Catholics, Southern Baptists Discuss Differences, Commitments

September 18, 1998 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (September 18, 1998)--Sixteen individuals from the Southern Baptist Convention and the Catholic Church recently met in Kentucky to discuss their differences and common commitments in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

According to a joint communique which followed, the meeting focused on two topics: work on a report to the sponsoring bodies on the understanding of Scripture and an initial discussion of the topic of God's salvation in Jesus Christ.

This latest meeting of the Southern Baptist-Roman Catholic "Conversation" was held at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, September 10-12.

The Conversation has been meeting since 1994 when a resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention authorized the discussions. The first threeyears were focused on the theme of how each of the traditions understands the authority of the Scripture. The report, which was not finished at this meeting, includes two parts. The first will outline common understandings on the authority and interpretation of Scripture, clarifications that have helped Baptists and Catholics understand one another's positions as well as the differences that continue to divide.In this section of the report, such issues as the authority, inspiration, authorship, and inerrancy of Scripture as well as methods of interpretation and the use of Scripture by the Church may be treated.

The second part of the report will clarify the use of terms, some reflecting common usage while others are used differently in the two traditions. Such terms as historicity, fundamentalism, inerrancy, inspiration, literal sense, literalism, historical-critical and grammatical-ciritcal methods, revelation and the Word of God will be included. Both parts of the report will be submitted to the sponsoring bodies, the Interfaith Witness Department of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A major portion of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of the understanding of salvation in the teaching of Baptists and Catholics. The discussion centered on the question of the salvation of those who have not heard the Gospel and explicitly come to a confession of Jesus Christ. On this dimension of the question of salvation, Baptists and Catholics have significant differences and are challenged to understand each other's position. These differences also shape the understanding of mission and evangelism.

There was also extensive discussion of the understanding of conversion, the relationship of the experience of conversion to salvation and the understanding of human sinfulness.

Papers were presented by Rev. Dr. Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington and Father Stephen Duffy, Loyola University, New Orleans. The papers attempted to summarize the common faith of Baptistsand Catholics on this issue, areas of real or apparent differences and issues on which clarification was necessary to see how the biblical basis for these teachings was developed in the two communities. This discussion will be continued, touching on such areas as predestination, assurance, and justification.

The group was hosted by the President of Southern Baptist Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler. The conversations took place under the leadership of Dr.Philip Roberts, Director, Interfaith Witness, Southern Baptist Convention, and Bishop J. Kendrick Williams of the Diocese of Lexington.

Additional information is available from Brother Jeffrey Gros, FSC, 202-541-3020, and Dr. Roberts, 770-410-6338.