Dr. Francis Beckwith, the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, tendered his resignation yesterday as a result of his coming back into communion with the Catholic Church. The potential for a backlash within the Society led him to his decision to resign from his post as president.
According to Beckwith’s blog, “I no longer think that it is possible for ETS to conduct its business and its meetings in a fashion that advances the Gospel of Christ as long as I remain as its president.” “For this reason, effective May 5, 2007, I resign as both President of the Evangelical Theological Society and a member of its executive committee.”
Dr. Beckwith’s journey back to the Church (Beckwith was raised Catholic) was sparked by his reading of some the bishops and theologians of the early Church. “In January, at the suggestion of a dear friend, I began reading the Early Church Fathers as well as some of the more sophisticated works on justification by Catholic authors. I became convinced that the Early Church is more Catholic than Protestant and that the Catholic view of justification, correctly understood, is biblically and historically defensible.”
Originally, the professor intended to come back into the Church when his term as president ended in November of this coming year. However, because his sixteen year old nephew asked him to be his sponsor for his Confirmation in the Church on May 13th, he reconsidered his earlier resolution.
Beckwith said, “I could not say “no” to my dear nephew, who has credited his renewal of his faith in Christ to our conversations and correspondence. But in order for me to do this I would have to be in full communion with the Church. So, on Saturday, April 28, 2007, I received the sacrament of Confession.”
Beckwith hopes that his departure will allow the society to enter into a study of the tradition of the Church in a way that would not be possible with him as president.
“There is a conversation in ETS that must take place, a conversation about the relationship between Evangelicalism and what is called the “Great Tradition,” a tradition from which all Christians can trace their spiritual and ecclesiastical paternity. It is a conversation that I welcome, and it is one in which I hope to be a participant. But my presence as ETS president, I have concluded, diminishes the chances of this conversation occurring. It would merely exacerbate the disunity among Christians that needs to be remedied.”
The former president also emphasized his gratefulness for ETS and its mission. “ETS’s tenacious defense and practice of Christian orthodoxy is what has sustained and nourished so many of us who have found our way back to the Church of our youth.”
For more on Dr. Beckwith’s return to the Church please see