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Southern Baptists to discontinue discussions with Roman Catholics

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–North American Mission Board (NAMB) officials have announced plans next year to conclude a series of talks with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church about the Bible’s role in the Christian faith.

Since 1994, Southern Baptist representatives have met annually with representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in an effort to gain a better understanding of each other’s faith.

In recent years, NAMB’s interfaith evangelism team has coordinated the meetings, however, Southern Baptists have conversed, both unofficially and officially, with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church about various issues for nearly 30 years.

Rudy Gonzalez, director of NAMB’s interfaith evangelism team, said that while the talks have been beneficial for both groups, the meetings do not facilitate the pursuit of NAMB’s goals and priorities.

“The Roman Catholic-Southern Baptist conversations have given us an opportunity to come to a very clear understanding that there are some marked and clear theological differences between us,” Gonzales said.

“We’re focused on our mission first and foremost. Any future conversations that might develop will have to fit within the parameters of what the North American Mission Board has been charged to do which is to assist Southern Baptist Churches to evangelize North America.”

NAMB notified the Catholic representatives in a letter last month outlining its plans to conclude the annual discussions with a final meeting scheduled in the fall of 2002 at which time a summary report of the conversations would be drafted.

The two groups are scheduled to meet again in September at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., to wrap up their discussions on Soteriology, the theology of eternal salvation.

Gonzalez said that although Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics disagree sharply in their beliefs on eternal salvation and the authority of the Bible, NAMB values the relationship that has been forged between the two denominations.

“These discussions have helped us understand respect (for) each other’s point of view and have opened lines of communication between Southern Baptists and the Catholic Church in the U.S,” Gonzales said.

“Southern Baptists have always had an open-door policy in terms of wanting to speak to anybody that would want to dialogue with us concerning the truths of the gospel and that continues to be the case.”

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  • Lee Weeks