THE BAPTIST WORLD ALLIANCE:
MANIFESTO ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Adopted at the Seventh Baptist World Congress in Copenhagen on 3 Sugust 1947.
Reprinted with permission of the Baptist World Alliance.
God, in His infinite wisdom, having created all men free, instilling in them qualities of independent judgment, calls upon us to-day, as Christian people, to maintain this God-given freedom not only for ourselves, but for all men everywhere. For it is our conviction that all liberties, both civic and religious, are bound together, and when one is violated all are endangered.
In order to enjoy the fruits of religious liberty we also must, at one and the same time, maintain our intellectual, political, and economic freedom.
Since the foundation of all our freedoms is the dignity of man created in the likeness of the eternal God, it is our first duty to extend the rights of conscience to all people, irrespective of their race, colour, sex, or religion (or lack of religion).
STANDING FIRM IN THE FAITH
We would honour our forefathers who fought valiantly for religious liberty in many lands. We rejoice with those our brethren who have resisted gloriously all attempts to subject the living Word of God to the will of totalitarian States or other outside pressures. We would that all, within our great worldwide fellowship, might have chosen this same course.
We would encourage all those, who must now continue to endure the persecution of secular powers, to stand firm in the faith, knowing that final victory must be on the side of the eternal God.
We appeal to Baptists everywhere to join hands, hearts, and minds with all others who are striving to make mankind free. Remembering our historic heritage of religious liberty, and those of our own number who have given their lives for this cause, some even onto death, we must always do much more than our ordinary share to help create a world which will be free of fear, free of want, and free of all kinds of slavery.
Moreover, we should actively support the efforts now being made by the United Nations to win the peace, believing that in its Preamble, its Charter, and its various organisations there is the possibility and the hope of a brotherhood of mankind in a commonwealth of nations.
RELATIONS OF CHURCH AND STATE
We believe that as loyal citizens we have specific duties to the State. But as Christians we must, when any conflict arises between the State and our religious convictions, place the will of God before the dictates and decrees of men.
No State, however great, is divine. Nor is any State Christian if, contrary to the spirit and Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, it denies and opposes in word and in deed the very will of God. It is Christian only when it becomes Christian in spirit and in truth. There can be no true religious liberty in a tyrannical State.
We would insist, moreover, that civil liberties must not be infringed upon because of a particular religious faith or Church affiliation.
Furthermore, we maintain that it is most difficult to have Establishment (or a State Church) and religious liberty at the same time. We believe that the Church should be separated from the State just as much as the State should be separated from the Church.
No Church should be given special privileges by the State, nor should any Church seek such. There must be equality among Christian people. They must not desire power or dominance one over the other.
PRACTICE WITHIN THE CHURCH
Just as the State does not have absolute power over the life and soul of the individual, neither does any ecclesiastical organisation, no matter how great or universal, have absolute authority over the life and soul of the individual.
Authority comes from God alone. Each man is his own priest: there is need of no other.
Democracy, freedom of conscience, the freedom to seek, to believe, and to find, applies as much within the Church itself as it does to any Government.
The Church, including every local, national, and international religious body or Council, must be the first to practise within and without its fold the great principle of liberty.
Let it never be said of Baptists that they are guilty of with-holding from others what they desire for themselves, namely, the right to follow the dictates of their own hearts.
CHARTER OF FREEDOM
Holding the principles of freedom dear, we therefore seek for all people everywhere, and in particular, all minority groups, the following freedoms:
Freedom to determine their own faith and creed;
Freedom of public and private worship, preaching and teaching;
Freedom from any opposition by the State to religious ceremonies and forms of worship;
Freedom to determine the nature of their own ecclesiastical government and the qualifications of their ministers and members, including the right of the individual to join the Church of his own choice, and the right to associate for corporate Christian action;
Freedom to control the education of their ministers, to give religious instruction to their youth, and to provide for the adequate development of their own religious life;
Freedom of Christian service, relief work, and missionary activity, both at home and abroad; and
Freedom to own and use such facilities and properties as will make possible the accomplishment of these ends.
These are our fundamental principles of liberty. Let us now, with the help of Almighty God, transform them into positive action through a worldwide crusade for freedom.