The Very Reverend Dr. Thomas A. Baima is a full professor of systematic theology and Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary. In 2012 Tom was elevated to Vicar of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Archdiocese while retaining his duties at the seminary. He is one of my dearest and most treasured Catholic friends. When I did my first public dialogue on Catholicism and evangelicalism, more than a decade ago, Tom was my first partner in this new venture for ACT3. I learned so much from him that evening in Naperville as we faced a large crowd and answered many questions. After that evening our friendship quickly flourished.
For Tom both ecumenical and interreligious work is rooted in ecclesiology and soteriology. Jesus the unique Savior, united with his Body, the Church carries out the Father’s mission to the world. This mission is universal. Tom’s particular focus is to establish relationships through which misunderstandings and divisions might be lessened and room created for the movement of the Holy Spirit to call Christians to unity and to clear away the obstacles which stand between non-Christians and Christ. Tom believes that the modern ecumenical movement (which he distinguishes from any particular institutions at the service of the movement) is the work of the Holy Spirit. As such, a Christian is obliged to discern how this sign of the times is to be received and enacted personally. For Tom, ecumenism is the condition of the possibility of effective evangelism. If we wish to fulfill the Great Commission, Christians need to overcome the obstacles to the credibility of the Gospel which we have introduced to the world by our division. The Book of Common Prayer, one of the great pieces of English literature, warns us to “be aware of the great danger we are in because of our division. . .”