Baptist Catholicity: Thick Ecumenism

Mark 7: Employing a Thick Ecumenism

What is your opinion of cross-denominational efforts?

I’ll be honest, in the past, I’ve viewed most cross-denominational projects to simply be puppet efforts of the religious right. Think about it, what is the last multi-denominational project you remember? If you’re like me, it’s probably some pro life or “pro-values” conference that rallies around a thinly veiled goal to create more republican voters. Beyond anti abortion efforts, you may also see cross denominational efforts for legal discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom”, pro-Israel efforts, or similar events. All of these projects may leave a bad taste in your mouth. These kind of ecumenical efforts generally abandon all differences in theology (even huge ones) in pursuit of one common, political goal. Such projects create a world where we don’t realize quite how differently Lutherans understand communion in comparison to Baptists, but we sure know that they stand with Kim Davis’ pursuit of holy, “third times a charm” marriage. If this is all that is to be gained from ecumenical efforts, then I’m in favor of keeping to ourselves.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for Bapto-Catholic thought is their general pursuit of a thick ecumenism. Reaching beyond political rallies and highly staged events, this pursuit of ecumenism seeks to wholly and fully understand different traditions. This means having frank, honest conversations with leaders from other groups and seeking to listen and understand their views. Rather than laughing at Presbyterians for baptizing their children, we could get together and hear their biblical arguments. The goal of thick ecumenism is not to join together denominations that broke as a result of real convictions, but rather to seek understanding in our differences, and unity in our shared convictions. As a result of this thick ecumenism, Bapto-Catholic churches generally enjoy members from several denominational backgrounds, and worship services that reflect, in part traditions from other sources. It is through these conversations that we can truly understand our siblings in Christ, and walk forward, toward the Kingdom together.

And with that, this look at Baptist Catholicity is done, for the moment. To go much more in depth with these concepts of Tradition guiding the Baptist faith, please read the textbook that I’m reading: Towards Baptist Catholicity by Steven Harmon.

So where do I stand? I’m generally in favor of most of the arguments for Baptist Catholicity. I think we have much to learn from the past, and it may well be our best guard against form Christianity into our image instead of God’s. It obviously has its weaknesses, but in all, I find it a helpful pursuit.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below! (Especially if your experience with thin ecumenism has been more positive than mine.)