In the week following the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan. 18-25, leaders representing the Roman Catholic Church and four Protestant denominations signed an agreement recognizing each other’s baptisms. The Church bodies signed the “Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism,” affirming the baptism agreement on Tuesday evening, Jan. 29 at a prayer service held at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin, TX.
Those signing the document recognizing each other’s liturgical rites of baptism included the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and the United Church of Christ.
The following statements are taken from “The Agreement”:
“Together we affirm that, by the sacrament of Baptism, a person is truly incorporated into the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13 and 27; Ephesians 1:22-23), the church. 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.”
“We rejoice at the common faith we share and affirm in this document. We understand that the journey toward full, visible unity depends on openness to the grace of God and humility before the initiatives of God’s Spirit among us.”
“Together, we affirm, as a sign of our unity and as a witness to ecumenical commitment, the practice of inviting the presence and, where appropriate, the participation of members of our respective communions in the celebration of Baptism.”
Click here to read the entire document.
According to the Christian Post, the Common Agreement was the result of six years of study and consultation. The Austin celebration and preceding dialogue were coordinated through The Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., an organization formed in 2001 that focuses on interdenominational Christian unity, witness and fellowship.
The Rev. John Crossin, executive director for the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at USCCB, commented to the Christian Post that he hoped the baptism agreement “would be a model for other similar agreements.”
“This ecumenical effort, this mutual recognition of baptism, is part of our response to Jesus’ prayer that ‘we may all be one,'” Bishop Joe Vásquez of the Catholic Diocese of Austin told reporters.
Though the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has passed, the topic remains of pressing concern for the Body of Christ. The historic event taking place in Austin indicates that progress continues toward the fulfillment of Christ’s final prayer on earth recorded in John 17: that those who follow Him “may be one.” Unity among Christians is still a topic to pray about in the days, weeks and months beyond January 18-25. Click here to read a recent, related article about Church Unity.