The first meeting of the second phase of international conversations between the Baptist World Alliance and the Catholic Church took place December 10-15, 2006 at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. A first phase of international conversations had taken place in 1984-1988, resulting in a report in 1990 entitled "Summons to Witness to Christ in Today's World."
The overall theme of this phase, from 2006-2010, is "The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia." Bishop Arthur Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, USA, and Rev. Dr. Paul Fiddes, Principal, Regent's Park College, Oxford University, Oxford, England, UK, co-chair these conversations on behalf of the Catholic Church and Baptist World Alliance respectively.
The particular focus for this year's meeting was "The Authority of Christ in Scripture and Tradition." Papers were presented by Bishop Serratelli on "The Word of God: God's Self-communication in the Koinonia of the Trinity and the Church" with a response to the paper by Dr. Fiddes. Rev. Dr. Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama (Baptist) presented a paper on "Scripture and Tradition: An Evangelical Baptist Perspective." Father William Henn, OFM Cap (Catholic), Gregorian University, Rome, explored the "Relation of Scripture and Tradition: Catholic Discernment of the Authentic Tradition," treating this theme from a Catholic perspective. Rev. Dr. Steven R. Harmon, Campbell University Divinity School, Buies Creek, North Carolina (Baptist), examined "Scripture in the Life of the Baptist Churches: Opportunities for a Differentiated Catholic-Baptist Consensus." The Reverend Dr. Dennis McManus (Catholic) of the Conception Abbey Seminary, Missouri, presented a paper entitled "The Use of Sacred Scripture in the Church."
Each day began and ended with prayer held in the Andrew Gerow Hodges Chapel of the Divinity School. The joint commission was welcomed by Samford University President, Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, and Beeson Divinity School Dean, Dr. Timothy George. The joint commission was also welcomed by a number of faculty and administrators of both Beeson Divinity School and Samford University.
Other Baptist participants included Dr. Denton Lotz, General Secretary of the BWA, Rev. Dr. Neville Callam, Jamaica, Rev. Dr. Fred Deegbe, Calvary Baptist Church, Accra, Ghana, Dr. Lilian Lim, President of Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary, Singapore, Dr. Nora Lozano, Baptist University of the Americas, San Antonio, Texas, Professor Dr. Toms Mackey, Baptist Seminary, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dr. Fausto Vasconcelos, Director, Division of Study and Research, BWA, Professor Tadeusz Zielinski, Christian Academy of Theology, Warsaw. Also present as observers were Dr. Curtis Freeman, Duke Divinity School, and Dr. Alan Stanford, General Secretary, North American Baptist Fellowship.
Other Catholics present were Dr. Peter Casarella, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., Dr. Krzysztof Mielcarek, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, Dr. Teresa Francesca Rossi, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, Italy, Father Jorge Scampini, O.P., Dominican Center of Philosophical and Theological Studies, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dr. Susan K. Wood, SCL, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rev. Dr. James Massa, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, USCCB, Washington, D.C., and Msgr. John A. Radano, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Vatican City, Europe.
On Wednesday afternoon, December 13, the joint commission visited the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham which documents the struggle by African Americans for Civil Rights in the Southern states of the USA particularly during the 1950's and 1960's. The commission also visited the famous Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
The second meeting of these conversations will take place in 2007. At the conclusion of the five-year conversation process, the joint commission will issue an official report of its findings.