Contesting Catholicity, by Curtis W. Freeman

Curtis Freeman has written an important and compelling study of the past and the future of Baptists. The director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School, Freeman combines de­tailed reflection on the history of Baptists with vigorous theological advocacy for catholicity.

The terms of his engagement are indicated in the title of his book: the phrase “other Baptists” refers to those Baptists who can no longer find an ecclesial home in the Southern Baptist Convention. The book is a reflective proposal for how other Baptists, who are everywhere visible in a variety of formal and informal associations, can take Baptist theology and tradition seriously without being hemmed in by sectarianism. Freeman contends that other Baptists can readily understand the catholic tradition of faith and situate themselves within it, but the Baptist heritage invites them to a posture of contestation in which they continue to question and dissent from some claims and practices of that catholic tradition.

Thus Freeman’s book addresses primarily Baptists, but his concern matters to all Christians (including Roman Catholics) who live in denominational separatism but who are summoned to embrace the richness of catholic faith and tradition in a generous orthodoxy. The problem of alienation from the catholic tradition is not peculiar to Baptists. It is a common malady on the Ameri­can ecclesial scene.