December 14, 2019

Well Said: B16 On Issues Between Roman Catholics and Baptists

benedict16.jpgPope Benedict XVI issued a statement this week noting the continuing conversation between Roman Catholics and the Baptist World Alliance. It’s a good statement, and as a Baptist and a post-evangelical (if you want to know what I mean by that, ask Phil Johnson) I thought it laid down some very good lines worth noting in my own journey of clarification and awareness.

Dear Friends,

I offer a cordial welcome to you, the members of the joint international commission sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I am pleased that you have chosen as the site of your meeting this city of Rome, where the Apostles Peter and Paul proclaimed the Gospel and crowned their witness to the Risen Lord by the shedding of their blood. It is my hope that your conversations will bear abundant fruit for the progress of dialogue and the increase of understanding and cooperation between Catholics and Baptists.

The theme which you have chosen for this phase of contacts – The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia – offers a promising context for the examination of such historically controverted issues as the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, the understanding of Baptism and the sacraments, the place of Mary in the communion of the Church, and the nature of oversight and primacy in the Church’s ministerial structure. If our hope for reconciliation and greater fellowship between Baptists and Catholics is to be realized, issues such as these need to be faced together, in a spirit of openness, mutual respect and fidelity to the liberating truth and saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As believers in Christ, we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim 2:5), our Saviour, our Redeemer. He is the cornerstone (Eph 2:21; 1 Pet 2:4-8); and the head of the body, which is the Church (Col 1:18). In this Advent season, we look to his coming with prayerful expectation. Today, as ever, the world needs our common witness to Christ and to the hope brought by the Gospel. Obedience to the Lord’s will should constantly spur us, then, to strive for that unity so movingly expressed in his priestly prayer: “that they may all be one… so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). For the lack of unity between Christians “openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and harms the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1).

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.

I note the following:

1. As Baptists we are fellow believers, (but we are not called the church.)

2. Unity between Christians should be a passion for all of us, to both fulfill God’s will and to present a witness to the world.

3. The Roman Catholic hope is for both reconciliation and greater fellowship.

4. Openness, mutual respect and fidelity to our convictions about the Gospel are essential for this relationship.

5. As believers, we all confess and believe that Jesus Christ is the one mediator, savior, redeemer and head of the church.

6. Together, we all prayerfully wait for the return of Jesus Christ.

7. There is division over the relationship of scripture and tradition.

8. There is division over the sacraments.

9. There is division over the place of Mary in the communion of saints.

10. There is division over the issues of church structure and authority.

11. The continuing sharing of our faith with one another is valuable and important.

12. Our mutual need is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Certainly, this is a outstanding outline of relationships and conversations between our two traditions. It’s my prayer, especially for my relationships with my Roman Catholic friends, that we will mutually embrace the spirit and substance of this statement, listening to one another and praying together for the “gravity of grace” to draw us all toward Christ.

Comments

  1. marymargaret says

    Truly a beautiful and honest statement from Pope Benedict XVI. To your prayer, Michael, I say Amen! God grant that it be so.

    I’m curious to hear if you have read any of PBXVI’s books or encyclicals. I would be interested to hear your take on any of them that you would care to share.

    May you and your family have a blessed Advent season.

  2. My professor has been in Rome this week as part of the BWA commission. I look forward to hearing his report on this year’s set of conversations!

  3. 2. Unity between Christians should be a passion for all of us, to both fulfill God’s will and to present a witness to the world.

    For the lack of unity between Christians “openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and harms the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1)

    As an individual you can take a small step towards Christian Unity at http://www.onedate.org.

    It is an on line petition to unite the date of Easter that Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox would celebrate this Feast of Feasts all on One Date.

  4. Dolan McKnight says

    It is ironic that the Pope is willing to maintain dialogue with the Baptist World Alliance, but the Southern Baptist Convention is not.

  5. Michael. As an Aussie Baptist with a Catholic heritage, which I continue to respect, I am keenly interested in this process of ongoing dialogue. This is a good summary of the issues.

  6. I just wanted to point out that the organization behind the “One Date” petition is “True Life in God” which promotes the writings of Vassula Ryden, a Greek-Orthodox seer that claims to receive messages from Jesus through the unvoluntary movement of her hand (experts have identified this as automatic writing). The Orthodox and Catholic Churches have warned about Mrs Ryden’s writings and activities, and do not recognize her as an authentic seer. The One Date petition, even if it promotes a positive action towards more unity between the Orthodox and the Catholic, has as its main purpose to find a way into Christian communities.

    For more information on Mrs Ryden and True Life in God (from a critical point of view), you might want to check my website: http://www.infovassula.ch

    Maria Laura Pio