Article Critique: Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement


The article titled, Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement, was authored by John Briggs who is a Professor of Baptist History at the University of Oxford[1].  Mr. Briggs discusses the history and role of Baptists in the overall scope of the ecumenical movement.  The main points of the article, along with its strengths and weaknesses will be elaborated on.  The conclusion will serve as the overall critique, and if the author fulfilled the desired outcome.


The article Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement traces the history of European Baptist involvement in the ecumenical movement.  The author begins with the origins of Baptists themselves and admits that they can be seen as “naturally schismatic[2].”  The author then describes the Particular confessions of 1677 and 1679 that describe prayer for all churches of Christ everywhere[3].  Though the Baptist movement sprang from a desire to escape a corrupt state church they recognize the importance of not being isolated from others who claim Christ.

Mr. Briggs then gives two prominent examples from history, namely John Bunyan and Thomas Grantham.  John Bunyan wrote a treatise entitled Water Baptism n Bar to Communion in which he advocated for open communion so all can see the unity which we have in Christ[4].  Thomas Grantham advocated for an assembly by which varying branches of Christianity could gather for the purpose of truth.  He wanted those who differed in points of doctrine to gather “to consider the differences among them[5].”

Mr. Briggs then describes the evangelical revival that took place, and how there were those who still advocated a closed communion.  This was even more problematic since Baptists historically had a closed table for the Lord’s Supper. The revival that was taking place was something that emphasized an open table for all believers[6].

One of the last points Mr. Briggs makes in regards to Ecumenism is the Baptists membership on the World Council of churches, or WCC.  Baptists make up 6% of the member churches which is 1% behind their Methodist and Reformed counterparts.  The numbers are misleading because Methodists and Reformed make up 30% of member churches, while Baptists only make up 5%[7].”  This would suggest that although Baptists churches are smaller in number that their membership is much bigger.  Not only that but Baptists held many prominent offices in the council.  Mr. Briggs states, “Some twenty British Baptists (including two principals of Spurgeon’s College) were there in the shaping of the Faith and Order Movement[8].”


The article Mr. Briggs authored does a good job of describing the role of Baptists who supported ecumenism.  There is little doubt that in our world Baptists, particularly the Southern Baptist Convention, have been leaders in dialoguing with our brethren from other traditions.  Mr. Briggs seems to skip over the stance of closed communion among Baptists during the Evangelical revival.  Though most Baptist churches are now open there are still many that are closed.  A better explanation of how opinions were changed would have done much to enhance the author’s point.  Overall it is a great article that shows that Baptists are always willing and able to dialogue with others of differing Christian traditions.  This is vital if we are to evangelize a lost and hurting world.  The very last sentence of the article helps to solidify this point.  Mr. Briggs writes in regards to this, “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 one to another[9]?”




Briggs, John. “Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement.” Journal of European Baptist Studies. (2005, September 1): 11-17.

[1] John Briggs, “Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement,” Journal of European Baptist Studies (2005, September 1): 17.

[2] Ibid, 11.

[3] Ibid, 11.

[4] John Briggs, “Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement,” Journal of European Baptist Studies (2005, September 1): 12.

[5] Ibid, 12.

[6] Ibid, 14.

[7] Ibid, 15.

[8] John Briggs, “Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement,” Journal of European Baptist Studies (2005, September 1): 15-16.

[9] Ibid, 17.

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