Baptists and Human Rights

Main Article Content

Tony Peck


This article was written as a response to the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 50th Anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. It explores Baptist perspectives on human rights in historical, theological and contemporary contexts. It examines how the foundational commitment of Baptists to religious freedom for all inevitably has wider implications for human rights as a whole, a link which Baptists have not always made, sometimes to their cost. The scope, content and source of human rights are explored, and in each of these aspects Baptists have much to contribute, and at the same time have found much that is deeply challenging to their theology and practice. In the contemporary world, Baptists continue to see the foundation of human rights as located in the sovereignty of God rather than being foundational in themselves. Following Michael Westmoreland-White, it is suggested that Baptists see talk of human rights as a lingua franca rather than as a form of esperanto. This leaves open the possibility that Baptists can contribute to public discourse by searching for common agreement on the application of human rights in the contemporary world with those whose foundational moral vision may be different from their own.

Article Details

Author Biography

Tony Peck

Revd Tony Peck is General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation.