II. COMMON STATEMENT
4. This 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.
A) Our 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 3:4).
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).
9. Jesus 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
10. The 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
11. Discussion 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.
12. While 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.
B) The call to conversion
13. Jesus 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).
14. After 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.
15. Conversion 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.
16. Conversion 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
17. Throughout 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
C) Our witness in the Church
19. "Koinonia 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.
20. Discussion 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.
21. Koinonia, 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).
22. The 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).
23. Koinonia, 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
D) Our witness in the world
24. The 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.
25. Both 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
26. Roman 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.
27. Recent 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,"
28. Baptists 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
E) Challenges 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.
31. Realizing 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.
33. More 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 and proselytism.
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.
38. From 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.
39. Baptists 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 all persons.
40. Historically 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
41. Both 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
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.
44. Christians 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.