In the article, Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement by John Briggs, the role and history of Baptists in their engagement with the Ecumenical Movement is discussed. This article critique will summarize the main points of the article, as well as look at the strengths and weaknesses. The conclusion of this critique will determine the overall effectiveness of the article itself. Summary
The article Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement traces the history of the way some European Baptists have engaged and participated with the ecumenical movement. In the first listing of history by Briggs, he points out that the “origins of the Baptist movement are to be found in the history of the Radical Reformation and within the logic of English Separatism, it is difficult not to see Baptists as naturally schismatic.”1 He stresses that Baptists are seen as naturally separatists because of the history of the denomination and their growth as a whole. The intent of the article can be found in one of the concluding statements by Briggs. He says, “but I hope I have filed enough detail to show that the Baptist contribution in this area has been sacrificial and substantial, but often unrecognized.”2 Throughout the article and list made, Briggs drives home the point that the Baptists, although often seen as isolated or even divided from other churches and the evangelizing of the world, are making contributions and work alongside of other believers to get the job done. Strengths
One of the strengths of this article is that it made into an easy readable list, outlining the contributions and history of Baptists concerning the ecumenical movement. Each numbered list gives evidence of his intention in the article. For example, in the first five sections in his list he discusses the history, laying a foundation that gives the reader a place to begin understanding the motive of his article. He then moves on to number six which gives us the definitions of international and inter-confessional dimensions of ecumenism, moving deeper into the meat of the article, explaining the involvement, those in favor of, and the mark of the Baptist denomination on spreading the gospel alongside of other believers.
Another strength of the article is when Briggs begins to summarize his thoughts and proof of involvement to stress his point. He says that within the World Council of Churches the Baptists make up the most membership and that they act as “members of staff, as members of vital committees and commissions, and as office holders. I think we punch well above our weight in these respects.”3 These numbers and offices help to prove his point that Baptists are not as separated and as anti-ecumencial as some may observe them to be. He goes on to add that there are other levels of involvement that range from regional to national in Christian aid organizations. Another strength, which also seems to be the helpful part of making this article effective and overall worth the read to a Christian as a whole, is seen in his concluding statement of a quote by Timothy Richard of China, “How can we expect an unbelieving world to take us seriously in our talk about a gospel of reconciliation when we remain so obviously un-reconciled to one another?”
One more strength by the author can be seen in his examination of the Evangelical Revival, which he claims opened up the re-emphasis on communion among the churches. Briggs says, “So let me make the point that evangelicalism and ecumenism are far from being opposed: rather the one is the child of the other.”5 It is a great point that evangelism and ecumenism go hand-in-hand and are birthed out of a need to reach the lost. Due to the listing and the straight-forward points made by Briggs, there are few weaknesses when reading and critiquing this article. The author did a good job of getting his point across and developing a case for the involvement of Baptists in the ecumenical movement. The only weakness that could be pointed out is the lack of the term co-operative Christianity. In the introduction of the article, it says that Baptist World Alliance prefers the language of co-operative Christianity rather than ecumenism. Even though the author’s point was to show the involvement of the Baptists in ecumenism, knowing more about the differences in that language would have been beneficial. Conclusion
In conclusion, the article by Briggs was helpful in understanding the Baptists and their involvement in the ecumenical movement. From the beginning history of the denomination’s involvement to present day, the author did an effective job of portraying the Baptists’ participation. The overall effectiveness of this article, in my opinion, and for my own education of this topic is helpful and helped me to better understand the involvement of the Baptist World Alliance with other denominations. Regardless of doctrine, churches are pulling together to reach the lost and to meet the needs of the people in this world. It is encouraging to read this article and to better understand the involvement that is happening in churches today around the world.
Briggs, John. “Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement”. Journal of European Baptist Studies. Volume 6.1. 11-17, 11-17. 2005.