Study on mutual recognition of baptism in Europe ties theological reflection to real-life experience

 — October 12, 202112 octobre 2021

Mosaic of Christ's baptism in the Jordan, a copy of an 11th century original from Daphne, Greece, offered by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, placed at the Ecumenical Centre Geneva. Photo: Nikos Kosmidis/WCC
Mosaic of Christ's baptism in the Jordan, a copy of an 11th century original from Daphne, Greece, offered by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, placed at the Ecumenical Centre Geneva. Photo: Nikos Kosmidis/WCC
By Susan Kim (*), for the Conference of European Churches

A church wants to receive a Christian who was baptised in a different church. A woman wants to marry someone from another faith tradition. A child is growing up in an inter-church family.

These real-life situations are evidence that thinking about mutual recognition of baptism shouldn’t be relegated solely to lecture halls in theological institutions. Recognising that mutual recognition of baptism — and the obstacles toward it — is an issue that affects the daily lives of countless Christians across Europe and beyond. The Conference of European Churches (CEC), through its Thematic Group on Ecclesiology and Mission, has initiated a study process to explore this topic.

The study seeks to identify agreements concerning baptism within CEC Member Churches, and explore official guidelines with regard to the reception of Christians moving from one church to another, recognition of and pastoral care for inter-church families, and Christian initiation, religious education, and pastoral care of children raised in inter-church families.

In December 2020, CEC sent a questionnaire to its member churches to gauge both their experiences and practices regarding baptism. After gathering responses received by March 2021, the CEC Thematic Group on Ecclesiology and Mission is now hosting bilateral and multilateral dialogues exploring the topic.

“On one hand, we have gathered stories of real-life experiences from people whose lives are affected — both positively and negatively — by the mutual recognition of baptism, or, conversely, by the obstacles to such mutual recognition,” said Katerina Pekridou, CEC Executive Secretary for Theological Dialogue. “On the other hand, we are harvesting the knowledge from experts who have been working in this field for many years. Together, these equally valuable inputs are forming a study process that is already beginning to yield fruitful insights.”

In a December 2020 CEC webinar, theologians discussed challenges to the mutual recognition of baptism, summarised theological positions in different church traditions, and suggested possible solutions.

In the webinar, Rev. Dr Dagmar Heller, study secretary for Orthodoxy and director at the Institute for Ecumenical Studies and Research in Bensheim, Germany, explained that, generally, churches can be grouped into two categories with regard to understanding baptism: paedobaptist churches and credobaptist churches. “The credobaptist churches again contain two groups, namely those with an exclusive understanding of the church and those for whom the borders of the church are not linked to a visible church,” said Heller. As a consequence, some churches do not recognise the baptism of (some) other churches. She also elaborated on some of the possible ways forward in the ecumenical debate on this problem.

Baptism and diverse theological perspectives

Rev. Dr Tomi Karttunen, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, reflected on whether a formal declaration on the recognition of baptism makes sense, as well as the resulting theological and practical consequences.

“Baptism is the foundational sacrament of unity,” said Karttunen. “The recognition of baptism is crucial for ecclesiology and other Christian doctrines in this context.”

In other words, the mystery of baptism is a sacrament of faith and incarnation, reflected Karttunen. “At the same time, it is based on the work of the Holy Spirit through the word of God in a hidden but real and effective way,” said Karttunen. “Through faith in Christ’s presence in us and through the word in the Spirit we receive the gifts of salvation, and above all Christ himself, in a holistic way.”

Karttunen gave an example of a practical application of the intimate connection between baptism and Christian life: the custom of commemorating ones’ own Christian baptism.

“The churches generally emphasise the primacy of God’s initiative in their baptismal theology,” said Karttunen. “An approach which points to the cognitive or conscious nature of the faith can be seen as problematic for those who are either too young or whose disability means they can never articulate their faith.”

Nonetheless, Karttunen believes that the recognition of baptism gives us hope and encourages us to work more deliberately to promote shared Christian witness and service.

“As Christian churches and Member Churches of CEC, we all emphasise that faith, baptism, and growing in faith — that is, living as Christians and disciples of Christ — are intertwined,” said Karttunen. “They are fundamental parts of Christian and ecclesial existence, and the basis for witnessing and serving together.”

Dr David Heith-Stade, from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, shared notes on baptism and Christian division in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

He described some of the reasons behind the reluctance of Greek church fathers to accept baptisms celebrated outside the visible communion of the universal church. “Most fathers considered that the universal church must be visible and that it is the exclusive abode of the Holy Spirit, who is the source of all sacraments,” he said. “Some fathers believed that the custom of their local church when it came to receive converts reflected apostolic tradition, but these fathers often did not consider that all groups of Christians outside the visible communion of the universal church are not the same and cannot therefore automatically be treated in the same way.”

Heith-Stade also spoke of the impact of the separation between the Western Church (Roman Catholic Church) and Eastern Patriarchates (Eastern Orthodox Churches) as a drawn-out process continuing for centuries from the 9th century until 15th century.

“There are documented examples of rebaptism from both sides, but also other ways of accepting converts between the Western Church and the Eastern Churches,” he said.

(*) Susan Kim is a freelance journalist from the United States.

Posted: October 12, 2021 • Permanent link: ecu.net/?p=10910
Categories: NewsIn this article: baptism, Conference of European Churches
Transmis : 12 octobre 2021 • Lien permanente : ecu.net/?p=10910
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : baptism, Conference of European Churches

Photo: Vatican Media

Global religious leaders, scientists join to release “Faith and Science: An Appeal for COP26”

 — October 4, 20214 octobre 2021

Global religious leaders and leading scientists issued a joint statement on 4 October calling on the international community to raise their ambition and step up their climate action ahead of COP26.

Almost 40 faith leaders signed the joint appeal, which was presented by Pope Francis.

Signatories included World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, along with representatives from across the Christian denominations, Sunni and Shi’a Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism and Jainism.

The appeal calls for the world to achieve net-zero carbon emissions as soon as possible, and to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
… Read more » … lire la suite »

WEA representatives: Bp. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, Secretary General & CEO; Dr. Christine Schirrmacher, Executive Director International Institute of Islamic Studies, Bonn; Michael Mutzner, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva; Samuel van der Maas, WEA Permanent Representative to the WCC; Wissam al-Saliby, Advocacy Officer, Geneva.
WCC representatives: Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, deputy general secretary and director of Faith and Order; Doug Chial, the Director of the Office of the General Secretariat; Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of communication.
Photo: Samuel Mungure/WCC

WCC, World Evangelical Alliance strengthen collaboration

 — August 30, 202130 aoüt 2021

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) met on 25 August in Geneva to explore and discuss possible areas of future cooperation.

The two organizations shared current plans and discussed possibilities for closer collaboration on thematic areas such as advocacy and peace building, the climate emergency, and membership matters.

The WEA is a network of churches in 143 nations that have joined to give a worldwide identity, voice and platform to more than 600 million evangelical Christians.

The WEA has six programmatic departments: Global Advocacy, Global Theology, Global Witness, Alliance Engagement, Church Engagement, and Public Engagement.
… Read more » … lire la suite »

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

WCC digital archive now included in Globethics.net library

 — June 1, 20211 juin 2021

A collection of documents and publications from the World Council of Churches (WCC) is now available through its longstanding partner organization Globethics.net. The WCC collection, updated weekly, reflects a growing and longstanding electronic bridge between the organizations’ websites.

For many years, the Globethics.net Library has hosted a variety of collections on behalf of the WCC, an active member of the Globethics.net Consortium on Ethics in Higher Education, as well as co-founder of the former Global Digital Library on Theology and Ecumenism (GlobeTheoLib).

The institutional “World Council of Churches collection” has recently been updated with new content collected from its website, including documents and publications published at www.oikoumene.org/resources. Thanks to an electronic bridge between the two sites, new resources are automatically added to the collection on a weekly basis.
… Read more » … lire la suite »

Photo: National Cancer Institute

Scientists and theologians join forces for new Anglican Communion Science Commission

 — May 21, 202121 mai 2021

ACSC will “resource the whole Anglican Communion for courageous and confident spiritual leadership in issues involving science.” A new Anglican Communion Science Commission (ACSC) is being formed to “resource the whole Anglican Communion for courageous and confident spiritual leadership in issues involving science.” The ACSC will be co-chaired by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba; and the Bishop of Oxford, Stephen Croft. The ACSC will formally launch at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England, in July and August next year; and will hold its first conference shortly afterwards.

Scientists, theologians, and bishops from around the globe are being invited by the Anglican Communion’s Secretary General, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, to serve as Commissioners. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has asked Anglican Communion Primates to nominate a Bishop from their Church to serve as provincial representatives at conferences of the Commission. Science will be a significant feature at the 2022 Lambeth Conference. Today, organisers have posted a series of videos, exploring the relationship between science and faith, on the Lambeth Conference website.
… Read more » … lire la suite »

Church divisions over moral issues can be bridged with fruitful dialogue, webinar shows

 — May 6, 20216 mai 2021

A webinar on how churches make moral decisions—and what causes divisions—brought a lively discussion attended online by more than 100 people on 29 April.

Basing their remarks on a World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission publication, “Churches and Moral Discernment. Volume 1: Learning from Traditions,” the speakers shared insights from very different church perspectives.

As the foreword of the publication says, “The hope is that necessary prerequisites are fulfilled, allowing for constructive conversations within traditions. This will prevent divisions over moral issues and provide solid ground to engage in fruitful ecumenical dialogues that appreciate and attribute appropriate relevance to moral issues.”
… Read more » … lire la suite »

World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order, online commission meeting, 2021, Photo: WCC

WCC Faith and Order meeting harvests fruits of study groups

 — March 4, 20214 mars 2021

At the end of its biannual meeting, the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order, in February, reported from its three study groups, which continue to look to future activities and dialogue with a sense of hope.

The first study group is working on a plan for a World Conference on Faith and Order in 2025. The last such conference organized by Faith and Order was in Compostela, Spain in 1993. In the proposal, the study group reflected on purpose, theme, format, partners, promotion and finances of a conference.

The study group on ecclesiology announced the publication of 78 responses to The Church: Towards a Common Vision. To address the divisive topics coming from the responses, a volume of 16 key theme papers written by the commissioners will be published ahead of the WCC 11th Assembly in 2022.

The Faith and Order Commission also mapped a path toward enlarging its work in order to better reflect the challenges raised by independent, evangelical and pentecostal traditions to the search for visible unity.
… Read more » … lire la suite »

Anglican and Orthodox delegations at the First World Conference on Faith and Order, Lausanne 1927, Photo: WCC

Anglican-Orthodox dialogue will be focus of third WCC webinar on bilateral dialogues

 — March 3, 20213 mars 2021

A 9 March webinar – the third in a series of seven on bilateral dialogues – will focus on “Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: History, Results, Reception” as well as the Canterbury Statement “Stewards of Creation: A Hope-Filled Ecology,” a statement on ecology jointly published by the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Churches in October 2020.

Presentations will be offered by the two co-chairman of the International Commission for Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue.
… Read more » … lire la suite »

Churches Respond to “The Church: Towards a Common Vision”

 — February 23, 202123 février 2021

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on Faith and Order published two new volumes that collect responses received to The Church: Towards a Common Vision between 2013 and 2020.

The responses address the church’s mission, unity, and its being in the trinitarian life of God in order to encourage and advance the churches’ growth in communion with each other in apostolic faith, sacramental life, mission, and ministry for the sake of God’s world.
… Read more » … lire la suite »

Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

WCC webinar will explore “Common witness on environmental justice and religious pluralism”

 — February 11, 202111 février 2021

The World Council of Churches (WCC) will host a webinar on 18 February from 14:00-15:30 (GMT+1) entitled “Common witness on environmental justice and religious pluralism” that will explore two recent papers released by the WCC Commission on Faith and Order.

The two publications are “Cultivate and Care: An Ecumenical Theology of Justice for and within Creation” and “Love and Witness: Proclaiming the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ in a Religiously Plural World.”
… Read more » … lire la suite »