The first in a new series of Baptist-Catholic theological conversations was to be held at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 10-12.
The Baptist team is being led by Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Denton Lotz and Paul Fiddes, principal of Regents Park College of Oxford University, who also chairs the BWA Commission on Doctrine and Inter-Church Cooperation.
The conversations are a continuation of previous talks with the Vatican Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1990 and a follow-up visit by the BWA to the Vatican in March of this year.
Topics to be discussed include the authority of “Christ in Scripture and Tradition,” “Baptism and the Lord's Supper” and “Hearing the Word of God in the Contemporary Context.”
The BWA General Council in Mexico City this past July approved the holding of the theological conversations with the Vatican.
In a statement on the talks, Lotz said, “I am pleased that the BWA General Council unanimously approved the conversations. We proposed these conversations only after numerous consultations with Latin American Baptist leaders in Curitiba, Brazil, in April and in Mexico City in July. We are pleased that all Baptist leaders with whom we spoke understand the importance and necessity of discussing with our Catholic friends issues where we have unity, and, on the other hand, issues where we have serious concerns and misunderstandings.
“It is indeed important that we talk with one another, that we listen to one another and that we pray for progress in mutual understanding. In these days of renascent world religions and terrorism and religious persecution, it is important for men and women of Christian faith to talk with one another. Evangelism and mission is at the heart of who we are as Baptists.
“Bi-lateral conversations are not a hindrance, but an encouragement to faithful Christian witness and mission. The BWA has had conversations in the past with the Anglicans, Lutherans, Mennonites, Reformed and Orthodox churches. We hope in the future to have conversations with the Methodists and Pentecostals.
“We want to assure our Baptist brothers and sisters worldwide that our delegation is composed of committed Baptist men and women who seek biblical answers to serious questions. Theological conversations are not for the purpose of compromise, but for clarification and mutual edification.
“I am pleased that Fausto Vasconcelos, formerly president of Brazilian Baptists and the new BWA director of study and research, will be the BWA liaison for these conversations.”
The conversations may lead to “further action together on ethical issues, including justice, peace and the sanctity of life, in accord with God's purpose and to the praise of God's glory,” an earlier report on the conversations noted.
In addition to Lotz, Fiddes and Vasconcelos, representing the BWA in these conversations are Fred Deegbe, Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Accra, Ghana; Steven Harmon, Campbell Divinity School, Buies Creek, N.C.; Neville Callam, pastor of Tarrant/Balmagie Circuit of Baptist Churches, Kingston, Jamaica; Lilian Lim, president, Asian Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary, Singapore; Tadeusz J. Zielinski, academic dean, Warsaw Baptist Theological Seminary, Poland.
Others are Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Tomás Mackey, professor of systematic theology, Baptist Seminary, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Nora Lozano, associate professor of theological studies, Baptist University of the Americas, San Antonio, Texas; Wallace Charles Smith, president, Palmer Seminary, Philadelphia; and Tony Peck, general secretary for the European Baptist Federation, Prague, Czech Republic.
BWA observers are Alan Stanford, general secretary, North American Baptist Fellowship; Johnny Hill, assistant professor of theology, Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, Louisville, Ky.; Curtis Freeman, research professor of theology, Duke Divinity School, Durham, N.C; and Forrest Harris, president, American Baptist College, Nashville, Tenn.
The Vatican Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity will be represented by Bishop Arthur Serratelli of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson, N.J., and eight other Catholic representatives.
This series of meetings will be held in various locations around the world, beginning in December and concluding in 2010.