Papal Audience

Rev. Dr. Steven Harmon Visits Pope Francis During Baptist-Catholic Meetings to Promote Christian Unity

Papal Audience

The Rev. Dr. Steven R. Harmon, associate professor from the Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity, recently attended a series of Baptist-Catholic meetings held in Rome, Italy. He and delegates of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) met with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Included in the week of ecumenical conversations was a meeting with Pope Francis during the general papal audience. “When we met Pope Francis, we were impressed with his genuine joyfulness,” Harmon reflected. “He greeted us by imploring, ‘Pray for me!’ and we assured him that we do and would continue to do so. He also said to us, ‘We must find a way to get together, or they will eat us raw!’ We interpreted this to mean something like, ‘If we don’t find a way to live in unity, the enemies of the gospel will eat us alive!’”

Harmon, who teaches historical theology at GWU, served as the secretary for the Baptist delegation co-chair. The theme for the meeting was “Context of Common Witness.” Members of the joint commission and guest observers were commissioned to present papers on five geographical contexts in which they envision Baptists and Catholics bearing witness to Christ together: Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Since 1984, the BWA and the Catholic group have participated in several joint meetings. Harmon also served as a member of the Baptist delegation from 2006 to 2010. The joint meetings will continue annually through 2021.

As conversations between the two groups have pursued common ground, Harmon observed, “May God help us to find a way to get together, through Jesus Christ our Lord, that the world might be transformed by the good news God has made known in Christ.”