An historic agreement on mutual recognition of baptism was formalized Jan. 29, 2013 at St. Mary Cathedral in Aus-tin, Texas. The occasion was held during a prayer service at the annual meeting of Christian Churches Together, an ecumenical association which includes over 40 Christian denominations and groups. Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church along with Christian Reformed Church in North America, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, and United Church of Christ signed a document entitled “Common Agreement on Mutual Rec-ognition of Baptism.”
The document reads:
“Baptism establishes the bond of unity existing among all who are part of Christ’s body and is therefore the sacra-mental basis for our efforts to move towards visible unity,”
Use of water and reference to the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” is necessary to make possible the mutual recognition agreed to. Efforts will be made to invite participating churches to one another’s services of baptism as a visible wit-ness to the community.
This significant ecumenical witness constitutes a fruitful result of the Catholic-Reformed dialogue that emerged out of Vatican II and began in 1965. Successive rounds of dialogues continued culminating in the Austin event.
Reaction to the historic signing, which applies only in the U. S., was welcomed by participants and observers on both sides.
“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, the Catholic leader of Austin reported to the Catholic News Service.
Wes Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary emeritus of the Reformed Church in America, and longtime ecumeni-cal advocate called the signing a “significant step of healing and reconciliation, and could open the way toward ad-dressing other issues where we remain painfully divided. It’s an ecumenical accomplishment, which are rare these days, and worth celebrating.”