12 February 2013

Ecumenicalism in practice

Matthijs has been thinking a lot about ecumnicalism in the last months, and thus so have I, by virtue of living in the same house (and the fact that we talk fairly regularly :)) Thus after a number of conversations both about our appreciation of ecumenicalism at Oudezijds 100 and about how we could be more ecumenical, it was a delight to be reminded about how the Christian Reformed Church has been participating in ecumenicalism.

The CRC was recently one of several churches that signed an agreement to formally recognize baptisms completed in other denominations. Those involved in signing, besides the CRC, were the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Chruch (USA), the United Church, and the Catholic Church.

Recognizing baptisms from other churches is something that has been happening informally between denominations [albeit officially within the CRC for years (cf. Article 58 of the Church Order)], but this agreement makes it more largely official. As I see it, the recognition is an acknowledgement of how God works in baptism, despite of but also through other denominations. So once someone is baptized by an ordained person in the name of the Trinity, they don't need to be rebaptized even if we disagree with some (many?) of the doctrines of the baptizing church. I even learned in my class on the Church Order that the Christian Reformed Church has actually banned people who have been rebaptized from becoming ordained (decision of Synod 1973-74). Rebaptism is in some ways a snub against God's sovereignty (see the report to Synod 2011 on baptism, especially page 558) .   

Knowing all this, it is not surprising that a quote given from a Catholic in the article (in the secular press) made me smile: "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." When I first read this, my immediate reaction was: "It's not just Catholics who would question it - I would also question the validity of baptisms not done in the name of the Trinity!" I guess that's another way of seeing ecumenicalism in practice.

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