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Koinonia as Ecumenical Opening for Baptists.

In 2013, the World Council of Churches (WCC) published The Church: Towards a Common Vision, a convergence text resulting from many years of study and reflection. In the document's foreword, WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit noted that it arrived as a gift to the church at a time when the ecumenical movement has suffered from a loss of interest and energy. (1) This is not difficult to recognize. Contemporary challenges vie for churches' attention and resources while the potential for internal division within some global Christian communions grows. The Church aims to foster renewal of an ecumenical ecclesial vision and to articulate some level of theological agreement concerning the nature of the church. Whether and to what degree these goals are achieved will be ascertained through the response processes for the document (both formal and informal) that will occur over time. (2)

The present article sees within The Church: Towards a Common Vision something of a maturation of a theme that holds promise for some of the most hesitant participants in the ecumenical conversation: Baptists. While there have always been Baptists who have shared a concern for the unity of the church, Baptist denominational bodies have largely been reticent to formally participate in such work. However, recent developments in ecumenical work have offered an opening for more Baptists to join the pursuit of visible unity. Central to this is the thematic emphasis on koinonia. In what follows, I will argue that in contrast to previous ecumenical convergences that had the potential to make Baptists suspicious, the embrace of koinonia may alleviate certain concerns among Baptists. At the same time, this emphasis will not abandon significant aspects of the ecumenical movement, such as the goal of the visible unity of the church. Instead, these are reframed within the vision of koinonia, but retain a robust challenge to the church (and especially Baptists). This will be seen in the report of a recent Baptist bilateral dialogue, where koinonia facilitated an insightful ecclesiological convergence. In this light, Baptists will find the necessary welcome to be part of the whole church.

Baptists in an Ecumenical Wilderness

Baptists have a checkered history with ecumenical endeavours and the worldwide ecumenical movement. At the first Baptist World Congress in 1905, the gathering collectively recited the Apostles' Creed. Alexander Maclaren, the president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), called for this action "not as a piece of coercion or discipline, but as a simple acknowledgement of where we stand and what we believe." (3) Thus, in part, Baptists, an admittedly non-creedal people, at this particular moment in time were signalling that they were not parting ways with the rest of the global church but were in fact coming alongside them.

But in what way or for what purpose? As Neville Callam describes, while Baptists (largely through the work of the BWA) have sought ways to cooperate with Christians from other communions in mission and ministry, they have had less appetite for efforts that might produce distinct visible unity. (4) Time and again, "the desire for collaboration in Christian witness was expressed and the rejection of organic or structural incorporation with other churches was reaffirmed." (5) There was concern that movement toward visible unity with other Christian groups might forfeit Baptist distinctiveness. As a result, many Baptists who participate in aspects of church unity have been reticent to fully embrace the ecumenical future. For instance, there are 238 Baptist member bodies affiliated with the BWA, accounting for approximately 48 million Baptist Christians. While this does not include all the Baptists in the world, Baptist membership in broader ecumenical organizations is much smaller, with only 26 Baptist conventions and unions that are members of the WCC (including six that have been members for at least 60 years), accounting for approximately 24 million Baptist Christians. Further, one of the largest Baptist denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention, has cut itself off from virtually all formal ecumenical work by never joining the WCC and leaving the BWA in 2004.

There are many reasons for this absence of Baptist denominations in the work of global ecumenical organizations, including small relative size and financial support, lack of interest, and negative associations. Despite this lack of institutional affiliation, some members of non-WCC Baptist bodies have supported ecumenical work by participating at the individual level through teaching and scholarship. Some have even served on WCC commissions. For its part, the BWA has engaged in bilateral dialogues with the following world Christian communions: the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (1973-1977), the Lutheran World Federation (1986-1989), the Mennonite World Conference (1989-1992), the Anglican Communion (2000-2005), the World Methodist Council (2014-2018), and the Roman Catholic Church (1984-1988, 2006-2010, 2017-2021). While this stands as a distinct interest in ecumenical work, the intermittent nature of talks with a particular communion as well as the number of dialogues relative to those of other Christian communions might bespeak an arms-length relationship between Baptists and efforts for church unity.

Baptists and Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry

Baptists' cautious approach to ecumenism is amplified when moving from bilateral dialogues to multilateral endeavours. Here some Baptists are concerned that ecumenism means a diluting of various traditions' distinctive characteristics. As a result, Baptists are particularly on guard for obstacles. For example, in 1982, the Commission on Faith and Order finished its landmark convergence statement, Baptist, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM). (6) This document prompted responses from Christian denominational bodies around the world, including from Baptists. The preface stated, "If the divided churches are to achieve the visible unity they seek, one of the essential prerequisites is that they should be in basic agreement on baptism, eucharist and ministry." (7) For baptism, the text begins by noting its status as a shared practice from the apostolic churches to churches today. (8) However, the observed diversity of baptismal rites was seen as a detriment to the visible unity sought by the commission. Consequently, one of the foci of the text was on the pursuit of "our common baptism," which stands as "a basic bond of unity" and "a call to the churches to overcome their divisions and visibly manifest their fellowship." (9) To proceed toward that end, BEM strongly stated that "baptism upon personal profession of faith is the most clearly attested pattern in the New Testament documents," while also declaring that "baptism is an unrepeatable act. Any practice which might be interpreted as 'rebaptism' must be avoided." (10)

Because of their embrace of believer's baptism (as opposed to infant baptism), Baptists have great difficulties recognizing a common baptism. (11) These convictions about baptism are bound up with the genesis of Baptists' existence altogether. As one Baptist commentator noted, this is "the most objectionable statement in the whole section [on baptism] for Baptists (perhaps in the whole document)." In short, the absoluteness of its language made this sentence "especially offensive to and unacceptable to the majority of Baptists and Baptist tradition." In its response to the text, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland (a Baptist union that has long been part of the modern ecumenical movement) noted that the barring of anything that might be interpreted as "re-baptism" was too restrictive and unable to account for nuanced discernment necessary in such situations. Similarly, the American Baptist Churches in the USA (ABC-USA) noted that they were "unwilling to commit themselves to deny the ordinance of baptism to those who may in all sincerity seek it in accordance with the biblical practice of combining personal confession of faith with the experience of baptism." (14) A lack of clarity concerning whether baptism referred to the rite performed at a particular point in time or the longer process of initiation was noted as bearing part of the responsibility for these problems. (15) Responding on behalf of the BWA, William Estep noted that BEM's discussion of baptism effecting (and not simply signifying) both participation in Christ's death and resurrection as well as the reception of the Spirit could "lead us straight into the ex opere operate views of the sacraments which Baptists have never accepted. (16)

Similar concerns were expressed about the eucharist and ministry sections of the text. The ABC-USA pointed out that many Baptists would resist BEM's statement that communion is salvific or transformative in itself (17). Estep further noted that a significant section of the text's ministry section was "based on a series of assumptions foreign to Baptist faith and order." (18) He concluded by stating, "For Baptists, unity can best be achieved not in uniform liturgy or ecclesiology but in sharing a common faithful witness to Jesus Christ in word and deed." (19) Overall, while several Baptist responses expressed appreciation for the ways in which BEM was insightful for articulating their own theological convictions and challenging with regard to avoiding the pitfalls of baptism, eucharist, and ministry, nonetheless many were concerned about the shape of the goal of the document. In other words, visible unity seemed to mean structural union. The Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland stated that the preface's declaration "conceals as many questions as it answers... This in turn reflects a widespread unease that the model of visible unity assumed and the nature of consensus sought make inadequate allowance for a diversity which is arguably compatible with living in communion one with another." (20) The ABC-USA suggested refocusing on "the character of legitimate diversity," and the Baptist Union of Scotland responded to BEM by placing spiritual unity theologically prior to any efforts for structural union. (21) In the end, despite the progress it represented, BEM stood for many Baptists as a reminder of their complicated outsider status to the ecumenical conversation.

Developments since BEM

Since the release of BEM, new themes for ecumenical work have come to the forefront. One of those is koinonia. This Greek word is variously translated in the New Testament as "sharing," "communion," or "fellowship," and has gradually become the central focus in ecumenical ecclesiological reflections. It and its cognates are used in connection with the contours of the early church (Acts 2:42), to describe the link between the church and the eucharist (1 Cor. 10:16), to discuss suffering within the Christian life (Phil. 3:10), and even as a key term to describe salvation (2 Pet. 1:4). (22) In the report of the responses by various churches to BEM, the Commission on Faith and Order identified koinonia (which did not appear in BEM) as a key component of "work towards a convergent vision on ecclesiology." (23) Four preliminary aspects of the church as koinonia were put forth (the church as gift of the word of God [creatura verbi], the church as mystery or sacrament of God's love for the world, the church as pilgrim people of God, and the church as servant and prophetic sign of God's coming kingdom), with the hope that future study could develop "an ecumenically oriented ecclesiology of koinonia." (24)

Building on these recommendations, several WCC events centred on the theme of koinonia. A focus on koinonia within a turn to ecclesiology occurred in "The Unity of the Church: Gift and Calling," a statement adopted by the 7th Assembly of the WCC in Canberra, Australia, in 1991. (25) This was further developed in 1993 at the fifth world conference on Faith and Order in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where the focal theme was "Towards Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness." While the official message of the world conference continued to emphasize common understanding and mutual recognition of baptism as a key task, it held as central that "God is a koinonia of love, the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (26) This created space for that fellowship to struggle forward. As the message states,
Differences over the goals and methods of ecumenical work and theology
have led to intense debates. In these debates, conflicting perspectives
often each express significant elements of truth. We are confident we
are being led through such tensions into a deeper and broader koinonia
in the Spirit. A test of our koinonia is how we live with those with
whom we disagree." (27)

In 2006, the 9th Assembly of the WCC met in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and issued a statement entitled "Called to Be the One Church." While it built on previous declarations by the WCC, its thrust was to invite the churches to continue to work toward oneness imaged by "the unity of the Triune God in the communion of the divine persons." (28) Here, communion (koinonia) became the centre of gravity. This oneness is not simply located within the translocal. Instead, it is "expressed in each community of baptized believers in which the apostolic faith is confessed and lived, the gospel is proclaimed, and the sacraments are celebrated. Each church is the Church catholic and not simply a part of it. Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it." (29) With this invitation was an acknowledegment that difference is not necessarily a sign of fracture. Instead, "interrelated diversity is essential to [the church's] wholeness." (30) Discerning which diversities are healthy and which are dangerous, then, becomes a significant task of moving toward koinonia. (31)

The publication of The Church: Towards a Common Vision was preceded by two working documents--one in 1998 and the other in 2005--with the same subtitle: "A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement." (32) Each built on the ecclesiological reflection that had taken place since Santiago de Compostela. When the convergence text appeared in 2013, the theme of koinonia found its place as "central in the quest for a common under-standing of the life and unity of the Church." (33) As koinonia, the church understands its mission as "to witness in its own life to that communion which God intends tor all humanity and tor all creation in the kingdom." (34) Appearing throughout the document, this koinonia is displayed in three ways: "unity in faith, unity in sacramental life, and unity in service," (35) each of which offers fruitful possibilities for ecumenically minded Baptists.

Baptists, Koinonia, and Ecumenism

The emphasis on the church as koinonia or communion has offered new possibilities for ecumenical engagement. The "Historical Note" appended to The Church: Towards a Common Vision attributes this new ecumenical momentum to a "growing prominence of communion ecclesiology in the bilateral dialogues." (36) Emerging primarily from Catholic theology in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, communion ecclesiology surpassed several ecclesiological motifs and images that came out of the Council, including the mystical body of Christ and the people of God. Its place was solidified when the Second Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops convened in 1985 to discuss the legacy of the Council 20 years after its close. The synod declared communion ecclesiology to be "the central and fundamental idea of the Council's documents." (37) In particular, this statement was aimed to respond to what the synod saw as a "partial and selective reading of the Council." (38) Two faulty visions of the church are named: "a unilateral presentation of the Church as a purely institutional structure devoid of her Mystery" and a "sociological conception which is also unilateral." (39) The final report drew several other significant insights from this understanding of the church. As Dennis Doyle notes, "The synod found in communion ecclesiology a basis for understanding diversity, collegiality, ecumenism, aggiomamento, and the preferential option tor the poor." (40)

Communion ecclesiology centres on the idea that within the church "there is both a vertical and a horizontal dimension, a vertical communion in grace with the Father, Son, and Spirit modeled after the communion of the three persons of the Trinity, and a horizontal communion with companion Christians within the ecclesial community." (41) Indeed, there is an interplay between the unity and the pluriformity of the church, with the notion of communion serving as the nexus of both. (42) Thus, the whole is present in the particular, even as the communion of churches is prior to every individual church. (43) As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stated in 1992, this relationship is not one where the whole is the sum of the parts or where the universal serves as a confederation of the particular. There is a mystery here that "cannot be compared to that which exists between the whole and the parts in a purely human group or society." (44) In the end, the koinonia found in this discussion is "a gift from God" and "a fruit of God's initiative carried out in the paschal mystery." (45)

There are several implications when the church is imaged in this manner. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the universality of the church was safeguarded by reinforcing the papacy. Uniformity was increasingly found in doctrine and in liturgy, and diversity was seen as a sign of trouble. The Council, with its attention to the bishops' connection to the universal church, reoriented the relation between the universal and the particular. As Susan Wood comments, this meant that "No longer is the local church seen to gravitate around the universal Church, but the Church of God is found present in each celebration of the local church." (46) Visible structures and ecclesiastical authority are not jettisoned, though. As the CDF explained, at the heart of the union between the particular churches and the universal church is the eucharist and the episcopacy. (47) Thus, while questions about organization or visible structures are not abolished, they are not the sum total of the church, either. In short, within the church (both local and universal) a mystery is present: "The ecclesiology of communion cannot be reduced to purely organizational questions or to problems which simply relate to powers." (48)

Moreover, even though most attention for Catholic ecclesiologists has concerned the relationship between the papacy, the bishops, and the local dioceses, communion ecclesiology has prompted significant ecumenical reflection as well. In particular, because church unity is seen as a "communion of churches," even when it is not yet accomplished, communion ecclesiology "allows for partial and incomplete, but nonetheless real, relationships of communion among Christian churches." (49) Not surprisingly, then, the language of koinonia, or communion, has appeared in numerous bilateral dialogues involving the Catholic Church, especially those published after 1990. (50)

For example, in the recently completed round of ecumenical dialogue between the BWA and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (2006-2010), koinonia provided the point of departure for ecclesiological investigation between Baptists and Catholics. The dialogue aimed to address five themes: the communion of the triune God and the life of the church, the authority of and relationship between scripture and tradition, baptism and the Lord's supper/eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the episcopacy. At the outset of the dialogue, the delegation offered a united affirmation that "the One God exists from eternity in a life of relationship, in a communion (koinonia) of three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." (51) This communion within the life of God was then extended to the nature of the church:
The church is thus to be understood as a koinonia ("communion."
"participation," or "fellowship"), which is grounded in the koinonia of
the triune God. Believers are joined in koinonia through participation
in the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the same time,
they are in koinonia through their participation in the community of
believers gathered by Christ in his church. (52)

The report observes that this particular convergence is not unexpected. In fact, it more widely affirms a "common language, whether Catholic or Protestant, or specifically Baptist." (53)

Following this is a recognition that koinonia includes the fellowship within the local ecclesial setting as well as the gathering of various localities into one whole. The result is that between the local and the universal there is "mutual existence and coinherence." (54) Here we find echoes of communion ecclesiology, which was identified, despite infrequent Baptist use, "as expressing the heart of the nature of the church." (55) What made this interesting intersection possible were the resonances between Catholic communion ecclesiology and Baptist covenantal ecclesiology. As Paul Fiddes notes, early Baptists used the term "covenant" to describe the bonds that constituted their churches. These bonds had a vertical and a horizontal dimension (even if the latter was occasionally only implied). Members were joined to God in pursuit of faithful Christian discipleship, and they were joined to one another within the local congregation. (56) In the bilateral dialogue, the shared vertically and horizontality of the koinonia found in Catholic communion ecclesiology and Baptist covenantal ecclesiologv made possible the following shared affirmation: "The koinonia of the church may also be understood as a 'covenant community' although this language is less familiar to Catholics than to Baptists... The fellowship or koinonia of the church itself is both a gift and calling, just as the unity of the church is both a gift of the Spirit and a task to be achieved." (57)

To be sure, differences between the two ecclesiologies remain, and they extend beyond the use of different terminology. For instance, as noted above, communion ecclesiology is grounded in the episcopacy, not only in conceptualizing the participation of the local within the universal, but also in identifying the local for Catholics (that is, the diocese rather than the parish). For Baptists, the local church is established at the level of the particular gathered congregation. The report indicated, however, that Baptists would define the local similarly in terms of the presence of word, sacrament, and apostolic ministry, though the last is exercised through the pastor as opposed to a bishop. (58) Moreover, despite divergences concerning the visibility of the church, Baptists and Catholics agreed: "The final goal of the church is union with Christ, the all-holy one, in the communion of saints." (59)

An ecclesiological encounter like this facilitates a deeper Baptist reception of convergence texts like The Church: Towards a Common Vision. While Baptists' first inclination may have been the same wariness toward this ecumenical endeavour, the use of koinonia in recent bilateral dialogues and Faith and Order work allows Baptists to see themselves as part of the church discussed in the document. Particularly, something like the communion/covenantal ecclesiology discussed in The Word of God in the Life of the Church is found in The Church: Towards a Common Vision. The local is not set against the universal. Rather, in a passage that echoes the Baptist--Catholic bilateral dialogue, we find that "each local church contains within it the fullness of what it is to be the Church. It is wholly Church, but not the whole Church. Thus, the local church should not be seen in isolation from but in dynamic relation with other local churches." (60)

Where might this emphasis on koinonia leave Baptists vis-a-vis their ecumenical neighbours? In 1994, British Baptist Nigel Wright offered a response to the working document released for discussion after the world conference in Santiago de Compostela. While he found the theme of koinonia provided "a viable and fruitful basis for further ecumenical exploration," he also noted that this ecumenical opening presented Baptists with some distinct challenges. (61) One was ensuring that the church beyond the local congregation is not forgotten within the scope of ecclesiology. This is a temptation to which Baptists occasionally fall prey as they "have at times made the local congregation the only visible manifestation of the church." (62) Yet, as the new convergence text reminds Baptists, "This communion of local churches is thus not an optional extra." This communion is more than an invisible spiritual bond; it must be manifest in mission and ministry as well as in intentional ecumenical conversations. That is, an emphasis on koinonia does not mean that the quest for the visible unity of the church is lost. Wright echoes this point. As "the institutional form of the church grows out of the divine koinonia," to neglect that form is to lose something of that communion of the triune God. (64) Thus, the institutionality of the church is central to Baptists' ecclesiological reflections: "[T]he question is not whether [the church] exists as an institution but what kind of institution it should be." (65)

Further, as koinonia is both a gift and a task, receptivity becomes a crucial aspect of being the church. That is, Baptists must understand their fellow Christians as gifts to the whole church broadly and to them in particular. Moreover, understanding the church as koinonia urges Baptists to take seriously these fellow pilgrims in true fellowship. This makes possible what Steven Harmon calls a "thick ecumenism" that "proceeds on the basis of a shared commitment to deep exploration of the ancient catholic traditions as well as to deep exploration of the particularities of the respective denominational traditions." (66) Here Baptists truly participate in the church catholic. At the same time, this sort of ecumenical encounter may bring divergences as well as convergences to the surface, but it also "would regard our currently divided and sometimes conflicting patterns of faith and order not as inconvenient obstacles to unity that ought to be regarded as inconsequential for the sake of ecumenical progress, but rather as matters of such significance that they must be earnestly contested within and between our separated churches." (67) In this light, the affirmation of believer's baptism as the prototypical form bears witness to the role that differences can play in the ecumenical conversation and how Baptists have a place in the ecumenical future.


Baptists have much to offer to the ecumenical movement, even if their reticence to formally participate might say otherwise. Because of this, the emergence of koinonia as a focal point of ecumenical reflection provides hope that the ecumenical future is one in which Baptists will have a full share. This will mean a continual struggle on the part of Baptists and their conversation partners to work through significant differences on issues such as the sacraments and the episcopacy. For example, in his discussion of koinonia, Wright mentions the possibility that, through such intentional ecumenical effort, Baptists might receive a more robust episcopacy, though one that is shaped by a Baptist concern for non-coerciveness. (68)

The Catholic ecumenist Jean-Marie Tillard noted that koinonia/communion "affords the ecumenical movement a providential means of resolving the visible unity." (69) As koinonia underscores the importance of relationships within the wider church, it is hoped that as koinonia theologically draws Baptists toward the ecumenical project, they will find themselves developing friendships with members of other Christian traditions. The embrace of communion ecclesiology, then, points to the importance of relationships--not only between the local and the universal, but also between the local and the local and between people from differing traditions. In the final section of The Word of God in the Life of the Church, the delegation fittingly highlights how personal fellowship can open up space for the quest for visible unity: "What can we say at the end? We hope that the koinonia we have experienced together in worship and discussion will be extended in the life of our communions of faith." (70)

Derek C. Hatch teaches theology as associate professor of Christian Studies at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, USA.

(1) The Church: Towards a Common Vision, Faith and Order Paper No. 214 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 2013), v-vi.

(2) This article is not intended to be a full critical review of this text along the lines requested by the Faith and Order Commission. For a response of that sort from a Baptist perspective, see Joshua T. Searle, "Moving towards an Ecumenism Koinonia: A Critical Response to 'The Church: Towards a Common Vision' from a Baptistic Perspective," Journal of European Baptist Studies 15:2 (January 2015), 17-27.

(3) J. H. Shakespeare, The Baptist World Congress: London, July 11-19, 1905, Authorised Record of Proceedings (London: Baptist Union Publication Dept., 1905), 20.

(4) Neville Callm, "Baptists and Church Unity," Ecumenical Review 61:3 (2009), 306-308.

(5) Ibid., 307.

(6) Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper No. 111 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1982).

(7) Ibid., preface.

(8) Ibid., [section]1.

(9) Ibid., [section]6.

(10) Ibid., [section][section]11, 13.

(11) Three years prior to the release of BEM, there was a consultation between WCC representatives and free church theologians from traditions that practise believers baptism (including Baptists). The contributions to the meeting were published in Review and Expositor 77:1 (Winter 1980). In the preface to this issue, the Faith and Order Secretariat noted that even though disagreements remained and "further dialogue and consultation will be required," polemical language regarding each other's baptismal theologies was set aside in favour of facing "our common dilemma of the present" (ibid., 5-6).

(12) David M. Scholer, "The Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry Document: An Outline of One Baptist Reflection," Perspectives in Religions Studies 13:4 (Winter 1986), 123. Likewise, William Estep stated that "Baptists continue to find it difficult to acknowledge infant baptism as authentic biblical baptism" (William R. Estep, "A Response to Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry: Faith and Order Paper No. 111," in Faith, Life, and Witness: The Papers of the Study and Research Division of the Baptist World Alliance--I9S6-1990, ed. William H. Brackney and Ruby J. Burke [Birmingham, AL: Samford University Press, 1990], 10).

(13) "Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland," in Churches Respond to BEM: Official Responses to the 'Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry' Text, vol. l, ed. Max Thurian, Faith and Order Paper No. 129 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1986), 71.

(14) "The Response of the American Baptist Churches in the USA to the faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches Regarding Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry," American Baptist Quarterly 7:1 (March 1988), 10.

(15) "Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland," 71. It is worth noting that Paul Fiddes argues that this mention of "common baptism" in BEM ought to be understood as gesturing toward a common understanding of baptism as part of a process of initiation. See Paul S. Fiddes, "Baptism and the Process of Christian Initiation," Ecumenical Review 54:1 (2002), 49-65.

(16) Estep, "A Response," 7. ABC-USA shared this concern that "an ethical cleansing of the person baptized is effected by the baptism itself" ("Response of the American Baptist Churches," 11).

(17) "Response of the American Baptist Churches," 11. The denomination did express gratitude for the centrality of anamnesis to BEM's understanding of the eucharist.

(18) Estep, "A Response," 15. ABC-USA observed that the ministry of the laity was obscured by the document's emphasis on the ministry of the ordained ("Response of the American Baptist Churches," 12).

(19) Estep, "A Response," 15-16.

(20) "Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland," 77.

(21) "Response of the American Baptist Churches," 9; "Baptist Union of Scotland," in Churches Respond to BEM: Official Responses to the 'Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry' Text, vol. 3, ed. Max Thurian, Faith and Order Paper No. 135 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1987), 232-33.

(22) It is also used in other passages, such as 2 Corinthians 13:13; Philippians 1:5; Galatians 2:9; Hebrews 13:16; and 1 John 1:3, 6.

(23) Baptism. Eucharist & Ministry. 1982-1990: Report on the Process and Responses, Faith and Order Paper No. 149 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1990), 150.

(24) Ibid., 150-51.

(25) "The Unity of the Church: Gift and Calling," in Signs of the Spirit: Official Report Seventh. Assembty, Canberra, Australia, 7-20 1991, ed. Michael Kinnamon (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1991), 172-74,

(26) Thomas F. Best and Gunther Gassmann, eds. On the Way to Puller Koinonia: Official Report of the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order, Santiago de Compostela, August 1993, Faith and Order Paper No. 166 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1994), 226-27.

(27) Ibid., 226.

(28) "Called to Be the One Church: An Invitation to the Churches to Renew Their Commitment to the Search for Unity and to Deepen Their Dialogue," in Cod in Your Grace... : Official report of the Ninth. Assembly of the WCC, ed. Luis N. Rivera-Pagan (Geneva: WCC Publications,

2007), 255-261, [section]3,

(29) Ibid., [section]6.

(30) ibid.

(31) ibid., [section]5.

(32) The Nature and Purpose of the Church: A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement, Faith and Order Paper No. 181 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1998); The Nature and Mission of the Church: A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement, Faith and Order Paper No. 198 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 2005).

(33) The Church, [section]13.

(34) Ibid.

(35) Ibid., [section]67.

(36) "Historical Note," in The Church, 43.

(37) "Synod of Bishops--The Final Report," Origins 15 (December 1980), 448. According to Bishop Arthur Serratelli, koinonia is found in Unitatis Redintegratio, Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum, and Gaudium et Spes (Arthur J. Serratelli, "Address to Catholic-Baptist Dialogue: Revelation and Koinonia," Origins 36:31 [2007], 495).

(38) "Final Report," 445.

(39) Ibid., 445, 447.

(40) Dennis M. Doyle, "Communion Ecclesiology: Beyond Left-Right Dichotomies," Pro Ecclesia 6:1 (January 1997), 9.

(41) Susan Wood, "The Church as Communion," in The Gift of the Church: A Testbook on Ecclesiology in Honor of Patrick Granfield, OSB, ed. Peter C. Phan (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2000), 160. See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion," Ecumenical Trends 21:9 (October 1992), 134.

(42) See "Final Report," 448. For more on various articulations of communion ecclesiology, see Dennis M. Doyle, Communion Ecclesiology: Vision and Versions (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2000).

(43) CDF, "Some Aspects," 142.

(44) Ibid.

(45) Ibid., 134.

(46) Wood, "Church as Communion," 159.

(47) CDF, "Some Aspects," 143.

(48) "Final Report," 448. As Wood writes, "Organizational structure or the comradeship of good will among church members is secondary within communion ecclesiology" (Wood, "Church as Communion," 160).

(49) Wood, "Church as Communion," 161. See J.-M. R. Tillard, Church of Churches: The Ecclesiology of Communion, trans. R. C. De Peaux (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1992).

(50) Paul S. Fiddes, "A Conversation in Context: An Introduction to the Report, The Word of God in the Life of the Church," American Baptist Quarterly 31:1 (Spring 2012), 10. Fiddes identifies bilateral ecumenical dialogues between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox, Lutherans, Reformed, Methodists, and Baptists as examples of this trend.

(51) baptist World Alliance and Catholic Church, "The Word of Cod in the Life of the Church: A Report of International Conversations between the Catholic Church and the Baptist World Alliance, 2006-2010," American Baptist Quarterly 31:1 (Spring 2012), [section]7.

(52) Ibid., [section]11.

(53) Ibid., [section]8.

(54) Ibid., [section]12.

(55) Ibid., [section]11.

(56) Paul S. Fiddes, Tracks and Traces: Baptist Identity in Church and Theology (Milton keves, UK: Paternoster, 2003), 29-31. Fiddes actually describes tour senses of "covenant" in early Baptist thought: (1) "an eternal 'covenant of grace' which God has made with human beings and angels for their salvation in Jesus Christ"; (2) "a transaction between the persons of the triune God"; (3) "an agreement which God makes corporately with his church, or with particular churches"; (4) "an agreement undertaken and signed by church members when a particular local church was founded, and subsequently by new members on entering it" (ibid., 25-27, 29).

(57) Baptist World Alliance and Catholic Church, "The Word of God in the Life of the Church," [section]16.

(58) Ibid., [section] 13. This difference is also related to the Catholic position that Baptist gatherings are "ecclesial communities" and not churches since they lack apostolic succession. However, as the report states, koinonia is still present: "For Catholics baptism is the first sacramental bond of communion with other Christians. Moreover, since all ecclesial communities or churches share in the koinonia of the Trinity, in spite of separation they cannot be 'out of communion', but share a 'degree of communion'" (ibid., [section]24).

(59) Ibid., [section]32.

(60) The Church, [section]31; Baptist World Alliance and Catholic Church, "The Word of God in the Lite of the Church," [section][section]15,23.

(61) Nigel G. Wright, "'Koinonia' and Baptist Ecclesiology: Self-Critical Reflections from Historical and Systematic Perspectives," Baptist Quarterly 35:8 (October 1994), 370.

(62) Ibid., 367.

(63) The Church, [section]31.

(64) Wright, "'Koinonia' and Baptist 1 Ecclesiology," 372.

(65) Ibid., 371. Wright even hints that this may mean that Baptists need to reappraise their stance vis-a-vis the historic creeds of the Christian faith, especially since "Towards Koinonia in Faith, Life and Witness" pointed to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as "an ecumenical expression of the koinonia of faith shared by the churches" (ibid., 370). See Best and Gassmann, On the Way In Fuller Koinonia, 226.

(66) Steven R. Harmon, Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2016), 51.

(67) Ibid., 52. Similarly, The Church calls on Christians "not only to work untiringly to overcome divisions and heresies but also to preserve and treasure their legitimate differences in liturgy, custom and law and to foster legitimate diversities of spirituality, theological method and formulation in such a way that they contribute to the unity and catholicity of the Church as a whole" ([section]50).

(68) Wright, "'Koinonia' and Baptist Ecclesiology," 375.

(69) Tillard, Church of Churches, xi.

(70) Baptist World Alliance and Catholic Church, "The Word of God in the Life of the Church," [section]212.

DOI: 10.1111/erev.12407
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Author:Hatch, Derek C.
Publication:The Ecumenical Review
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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