This dissertation argues that Intercongregational collaboration is an ecumenical option for Baptists if it is grounded in Scripture, gives priority to the local church, and seeks to establish the ground of unity upon the truth of God revealed in the Old and New Testaments.
Chapter 1 introduces the topic and the need for a renewed discussion of cooperation in Southern Baptist life. Since the local church is the place of authority in the Southern Baptist Convention, ecumenism for Southern Baptists needs to be redefined as intercongregational collaboration. By redefining the term, the discussion concerning ecumenism will be redirected from focusing on an ecclesiastical structure to a conversation where the local church is preeminent in matters pertaining to the unity of the body of Christ in the world.
Chapter 2 will provide the epistemological foundation by which the discussion concerning this type of ecumenism will proceed. The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are the sole authority for faith and practice and provide the foundation for the following discussion. Furthermore, chapter 2 will investigate the biblical evidence with regards to unity by carefully examining the critical texts in the New Testament related to the unity of believers. Through an examination of these texts, this chapter will seek to discover the biblical understanding of unity.
Chapter 3 will review the history of the modern ecumenical movement by tracing the various models of union that have been developed and proposed throughout the twentieth-century. The intent of this chapter is to introduce the ecumenical movement and trace various critical elements of its genesis in the twentieth-century while providing a theological critique.
Chapter 4 will trace and discuss the involvement of Southern Baptists with the modern ecumenical movement and the Evangelical parachurch movements in the twentieth-century. It will discuss various points where Southern Baptists were open to, and then departed from the modern ecumenical movement and provide a critique and evaluation of those decisions Chapter 4 will also reveal that Southern Baptist history reveals a cooperative spirit when cooperation does not entail a loss of theological identity or the diminishing of critical doctrines.
Chapter 5 will provide an analysis and recommendation of how Southern Baptists ought to approach the subject of unity and collaboration and on what basis Southern Baptist churches may cooperate. The chapter will also assess both the positive and negative aspects of collaboration.
Chapter 6 provides a summary and conclusion and calls upon Southern Baptists to reaffirm their commitment to truth. Intercongregational collaboration is indeed a possibility for Southern Baptists but it must be approached from a commitment to spiritual unity and biblical fidelity.