For some, the time period “ecumenical dialogue” evokes pictures of theologians assembly in reflective areas to focus on weighty ecclesiastical, liturgical and theological topics.
But these conversations even have an “immensely practical” worth, stated Curtis Freeman, professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. Freeman just lately participated in a spherical of conferences in Salisbury, England, aimed toward fostering understanding which may lead to cooperative ministry between Baptists and Methodists.
And that’s no small feat for 2 teams that share a historical past of bewilderment, suspicion and, at one time, open animosity.
“Part of the goal in this was spending more time recognizing we can learn to trust one another,” Freeman stated of the one-week discussions held yearly since 2014.
The talks have been held below the auspices of the Baptist World Alliance and the World Methodist Council. The Baptist and Methodist delegations will current stories to the 2 world our bodies in July. They are also crafting a examine information to assist small teams and congregations work towards inter-denominational understanding and cooperation.
The potential payoff is much less theological than it’s missional — although theological variations nonetheless should be overcome, Freeman stated.
“My question is, can Baptists and Methodists view one another as partners in God’s mission in the world? Or will we be competitors in a diminishing market?”
But Freeman and different delegates aren’t naïve concerning the theological impediment posed by “the baptism question.”
That query is how can the Baptists with their believers baptism work with Methodists who apply infant baptism?
The reply isn’t in convincing both Baptists or Methodists to surrender their very own practices or to undertake the others,’ Freeman stated. Instead, delegates sought widespread floor in how every method religious formation and sharing the gospel.
Baptists may come to see infant baptism is merely the start of “a whole process of Christian initiation” which has parallels to the worth Baptists place on life-long discipleship, he stated.
It’s additionally vital to give attention to the missions and ministry of Methodists across the nation and the world.
Approached in these methods, it’s potential Baptist-Methodist alliances could be fostered in communities in want of a united Christian ministry and witness, Freeman stated.
“Can Methodists fulfill the Great Commission? I want to push to say we really need to face that,” Freeman stated. “The church in North America is facing some difficult days ahead.”
A failure to accomplice with different Christians “is going to be a very isolating life,” he added.
The goal of the ecumenical course of was not to merge Baptists and Methodists into one massive establishment, Freeman stated. Instead, it’s to allow the 2 traditions to deliver their totally different items to bear in a standard approach that advantages society, he stated.
“God’s commission in the world depends on us,” Freeman stated.