Baptist present at Catholic synod

Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, will represent the Baptist World Alliance at an upcoming gathering of Catholic bishops to discuss evangelization in post-Christian countries.

By Bob Allen

A Baptist historian and divinity school dean is invited as a fraternal delegate to join about 200 Catholic bishops from around the world at the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 7-28 in Rome.

timothy georgeTimothy George, dean and professor of divinity, history and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., will represent the Baptist World Alliance at the conference themed The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

As a fraternal delegate, George is expected to "take an active part in the proceedings," according to a letter received by the BWA from Nikola Eterovic, titular archbishop of Cibale and general secretary of the synod.

"The BWA is pleased that eminent Baptist theologian, Dr. Timothy George, has agreed to represent the worldwide Baptist family at the synod," BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said in a press release. "In him, we have an erudite thinker and a true ambassador for the worldwide Baptist family."

The synod marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II, which addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It opened under Pope John XXIII on Oct. 11 1962 and closed under Pope Paul VI on Dec. 8, 1965. One of the participants was Father Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.

This year's Synod will help launch the Year of Faith, aimed at facilitating what Pope Benedict has termed the Catholic Church’s “New Evangelization” in the Western world and other global regions.

A working document for the synod released in June calls for a new way of proclaiming the gospel amid growing secularization, particularly in countries with a Christian tradition. Rather than seeking to “re-evangelize” Europe by appealing to its former Christian heritage, the pope is seeking new methods and expressions of the gospel that recognize realities of the present day.

"In a world where the Christian faith is increasingly under assault, this theme is of urgent concern for all believers in Jesus Christ," said George, a veteran of Baptist/Catholic dialogue and chair of the BWA Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity.

The Synod of Bishops was established by Pope Paul VI in 1965 for the purpose of “interrogating the signs of the times” for the Roman Catholic Church. It lacks the authority of a council or parliament but provides a forum for study and producing documents on matters related to the Church’s mission.

The first Ordinary General Assembly in 1967 was on preserving and strengthening the Catholic faith. A special session in 2010 focused on the Catholic Church in the Middle East.

An ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Convention, George has been active in various ecumenical ventures including Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a 1994 document signed by evangelical and Roman Catholic scholars in the United States, and the International Baptist-Roman Catholic Dialogue, one of several bilateral dialogues under auspices of the Baptist World Alliance.

George asked for "the prayers of all Baptist people for me and others as we prepare for this assignment."

This year’s synod also marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 11, 1992.