Catholics, 4 denominations reach baptism agreement

02/08/2013 21:20

Catholics and four Protestant denominations in the Reformed tradition have publicly agreed to recognize the validity of each other's baptisms, citing a desire for unity and to accommodate families with more than one faith tradition.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops signed an agreement with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ Jan. 29 at the annual meeting of the ecumenical association Christian Churches Together in Austin, Texas.

To be considered valid, baptisms must be performed "with flowing water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," according to the agreement.

"This ecumenical effort, this mutual recognition of baptism, is part of our response to Jesus' prayer that 'we may all be one,'" Bishop Joe Vasquez of the Catholic Diocese of Austin told the Austin American-Statesman.

The agreement was the result of six years of study by Catholic and denominational leaders during the seventh round of the Catholic-Reformed dialogue in the United States. The first round began in 1965. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, co-chaired the latest dialogue.

Karen Georgia Thompson, the UCC's minister for ecumenical relations, said the agreement is helpful to people from different backgrounds.

"Many families live in more than one tradition, so it's helpful that families can be united in a common understanding of baptism," Thompson said in a news release.

Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, explained, "The denominations in this agreement are the most leftward in the Reformed communion and, strangely enough, the furthest away from the creedal commitments of Pope Benedict and the church magisterium.

"As Baptists, of course, we must stand apart on this one, and confess baptism to be a sign of the new covenant, a sign of union with Christ," Moore told Baptist Press.

"As John and the apostles of our Lord Jesus commanded, we must immerse only the repentant and the believing. That said, we should wish our fellow churches well, but call them to reconsider what Jesus meant when, in His authority, He sent us out to baptize," Moore said. BP

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