Catholics and Baptists Find Things to Come Together On at the 2012 Synod of Bishops

The recent synod of bishops sounded notes Protestants can sing.

Always the same. While we're all now focused on the change that's about to happen in the Catholic Church as Pope Benedict XVI steps down, the Latin phrase semper eadem--always the same--is often invoked to describe the unchanging character of the Catholic Church.

Certain critics say no real change can take place in the Catholic Church, but change does take place, though it usually happens by indirection, reassessment, and development. The result is what Pope Benedict XVI has called a "hermeneutic of continuity and reform." This was evident in the 2012 Synod of Bishops, convened to consider "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."

I participated in this recent synod as a fraternal delegate representing the Baptist World Alliance. The conveners asked the fraternal delegates to make a brief presentation to the synod, offer written comments on the proceedings, and participate in small groups to help draft the final documents. Given the distant and even hostile relations between Catholics and evangelicals in the past, this represents a remarkable degree of openness on the part of the Catholic Church. Though Vatican II documents call non-Catholic Christians "separated brothers," the synod decidedly emphasized fraternity. This was evident in three major themes of the synod.

1. The centrality of the Bible. The synod recognized the importance of reading, studying, translating, and obeying the written Word of God as essential for evangelization. Lamar Vest of the American Bible Society made a special presentation to the pope and spoke of the collaborative work of spreading the Scriptures throughout the world. We should never minimize the transforming power of God's Word: The Reformation began with a Catholic monk, Martin Luther, poring over the text of the Bible.

2. Jesus Christ and his saving grace. The synod described the Christian faith as "a true encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ," "not simply teachings, wise sayings, a code of morality, or a tradition." We need a "new" evangelization because difficult challenges confront Christian witness today. These include secularism, relativism, radical pluralism, the denial of God, and the loss of basic values of decency and respect for life. Though globalization has spread these spiritual viruses throughout the world, the synod noted the new opportunities technology brings for sharing the message of Christ across the world.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Timothy George
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