News

Church Worldwide: Roman Catholic, Reformed Churches Agree on Baptism

Leaders of Roman Catholic and Reformed churches have signed an agreement to recognize each other’s sacraments of baptism, a public step toward unity among groups that are often divided by doctrine.

“Baptism establishes the bond of unity existing among all who are part of Christ’s body and is therefore the sacramental basis for our efforts to move towards visible unity,” reads the “Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism.”

Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, signs the agreement on baptism between Roman Catholic and Reformed churches in Austin, Texas.

After seven years of discussion, the document was signed on January 29 at a worship service at St. Mary Cathedral in Austin, Texas, which opened the annual meeting of Christian Churches Together in the USA, an ecumenical network created in 2001.

Signers represented the Christian Reformed Church in North America, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Roman Catholic Church, and United Church of Christ.

While most of the Reformed denominations already recognize Roman Catholic baptisms, the statement puts an official stamp on mutual recognition of baptisms by each of the church groups. The document calls for extending invitations to each other’s baptism ceremonies and attesting to individuals’ baptisms when a church requests documentation.

It states that water and a reference to the Trinity—“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”—are required for the mutual recognition of baptisms.

“This ecumenical effort, this mutual recognition of baptism, is part of our response to Jesus’ prayer that ‘we may all be one,’” said Bishop Joe Vasquez, the Roman Catholic leader of Austin.

The agreement, which applies solely to churches in the U.S., is unusual elsewhere.

Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary emeritus of the Reformed Church in America, and an expert on ecumenical relations, said such agreements also exist in Australia and Germany.

He called the signing a “significant step of healing and reconciliation, and could open the way toward addressing other issues where we remain painfully divided. It’s an ecumenical accomplishment, which [is] rare these days and worth celebrating.”

About the Author

Religion News Service is an independent, nonprofit and award-winning source of global news on religion, spirituality, culture and ethics.

See comments (2)

Comments

"Baptism establishes the bond of unity existing among all who are part of Christ's body and is therefore the sacramental basis for our efforts to to move towards visible unity"- Does this mean that we will need to erase some Q&As from our confessions in order to accomodate such unity with the catholic church?

Lord's Day 11

30. Q. Do those who look for their salvation and security in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only Savior Jesus?

A. No. Although they boast of being his, by their deeds they deny the only savior and deleverer, Jesus. Either Jesus is not a perfect savior, or those who in true faith accept this savior have in him all they need for their salvation. 

Lord's Day 34

94 Q. What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

A. That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites, and prayer to saints or to other creatures...

95 Q. What is idolatry?

A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in his Word. 

97 Q. May we then not make any image at all?

A. God can not and may not be visibly portrayed in any way... God forbids making or having such images if one's intension is to worship them or to serve God through them. 

98 Q. But may not images be permitted in the churches as teaching aides for the unlearned?

A. No... He wants His people instructed by the living preaching of his Word-- no by idols that cannot even talk.

 

They seek neither salvation nor security from saints.  They seek example from the stories of the saints' lives, which often were struggles in much the same way our lives can be today, or of seeming miraculous situations that only Our Lord could realize.  They seek the prayers of saints and all those called to Eternal Life in Christian death.  Do you ever ask others for their prayers for some challenge or problem?  In this you do the same thing someone does if praying to a saint; the prayer simply asks the prayers of their eternal spirit, and those prayers only go to one all-important Man: Jesus Christ.  It is just as valid, appropriate, etc. to pray without knowing a wit about saints whether a Catholic (that is clearly at whom Kevin was taking aim in his comment here), or not; but there is no offense in a "choir" of voices in prayer both in this life and the next.  Ut unum sint.  Deo Gratias!

X