Baptist Alliance Allies with Church of Christ and the Christian Church

May 05, 2003 03:39 PM EDT

VIENNA, Va.— Members of the Alliance of Baptists officially agreed to enter in the ecumenical alignment with the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church during its annual meeting, April 24-26. The members who met at the Vienna Baptist Church in Washington also approved statements on Jewish-Christian and Muslim-Christian relations and supported a resolution that strongly criticized the United States' policy toward Cuba.

The Alliance Executive Director Stan Hastey said the agreement was a formalization of a cooperation that has been going on at the grass-roots level for several years. "This proposed ecumenical agreement is not something dreamed up by the participating denominations," Hastey told Alliance members. "Rather it came up from local settings in which UCC, Disciples and Alliance people began to find each other and explore the possibility of a joint Christian witness in their communities."

If the UCC and Christian Church agree to the ecumenical agreement, the three bodies will set up formal theological dialogues on "matters of ministry, ordinances/sacraments, theology and polity throughout the life of the church"; call on leaders to make joint statements "on issues of national and international concern"; create more formal cooperation in development of resources such as Sunday school curricula and development of youth camping events; and set up a "Partnership Council" with representatives to "facilitate and encourage growth" of the ecumenical alignment.

The agreement also calls upon Alliance congregations and individuals to continue and expand their local cooperative efforts with UCC and the Christian Churches, and for moderate Baptist seminaries to offer courses on UCC and Disciples history and polity.

In addition to the partnership arrangement, delegates to the Alliance meeting updated a statement on Jewish-Christian relations the group first passed at their 1995 annual meeting, and adopted a statement on Muslim-Christian relations.

Both statements said the Alliance would "renounce interpretations of Scripture which foster religious stereotyping and prejudice against" adherents of each faith. The statement on Jewish relations confessed Baptists' past complicity in anti-Semitism and affirmed "the teaching of the Christian Scriptures that God has not rejected the community of Israel, God's covenant people."

The Muslim-relations statement recognized the common historical roots between Christianity, Islam and Judaism, sought dialogue with Muslims "built on mutual respect and the integrity of each other's faith," and committed the Alliance to work for "full religious freedom" and "equality of citizenship for all persons in all societies, whether Muslims or Christians or others, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere."

Alliance delegates also passed a resolution condemning the U.S.'s 40-year-old trade and tourism embargo against Cuba, saying it had "caused untold hardships on the Cuban people." The resolution commended U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) for attempting to pass legislation that would ease the embargoes. The Alliance has had a missions partnership with the Fraternity of Baptist Churches in Cuba for several years.

Alliance members also re-elected Craig Henry, an attorney and member of Northminster Church in Monroe, La., as president. They elected Shanta Premawardhana, pastor of Chicago's Ellis Avenue Church, as vice president; and Mary Sue Brookshire, a student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta and a member of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., as secretary.

By Pauline J.