Southern Baptists change stance, urge 'genuine dialogue' with Jews

A precedent-breaking document calling on Southern Baptists to seek "genuine dialogue" with Jews rather than conversion of them has been adopted by a national Baptist organization headed by a Towson pastor.

The Rev. John Ewing Roberts of Woodbrook Baptist Church is president of the 60,000-member Alliance of Baptists, whose board and delegates approved the document unanimously this month after considerable review.


The statement, "renouncing interpretations of Scripture which foster religious stereotyping and prejudice against the Jewish people and their faith," calls the Holocaust the culmination of centuries of Christian teaching directed against the Jews.

Drafted by the Rev. David Yeager, pastor of College Parkway Baptist Church in Arnold, the "Baptist Statement on Jewish-Christian Relations" confesses "sins" that include "complicity," "silence," "interpreting our sacred writings in such a way that we have created enemies of the Jewish people" and "indifference and inaction to the horrors of the Holocaust."


The alliance calls on "all Baptists to join us in . . . genuine dialogue with the broader Jewish community, a dialogue built on mutual respect and the integrity of each other's faith," and says it confesses the Baptist record of sinfulness "with humility and with the hope for reconciliation between Christians and Jews."

Citing verses in Paul's letter to the Romans, the theological document says the Christian Scriptures teach "that God has not rejected the community of Israel, God's covenant people, since the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable."

Baptist Christians, the statement says, have inherited and transmitted "a theology which does not acknowledge the vibrancy, vitality and efficacy of the Jewish faith."

The Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, a Baltimore-based interfaith educational organization, had a central role in development of the Baptist document.

The statement was an outgrowth of a four-year study by Baptists initiated and directed by the institute and chaired by Mr. Roberts.

That experience, the Woodbrook pastor said, "brings me as a Christian closer to Jesus and our origins, and at the same time enriches my appreciation for Judaism."

Dr. Yeager also was a member of the Baptist study group.

The Alliance of Baptists credits Nostra Aetate (In Our Times), a document adopted by the Roman Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council three decades ago, with heralding "a significant change in Jewish-Christian relations," but laments that in recent years "Jewish-Baptist dialogue has been reduced to a theology of conversion."


Both the Baptist alliance, whose purpose is to "build bridges of reconciliation in a world that desperately needs to be brought closer together," and the Baltimore-based Christian-Jewish study institute were founded in 1987.

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Food for Serbs

Baltimore-based International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is in charge of a United Nations effort that will benefit 217 relief agencies in Serbia.

Representing the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, IOCC will oversee and monitor distribution of 1,138 metric tons of flour in April and May to hospitals, orphanages, refugee centers and other institutions serving about 44,000 needy Serbs.

IOCC is also managing emergency aid, in partnership with the Russian Orthodox Church and the World Council of Churches, to refugees fleeing the war in Chechnya.


& Information: 243-9820.

Sexual abstinence

The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware is planning a campaign to advocate virginity among public school students, assisted by a $99,750 grant from the Abell Foundation.

The "Wait on Love" campaign, starting in 20 Baltimore County high schools, will adhere to church-state separation requirements, said Katie Grogan, the Southern Baptist group's family ministries director.

& Information: 290-5290.



The Rev. Pat Kelly, former Baltimore Oriole, will preach during a revival Sunday through Wednesday at Rosedale Community Evangelical Congregational Church, 7901 Redmore Road in Rosedale.

Services will be at 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, and at 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

& Information: 866-4521.