in
the Gospel (Mk 1:14-15). He immediately summoned disciples
to follow him (Mk 1:16-20). Saul, the persecutor of the
early Christians, through a revelation of the gospel of Jesus
becomes Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal 2:1-10).
The mystery of who Jesus is and what he did for us can ultimately
be grasped only in faith and in the practice of Christian discipleship
through hope and love (1 Th 1:3).
his resurrection Jesus announced to his disciples that "repentance
and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all
nations" (Lk 24:47). Before he departed from his disciples
Jesus commissioned them to make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them and teaching them to observe all that he commanded them (Mt
28:16-20). After Pentecost the disciples began to proclaim repentance
and forgiveness of sins to all nations (Acts 2:5-13). Under
the guidance of the same Spirit that was given to the disciples
at Pentecost, in its preaching and witness the Church strives
to fulfil the mandate of Jesus and through the ages renews this
proclamation of conversion and forgiveness.
is turning away from all that is opposed to God, contrary to Christ's
teaching, and turning to God, to Christ, the Son, through the
work of the Holy Spirit. It entails a turning from the self-centeredness
of sin to faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Conversion is a
passing from one way of life to another new one, marked with the
newness of Christ. It is a continuing process so that the whole
life of a Christian should be a passage from death to life, from
error to truth, from sin to grace. Our life in Christ demands
continual growth in God's grace. Conversion is personal but not
private. Individuals respond in faith to God's call, but faith
comes from hearing the proclamation of the word of God and is
to be expressed in the life together in Christ that is the church.
and discipleship are related to one another as birth to life.
Conversion is manifested in a life of discipleship. In the Gospels
Jesus summoned disciples to be with him and to share his ministry
of proclaiming the advent of God's reign and bringing the healing
power of this reign into human life. He also summoned them to
be like him in taking up their crosses and in living in loving
service to others. After Easter and Pentecost the early community
continued to announce and spread the good news, and to witness
to the saving power of God. Like Jesus, the disciples were persecuted,
but through the gift of the Spirit they remained faithful and
continued to proclaim the Gospel.
history God continues to summon people to follow Jesus, and by
the gift of the Spirit and the power of faith the risen Lord continues
his ministry. Discipleship consists in personal attachment to
Jesus and in commitment to proclamation of the Gospel and to those
actions which bring the healing and saving power of Jesus to men
and women today. The disciple is nurtured by Scriptures, worship,
prayer in all its forms, works of mercy towards others, proclamation,
instruction and the witness of daily life. The church, which can
be called a community of disciples, is gathered in the name and
presence of the risen Christ. This community is summoned to share
the gift it has received. The gift is thus a mandate for a tireless
effort to call all people to repentance and faith. A community
of disciples of Jesus is always a community in mission.
18. As Baptists
and Catholics we both strive to "be converted and believe in the
Good News" (Mk 1:14). Yet, conversion and discipleship
are expressed differently in our ecclesial communions. Baptists
stress the importance of an initial experience of personal conversion
wherein the believer accepts the gift of God's saving and assuring
grace. Baptism and entry into the church are testimony to this
gift which is expressed in a life of faithful discipleship. For
Catholics baptism is the sacrament by which a person is incorporated
into Christ and is reborn so as to share in the divine life. It
is always consequent upon faith; in the case of an infant, this
faith is considered to be supplied by the community. Catholics
speak of the need for a life of continual conversion expressed
in the sacrament of reconciliation (penance) which in the early
church was sometimes called a "second baptism." In both of our
communions changes in church practice challenge us to consider
more deeply our theology of conversion and baptism. In the recently
instituted "Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults," Roman
Catholics affirm that the baptism of adults is the paradigm for
a full understanding of baptism. In some areas of the world Baptists
receive baptism at a very early age.
witness in the Church
of the Spirit" (Phil 2:1, cf. 2 Cor 13:14) is a
helpful description of our common understanding of the church.
Koinonia suggests more than is implied by English terms
used to translate it, such as "fellowship" or "community." Based
on the root idea of "sharing in one reality held in common," it
was used in a variety of ways by early Christians. According to
1 Cor 1:9, Christians are "called into the fellowship
of the Son," which means the same as being "in Christ" or being
a member of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12ff.). As we
participate in Christ, we participate in the gospel (1 Cor
9:23; Phil 1:5) or in faith (Philem 6) or in the
Lord's Supper (1 Cor 10:16ff.). To share in the Supper
is to share in Christ's body and blood (v. 21). Fellowship with
Christ entails participation in his life (Rom 6:8; 2 Cor
7:3), sufferings (Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 7:3; Gal
2:19-20), resurrection (Col 2:12; 3:1; Eph 2:6),
and eternal reign (Rom 8:17; 2 Tim 2:12). For Paul
koinonia with the risen Christ is the same as koinonia
with the Spirit (2 Cor 13:14) and with other Christians.
This is more than a bond of friendship. All share together in
the spiritual blessings of the Spirit and are thus obligated to
help one another (Rom 12:13) in their afflictions (Phil
4:14) as well as in their blessings. In 1 John to be a
Christian means to have koinonia with God Father
and Son (1:3, 6) and with other believers (1:3, 7). The
accent is placed on active participation "walking" and
"doing" as an expression of this fellowship.
of the passages cited above led to the following conclusions:
(1) that in and through Christ God has laid down the foundation
of the church, (2) that koinonia both between God and human
beings and within the church is a divine gift, and (3) that the
Spirit effects the continuity between the church and Jesus. The
uniting of a diverse humanity Jews and Greeks, males and
females, slaves and masters (Gal 3:28) in one body
could not have occurred on human initiative. It depended, rather,
on God's action through Jesus Christ dead, buried, and
risen. We are now called into communion with God and with one
another in the Risen One. God actually binds us together in an
intimate fellowship through the Holy Spirit. God offers the Spirit
as a gift to the whole community of faith to guide it and nurture
it and bring it to maturity.
whether between God and humanity or among human beings, must be
regarded as a gift of God. Though made "in the image of God,"
both male and female (Gen 1:27), to dwell in community,
Adam, humanity, has ruptured the relationship with God and with
one another that would make such community possible. God's longsuffering
love alone sufficed to salvage a broken humanity, through Israel
and, above all, through God's Son, Jesus Christ, the new Adam.
In the Son God did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
The free gift of God in Christ surpassed by far the effects of
Adam's transgression (Rom 5:15-17).
Spirit continues in the church the redemptive work God began in
the Son. In baptism the Spirit unites the diverse members
Jew and Gentile, slaves and freeborn, male and female, and we
could add, black and white, rich and poor, etc. into a
single body (1 Cor 12:12-13; Gal 3:28). The Spirit
is the ground of every dimension of the church's life worship,
interior growth, witness to an unbelieving world, and proclamation
of the gospel (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37). The Spirit apportions
different "gifts" with which the members may build up the Body
of Christ and carry out the mission of the church (1 Cor
12:4-11, 27-30; Rom 12:4-8).
which is at the heart of the church, is the result of the manifold
activity of the Spirit. In the church there are varieties of gifts,
but the same Spirit, and varieties of service, but the same Lord,
and varieties of working, but the same God, and, though composed
of many members, the church is the one body of Christ (1 Cor
12:4, Rom 12:5). When Baptists speak of church they refer
primarily to the local congregation gathered by the Spirit in
obedience and service to God's word. Catholics by church refer
to the community of faith, hope and charity as a visible structure
established and sustained on earth by Christ ("Dogmatic Constitution
on the Church," 8). While both Baptists and Catholics admit the
presence of Christ in the church (Mt 18:20; 28:20), they
understand this in different ways. Catholics believe that the
Church is a "society furnished with hierarchical organs and the
Mystical Body of Christ (which) are not be considered two realities,...
Rather, they form one interlocked reality which is comprised of
a divine and a human element" (ibid.). Baptists affirm that the
church is divine as to its origin, mission and scope; human as
to its historical existence and structure.
witness in the world
gift of faith we have received is a gift to be shared with others.
Jesus was sent by God to proclaim the good news of God (Mk
1:14; cf. Lk 4:18; 7:22). He sent the Twelve (Mt 10:5ff.)
and the Seventy (Lk 10:1 ff.) to carry the same message.
After the resurrection he directed his followers to go into all
the world and make disciples (Mt 28:1620) and commissioned
them to be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The church has engaged in this task throughout its history.
Baptists and Roman Catholics respond to this summons through a
ministry of evangelism or evangelization. Baptists typically emphasize
free personal response of individuals to the gospel, often to
the neglect of corporate responsibility. In more recent years,
however, some Baptist groups have focused less on the individual
and more on the corporate and social implications of evangelism/evangelization.
Catholics apply the term "evangelization" to the "first proclamation"
of the gospel to non-believers ("Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization,"
21) and also in the wider sense of the renewal of humanity, witness,
inner adherence, entry into the community, acceptance of signs,
and apostolic initiative. These elements are complementary and
mutually enriching (ibid., 24). Christ is the center and end of
missionary effort. Catholic emphasis upon incarnation, however,
encourages a greater concern for "inculturation" than does Baptist
emphasis upon redemption of fallen humanity from sin. It also
opens the way for assigning sacraments a more prominent place
in the evangelization task.
ecumenical developments have led to increased appreciation by
Roman Catholics and Baptists for each other and for other Christian
bodies and may open the way to common witness. Documents of the
Second Vatican Council and after speak of many factors uniting
Catholics and Protestants: faith, baptism, sharing in the life
of grace, union in the Holy Spirit, the Christian life, and discipleship.
While Vatican II maintained that the church of Christ "constituted
and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic
Church" ("Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," 8), it also acknowledged
that "some, even very many, of the most significant elements or
endowments which together go to build up and give life to the
Church herself can exist outside the visible boundaries of the
Catholic Church" ("Decree on Ecumenism," 3).
and Roman Catholics differ among themselves about salvation within
non-Christian religions. The Second Vatican Council brought to
an end the negative attitude toward them that had prevailed in
the Church and made it possible to enter into dialogue with them
about some of the common problems of the present which need global
attention. The Council expressed its high regard for the manner
of life, precept, and doctrines of these religions which "often
reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men" ("Declaration
on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions,"
2). At the same time the Council made it clear that the Church
"proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ
who is 'the way, the truth and the life' (Jn 14:6), in
whom men find the fullness of religious life and in whom God reconciled
all things to himself (2 Cor 5:18-19)" (ibid.). Baptists
have issued no major statements on salvation through other religions,
but must construe the biblical pronouncement, "for there is no
other name under heaven given among humankind by which we must
be saved" (Acts 4:12), in a rather strict fashion. They
frequently cite also: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father, but by me" (Jn 14:6), and apply
it in the narrow sense. Some Baptists, nevertheless, have engaged
in dialogue or conversations with representatives of the other
major world religions. Similarly, they discern the need for cooperation
among world religions to solve urgent human problems.
to common witness
29. We respond
to the summons to be heralds of the good news by proclaiming the
name of Jesus to humankind in such a manner that people will be
led to believe in Jesus Christ and to live as true Christians.
As we strive to make our lives a witness of the faith that sustains
us, certain issues emerge which are of common concern.
30. An important
area of common concern is the language we use in speaking of our
common witness. "Common witness" means that Christians, even though
not yet in full communion with one another, bear witness together
to many vital aspects of Christian truth and Christian life. We
affirm that it embraces the whole of life: divine worship, responsible
service, proclamation of the Good News with a view to leading
men and women, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to salvation
and gathering them into the Body of Christ.
that "for freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal 5:1), we
seek ways that people may respond to the gospel in freedom and
love. We also confess that competition and bitterness among Christian
missionaries have often been a stumbling block for those to whom
we seek to proclaim the Gospel. Often Christian missionaries are
accused of "proselytism" which in both secular and religious circles
has taken on the pejorative connotation of the use of methods
which compromise rather than enhance the freedom of the believer
and of the Gospel.
32. A historical
overview shows that the understanding of "proselytism" has changed
considerably. In the Bible it was devoid of negative connotations.
A "proselyte" was someone who, by belief in Yahweh and acceptance
of the law, became a member of the Jewish community. Christianity
took over this meaning to describe a person who converted from
paganism. Mission work and proselytism were considered equivalent
concepts until recent times.
recently the term "proselytism" in its pejorative sense has come
to be applied by some to the attempts of various Christian confessions
to win members from each other. This raises the delicate
question regarding the difference between evangelism/evangelization
34. As Baptists
and Catholics we agree that evangelization is a primary task of
the church and that every Christian has the right and obligation
to share and spread the faith. We also agree that faith is the
free response by which people, empowered by the grace of God,
commit themselves to the Gospel of Christ. It is contrary to the
message of Christ, to the ways of God's grace, and to the personal
character of faith that any means be used which would reduce or
impede the freedom of a person to make a basic Christian commitment.
35. We believe
that there are certain marks which should characterize the witness
we bear in the world. We affirm:
37. On the
basis of this understanding of proselytism just given, we agree
that the freedom of the Gospel and the individual must be respected
in any process of evangelism/evangelization. We are aware, however,
that often the charge of "proselytism" in a negative sense can
be made when one communion comes in contact with the evangelization/evangelism
of the other. Every effort must be made to increase mutual knowledge
and understanding and to respect the integrity and rights of other
individuals and communities to live and proclaim the Gospel according
to their own traditions and convictions. In an increasingly secularized
world, division and religious strife between Christian bodies
can be such a scandal that non-believers may not be attracted
to the Gospel.
the time of Constantine until the modern period, the Christian
church has experienced a wide variety of relationships to secular
authority where, by custom, law and concordat, civil authority
and church have been intertwined in many areas of life. Unfortunately,
these interrelationships have sometimes led to intolerance and
consequent suffering. In some traditionally Roman Catholic countries,
Baptists were sometimes deprived of their full civil and religious
rights and freedom. On the other hand, in areas where Baptists
were a numerical majority or enjoyed greater economic or social
power, Roman Catholics, although supposedly enjoying all civil
rights, sometimes suffered discrimination, injustice and intolerance.
were among the first to advocate the separation of church and
state. Having taken shape in an age of religious strife and persecution,
Baptists have historically advocated freedom of conscience and
practice in religious matters, not simply for Baptists but for
Roman Catholics and Baptists have differed over the relation of
the church to civil authority and on the question of religious
liberty. With the "Declaration on Religious Liberty" of the Second
Vatican Council, Roman Catholicism affirmed strongly that "the
human person has the right to religious freedom" (2) and that
this freedom means that all men and women "are to be immune from
coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of
any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one
is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his or her own
beliefs" (ibid.). The Council states that this freedom is "based
on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed
Word of God and by reason itself" (2). Since religious liberty
is a right which flows from the dignity of the person, civil authorities
have an obligation to respect and protect this right.
Baptists and Catholics agree that religious freedom is rooted
in the New Testament. Jesus proclaimed God's reign and summoned
people to a deep personal conversion (Mk 1:14-15) which
demands that a person be able to respond freely to God's offer
of grace. The apostle Paul resisted all those who attempted to
coerce the churches into practices or beliefs which he felt contrary
to the freedom won by the death and resurrection of Christ.
42. In the
area of religious freedom Roman Catholics and Baptists can fruitfully
explore different forms of common witness. Both groups struggle
to exist in situations where religious freedom is not respected.
Both are concerned about those who suffer persecution because
of their faith.
43. In certain
traditionally Roman Catholic countries civil constitutions and
laws enacted prior to the Second Vatican Council have not been
changed to reflect the teaching of the Council. In some settings
with a dominant Baptist majority the traditional Baptist stress
on separation of church and state as a means to assure religious
freedom has been weakened. Both groups need to exercise greater
vigilance to ensure respect for religious liberty.
have a right and a duty to bring their religious insights and
values to the public debate about the structure and direction
of a society. This may also include the effort to embody their
values in civil law. As they do so, however, they should always
be sensitive to and considerate of the rights of individual conscience
and of minorities and the welfare of the society as a whole. They
should measure their efforts against Jesus' command to love one's
neighbor as oneself, his proclamation that both the just and the
unjust have the same loving Father, and his own concern for marginal
groups in his society.
III. AREAS NEEDING CONTINUED EXPLORATION
Authority and Method
conversations between Baptists and Roman Catholics have frequently
surfaced different views and uses of theological authority and
method. The theoretical reason for that is clear: Baptists rely
on Scriptures alone, as interpreted under the guidance of the
Holy Spirit, the Reformation principle. Roman Catholics receive
God's revelation from the Scriptures interpreted in the light
of the tradition under the leadership of the magisterium, in a
communal process guided by the Holy Spirit.
46. In fact,
however, the differences are not as sharp as this formulation
would suggest. At the Second Vatican Council the Roman Catholic
Church dealt carefully and in detail with the relationship between
scripture and tradition ("Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation,"
2). It endeavored to reach and express an understanding of the
relationship between Scripture, tradition and the teaching office
of the church (magisterium). Each of these has its own place in
the presentation of the truth of Jesus Christ. The place of one
is not identical with that of the other, yet in the Roman Catholic
view these three combine together to present divine revelation.
On the other hand, Baptists invoke the Baptist heritage as decisively
as Roman Catholics cite tradition, usually disclaiming that it
bears the same authority as scripture but holding on to it vigorously
and fact need to be brought together in such a way as to alleviate
some anxiety on both sides. Roman Catholics often ask how Baptists
regard crucial theological statements which the church has issued
in its walk through history, e.g., the great christological statements
of Nicea and Constantinople. In brief, do they subscribe to orthodoxy
of any kind? Baptists, looking at certain dogmas which they regard
as grounded in tradition rather than in scripture, e.g., the Immaculate
Conception and the Assumption of Mary, ask whether Roman Catholics
set any limits to what can be defined. Can the church simply approve
anything it wants as official doctrine? The key issue needing
discussion here is that of development of doctrine.
shape of Koinonia
issue which distinguishes our communions is the different ways
in which the koinonia of the Spirit is made concrete. Baptists
and Catholics obviously conceive of the Spirit working through
different structures. For Baptists, koinonia is expressed
principally in local congregations gathered voluntarily under
the lordship of Jesus Christ for worship, fellowship, instruction,
evangelism and mission. In accordance with their heritage they
recognize the Spirit's direction through the interdependency of
associations, conventions, alliances and other bodies designed
to proclaim the good news and to carry out the world mission of
Christ. However, they have sought to avoid development of structures
which would threaten the freedom of individuals and the autonomy
of local congregations. For Roman Catholics, the koinonia
which the Spirit effects in the local congregation is simultaneously
a koinonia with the other local congregations in the one
universal church. Correspondingly, they recognize the Spirit's
activity in the spiritual and institutional bonds which unite
congregations into dioceses presided over by bishops and which
unite dioceses into the whole church, presided over by the Bishop
of Rome. Vital to future ecumenical progress would be further
discussion of the relationship between the Spirit and structures.
between Faith, Baptism, and Christian witness
conversations revealed growing common concern among Baptists and
Roman Catholics about authenticity of faith, baptism, and Christian
witness. There are, however, obvious divergences. Baptists, viewing
faith primarily as the response of the individual to God's free
gift of grace, insist that the faith response precede baptism.
Baptist congregations, however, vary in the way they receive persons
baptized as infants in other congregations. Practices range from
rebaptism of all persons who have not received baptism at the
hands of a Baptist minister to acceptance of all persons baptized
by any mode, whether as infants or as adults. Roman Catholics
regard the sacraments, such as baptism, in a context of faith,
as an exercise of the power of the risen Christ, comparable to
that exercised by Jesus when he cured the sick and freed the possessed.
Emphasizing the corporate as well as the individual nature of
faith, they baptize infants and catechize them through a process
culminating in full participation in the church.
approaches present some difficulties. Baptists are not at one
on how children relate to the church prior to baptism. Some churches
now have "child dedication" rites, but most have not dealt with
the issue at all. Baptist "rebaptisms" (viewed by them as a first
baptism) can offend Christians of other communions because they
suggest the others are not really Christian and because they seem
to violate the scriptural call for "one baptism." Roman Catholics
and others who practice infant baptism, on the other hand, confront
the problem that there is little clear evidence in the Scriptures
for this practice. The baptizing of infants thus seems to be sustained
principally by tradition and a more corporate understanding of
heart of the problem to be addressed here seems to be the nature
of faith and the nature of the sacraments (called "ordinances"
by most Baptists) which raise a number of questions Baptists and
Catholics must deal with together. Is faith solely an individual's
response to God's gift? Can the faith of the community supply
for the personal faith of an infant? May one speak of a "community
of faith," that is, of the body of Christ as itself a subject
of a common faith in which individual believers participate? Are
the sacraments outward signs of a preceding inner commitment?
Are they the means through which Christ himself effects his healing
and saving work? What does it mean to say that baptism is "the
sacrament of faith"? The issues between us are unlikely to be
resolved without addressing these questions.
of key terms
52. We are
aware that religious tension between communities can arise from
different understanding and use of similar terms. A fundamental
concept in both our communions is that of "mission." In its most
extensive sense Baptists speak of the mission of the church to
glorify God by making him known through faith in Jesus Christ.
Roman Catholics also speak of "mission" in its broadest sense
as everything that the church does in service of the kingdom of
God. Baptists understand missions (plural, in the sense of the
outward movement of the church) as one of the means by which the
church accomplishes its mission in the world.
almost never use the term "evangelization" but prefer the term
"evangelism" to describe how believers, individually or collectively,
take the gospel of Christ to the world, "going everywhere preaching
the word" (Acts 8:4). "Evangelization" until recent years
was not frequently used within Roman Catholicism. The best working
definition can be found in the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul
VI, "On Evangelization in the Modern World" (1975): "... if it
had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it
would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to
convert, solely through the Divine Power of the Message she proclaims,
both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities
in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which
are theirs" (18). Evangelization is, therefore, a broad concept
comprising three major activities: (a) evangelism, understood
as the proclamation of the gospel to the unchurched within one's
own society or culture; (b) missionary activity, which
involves cross-cultural proclamation of the Gospel; and (c) pastoral
activity nourishing and deepening the Gospel among those
already committed to it.
with a growing convergence in terminology, evangelism/evangelization
assumes different forms within our two communions. The Baptist
stress on conversion as an act of personal faith and acceptance
of Jesus as Lord and Savior gives precedence to leading people
to an explicit confession of faith through proclamation of the
Gospel. Roman Catholics stress that by baptism a person is made
new in Christ in the church and stress the establishment of a
Christian community through proclamation of the word and through
a ministry of presence and service.
these different emphases, however, there are strong similarities.
Both communions stress the need for unbelievers and the unchurched
to hear and live the message of salvation expressed in the Scriptures,
and both strive to fulfil Jesus' command to love the neighbor
by engaging in works of mercy and charity both at home and in
place of Mary in faith and practice
to Mary has traditionally been an area of great difference between
Roman Catholics and Baptists. It also emerged in our discussions
as a challenge to common witness. Baptists in general have two
major problems with Marian devotion: (1) It seems to compromise
the sole mediatorship of Jesus as Lord and Savior, and (2) Marian
doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption
which are proclaimed by Catholics as infallible and hence to be
believed in faith seem to have little explicit grounding in the
Bible. According to Roman Catholics, devotion to Mary does not
compromise the unique role of Christ, is rooted in her intimate
relationship to Jesus, reflects her continuing role in salvation
history and has a solid basis in the New Testament.
of the long history of misunderstanding and the theological difficulties
and subtleties inherent in Marian doctrines, we do not expect
consensus in the foreseeable future. In an area such as devotion
to Mary, which evokes both strong emotions and strong convictions
from both communions, the quest for mutual understanding and respect
is put to the test. Roman Catholics must attempt to understand
and sympathize with the serious problems Baptists have with Marian
devotion and doctrine. Baptists must try to understand not only
the biblical and the theological grounds of Marian doctrine and
devotion, but its significance in popular piety and religious
ways to offer a common witness to the Gospel
between Baptists and Roman Catholics will not lead in the near
future to full communion between our two bodies. This fact, however,
should not prevent the framing of concrete ways to witness together
at the present time. It will be helpful to think of several different
levels international, national, regional, and local
in which Catholics and Baptists could speak or act in concert.
Such cooperation is already taking place in a variety of ways:
translation of the Scriptures into indigenous languages, theological
education, common concern and shared help in confronting famine
and other natural disasters, health care for the underprivileged,
advocacy of human rights and religious liberty, working for peace
and justice, and strengthening of the family. Baptists and Catholics
could enhance their common witness by speaking and acting together
more in these and other areas. A whole row of issues vital to
the survival of humankind lies before us.
of Jesus, "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, are
in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the
world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn 17:21), has
given a sense of urgency to our conversations. We testify that
in all sessions during the past five years there has been a spirit
of mutual respect and growing understanding. We have sought the
guidance of the Lord of the church and give honor and glory to
him for the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We pray
that God, who has begun this good work in us, may bring it to
completion (cf. Phil 1:6).
Service 72 (1990/I) 5-14]