Baptists Halt Ecumenical Talks With Catholics

NEW YORK, MAR. 23, 2001 ( The Southern Baptist Convention is stopping 30 years of official doctrinal talks with the Catholic Church in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

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«We´re not ecumenists; we´re evangelicals committed to sharing the Gospel,´´ explained the Reverend R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, who formerly handled interfaith relations with the North American Mission Board.

Though the denomination´s 1994 meeting endorsed talks with the Catholics, Roberts said «many Southern Baptists became suspicious of these discussions.´´

When the talks began in 1971, both sides saw them as an opportunity to understand agreements and differences, though there was never any prospect of organizational union. Catholics and Baptists have 78 million members between them in the United States.

Baptist officials notified Bishop J. Kendrick Williams of Lexington, Kentucky, Catholic co-chair of the dialogue, of the decision in a Feb. 7 letter but no public announcement was made. Brother Jeffrey Gros, the bishops´ liaison to the Southern Baptist dialogue, said the Catholic side would have no comment.

The Southern Baptist-Catholic dialogue is one of eight official conversations with U.S. Christian branches that the Catholic bishops have established, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council´s decree on ecumenism.

The Catholic bishops´ ecumenical secretariat is at

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