Deepening the meaning of baptism

 — Nov. 20, 201920 nov. 2019
by Janet Bauman, Canadian Mennonite, v. 23, iss. 21

Representative from international commission of Mennonites, Lutherans and Roman Catholics presents report on baptism at Waterloo event

After five years of meetings by an international commission of Mennonites, Lutherans and Roman Catholics on the topic of baptism, John Rempel, the commission’s Mennonite representative, presented a trilateral report from that dialogue at an event called “One Baptism? A Symposium on Baptism and the Christian Life,” at Waterloo North Mennonite Church on Nov. 8.

Pastors, denominational leaders, professors and some students from Conrad Grebel University College attended the Anabaptist Learning Workshop event, sponsored by Grebel and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.

Framed around scriptures emphasizing the image of the church as one body with one baptism, the symposium began and ended with times of worship. In between, Rempel summarized the report and then invited three people, one from each tradition, to respond. They formed a panel that fielded further comments and questions.

Mennonite World Conference (MWC) engaged in the trilateral dialogue because “Jesus Christ calls us to be one.” Participation was seen as a way to build on previous reconciliation efforts between the denominations, nurturing mutual understanding and cooperation.

Rempel’s presentation followed the structure of the 90-page report, first exploring three main themes:

He then articulated the cherished convictions that each tradition has preserved, and what gifts and challenges they provide to the others. He emphasized that it was an opportunity to “look at our own traditions through the eyes of our dialogue partners,” and, ultimately, “to help one another grow in faithfulness to Jesus Christ.” Several convictions were seen as mutually enriching:

Rempel ended with proposals from the report for Anabaptist-Mennonite churches to consider, including:

In responding to the trilateral report, and to questions and comments from participants, the three panelists broadened the conversation.

Cristina Vanin, a professor from the Roman Catholic tradition, suggested that the “yes” of baptism, whenever it happens, is an “important moment in a life commitment that requires a community” to share in the faith formation.

Using the metaphor of an estuary, where waters from different rivers empty into the water of a bay, Mary (Joy) Philip, a Lutheran professor, suggested that where different traditions meet is a productive place with rich possibilities for new growth, when God is trusted as the active agent.

Anthony Siegrist, pastor of Ottawa Mennonite Church, was drawn to the sacramental theology of the Catholic tradition, seeing it as a way for Mennonites to “recover a deeper sense of God’s grace.”

As one way to process what was heard, participants were asked to reflect on practical considerations around baptism from a pastoral perspective. They included:

The symposium also included time to reflect on the rituals of initiation. Sarah Kathleen Johnson, worship resources editor for the new Voices Together collection, shared resources being developed for baptism, child dedication, welcoming new members and reaffirming baptismal commitments. She noted how ecumenical conversations have inspired and clarified the resources.

César García, MWC’s general secretary, described the process going forward. The intent is for the Faith and Life Commission of MWC to present this document at its next gathering, and for churches to study it and provide feedback. While it might help to shape Anabaptist-Mennonite identity, García said, “We are not looking for a unified practice of baptism.” It will also challenge Anabaptist Mennonites to have the conversation around respect for other denominations, he said.

It was acknowledged that, while the proposal to accept the baptism of other traditions without requiring rebaptism seemed to be an acceptable practice by the churches represented at the symposium, the group in attendance was not representative of Mennonites in Ontario, let alone around the world. Pushback from others within the MWC family is anticipated and is seen as valuable for ongoing dialogue and discernment.

This article appears in the Nov. 25, 2019 print issue, with the headline “‘Jesus Christ calls us to be one.’”

Posted: Nov. 20, 2019 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: baptism, Catholic, Christian unity, dialogue, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Lutheran World Federation, Mennonite World Conference
Transmis : 20 nov. 2019 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : baptism, Catholic, Christian unity, dialogue, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Lutheran World Federation, Mennonite World Conference

  Previous post: Ancien article : Catechism will be updated to include ecological sins, pope says
  Newer post: Article récent : 20th anniversary of Joint Declaration on Justification