Churches to sign historic baptism agreement in Austin

 — Jan. 28, 201328 janv. 2013

by Juan Castillo, McClatchy-Tribune (Tacoma, Washington)

Leaders of U.S. Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches will sign a historic agreement Tuesday in Austin [Texas] by which the two traditions will formally recognize each other’s liturgical rites of baptism.

The product of seven years of talks among five denominations, the agreement will be signed at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at a prayer service and celebration at St. Mary Cathedral. The service will be open to the public and will be part of the opening day activities of the national meeting of Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., which will continue through Friday in Austin.

Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Christian Reformed Church in North America, Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ will sign the document.

“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 of the Catholic Diocese of Austin.

Before the agreement, Protestant denominations of the Reformed Church tradition normally accepted Catholic baptisms, but the Catholic church did not always accept theirs, said the Rev. Tom Weinandy of the Catholic bishops conference in Washington.

Weinandy, who participated in the discussions that led to the agreement, said Catholics questioned the validity of baptisms if they did not invoke the names of the Trinity.

The document to be signed Tuesday says, “For our baptisms to be mutually recognized, water and the scriptural Trinitarian formula “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 19-20) must be used in the baptismal rite.”

The agreement confirms that baptism is the sacramental gateway into the Christian life and that it is to be conferred only once.

“We wanted to assure one another that we had common liturgical practices and a common theology to the extent that the baptism of one church would be recognized by the other churches,” Weinandy said.

Denominations also agree to keep standard baptism records.

Keeping records “becomes especially important in the Catholic Church when you have marriages between a Catholic and someone who is not of the Catholic Church,” Weinandy said. “It’s important to the other churches as well.”

A representative for the Presbyterian Church in San Antonio said it welcomed the agreement.

“We’re very much in concert with it,” said Ruben Armendariz, associate presbyter of the San Antonio-based presbytery, which includes the Austin area. “It’s a historical moment.”

Armendariz said the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has always accepted Roman Catholic baptisms and baptism administered in the name of the Trinity.

The Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. conference will gather representatives from 36 denominations and seven organizations who will focus their talks on immigration, said the Rev. Carlos L. Malave, the group’s executive director.

The organization was formed in 2001 as a forum for diverse denominations, some of which were estranged.

“It was a way to come together for dialogue,” Malave said.

The group hopes to produce a public statement on immigration reform that has the agreement of all the denominations, Malave said.

Posted: Jan. 28, 2013 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: baptism, Christian unity, dialogue, ecumenism, USA
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