By Robert Dilday
They’ve engaged in dialog with Pentecostals, Catholics and the Orthodox. Now the Baptist World Alliance is launching a four-year conversation with Methodists as part of its assigned task of enhancing understanding among Christian communities.
This Thursday, BWA representatives will convene the first session of dialog with the World Methodist Council at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala. The session concludes Feb. 5, but additional talks are planned this year through 2018.
The initiative is aimed at “achieving a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, one another; mutual exchange of gifts for the enrichment and renewal of Baptist and Methodist churches; increased participation in a common mission and witness in the world; and deeper fellowship and cooperation by identifying and overcoming barriers,” according to a BWA press release.
The session in Birmingham, which will include an overview of Baptist and Methodist history and theological heritage, will be hosted by Timothy George, dean and professor of divinity at Beeson, and chair of the BWA’s Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity.
Other BWA representatives include Curtis Freeman, research professor of theology and Baptist studies at Duke Divinity School; Deji Isaac Ayegboyin, professor and head of the department of religious studies at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria; Stephen Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland; and Valérie Duval-Poujol, professor of biblical exegesis at the Catholic Institute in Paris and a guest teacher in Protestant theological institutions in France.
BWA General Secretary Neville Callam and Fausto Vasconcelos, BWA director of the division of mission, evangelism and theological reflection, also will attend the Birmingham meeting.
“Participation in bilateral dialogues is an expression of BWA’s commitment to continue the mission of God whose Christ prayed for the unity of the church so that the world might believe,” said Callam. He added that “in asking how we might manifest this oneness, we are drawn to the words of the apostle Paul that ‘the only thing that counts is faith working through love.’”