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SEBTS scholar to present paper at Anabaptist conference in NYC

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Emir Caner, assistant professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will join top Mennonite scholars to discuss the relevance of Anabaptism during the Pilgram Marpeck Conference in New York City, June 7-8.

Caner will be one of 10 presenters who will explore the life of 16th-century Anabaptist Pilgram Marpeck, who is noted for his alternative approaches to the role of the church and state and corporate worship and sacraments.

“Pilgram Marpeck is relevant today due to his evangelical theology, his desire for strengthening the church of Christ and his approach to the role of the church and state,” Caner explained. “He promoted holiness while still staying within the mainstream of everyday society. He was insulated but not isolated.”

Caner contends that religious liberty was not the offspring of John Calvin, Martin Luther or Ulrich Zwingli, but the Anabaptists who characteristically insisted on the doctrine of a believer’s church witnessed by baptism and existing autonomous, free and separate from government.

“It was Balthasar Hubmaier and Pilgram Marpeck who advocated the right for all to worship whomever they wished, knowing that conversion does not come by physical sword but by the convicting of the Spirit of God through the Word of God,” Caner said.

The study of the Anabaptists is important to Caner not only as a theologian but as a Southern Baptist as well. For more than 50 years, he said, Southern Baptists have forgotten their Anabaptist heritage due to misrepresentations and scholarly neglect.

“Anabaptist history has long been ignored and neglected by most historians and Christians,” Caner said. “Yet, the Free Church and Believer’s Church is a direct result of Anabaptists, many of whom died for their baptistic beliefs.

“Southern Baptists should know that … they can both stand firm in their faith and the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ while also advocating religious liberty for all,” he said. “Southern Baptists realize that they do not react according to what others believe, but according to what the Word of God commands.”

Southeastern Seminary President Paige Patterson, saying he is “grateful for Caner’s participation in the conference,” also affirmed that modern Baptists have a direct connection to the 16th-century Anabaptists.

“While it is commonly held that Baptist origins date only to English Separatism, many of us are unalterably convinced of a direct connection between modern Baptists and the phase of the Radical Reformation known as the Swiss and South German Brethren. Their concept of a believers’ church of those witnessing their faith through baptism is in stark contrast to the Magisterial Reformation of Luther, Calvin and others,” Patterson said.

“While we drink from the fountain of the Magisterial Reformers, also it is the sacrificial lives and teachings of the Anabaptist that we indulge to slake our thirst for genuine New Testament Christianity in the Reformation era,” he said.

Caner’s goal in his involvement in Anabaptists conferences across the nation is to bring Southern Baptists back to their Anabaptist heritage, to dialogue with scholars of like mind and “create an Anabaptist movement that will be broader than it is in its present day.”

“We come from the Anabaptists,” he said. “They were those who believed in a regenerate church, religious liberty, separation from the perversions of the world, and the believer’s baptism.”

Caner, a former Muslim and coauthor of the newly released book “Unveiling Islam,” will present a paper titled, “A Reflection on Pilgram Marpeck from a Former Muslim’s Perspective,” which will focus on the Anabaptist perspective of Marpeck in relation to Islamic doctrine, tradition and experience.

Caner has been contracted to write “Our Anabaptist Ancestors” with Kregel Publications, due out in 2003.

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  • Kelly Davis