Friday, May 20, 2011

Baptized into Christ's Church

Anglicans and Roman Catholics are currently meeting together for the third Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission.  Part of these early days is being spent re-examining their goal of seeking "restoration of complete communion in faith and sacramental life" and discussing how that goal should be understood today.  (I must confess, I would think this would be an interesting discussion given the new ordinariate!)

More about this meeting can be viewed in this article, and I'm sure the Anglican Communion News Service will continue to post updates.


What I found fascinating (and the reason for my post) was the report that Roman Catholic Biship Gabriele Mana of the local diocese of Biella visited with the Commission.  During that visit, he stated that within his cathedral there is a baptistery [sic.] with a font that predates the division of Christianity in 1054.  (Can you imagine!)  He went on to say that he had "given permission for all Christians to use this baptistery [sic.], for baptism is common to us all.  The more we love our Lord, he said, the easier it is for us to come closer to one another."


The Baptistery of Biella

I personally find this to be a powerful opportunity for Christians in that area to demonstrate what John Wesley called a "catholic spirit" (i.e., universal spirit) by taking advantage of the bishop's offer and reinforcing the truth that we are not baptized into a particular denomination, but into the Church of God.

What would be even cooler is if Christians from various denominations could (perhaps annually) hold a joint service of Christian baptism using this ancient baptismal font.  -  Way to go, Bishop Gabriele!

7 comments:

Avey said...

Interesting... I would think anyone with integrity have already crossed the Tibre. Unfortunately, we recognise Baptism by other denominations and also the doctrine of one baptism.... RC's don't recognise any Baptism unless it is on their terms. They even insist on re-Baptism for people from other denominations (they may view those denominations as other religions as well)... how ironic - re-baptism to be included in the RC church!

Theory and practice are gulfs apart..

Todd Stepp said...

Avery,
It seems that you are under the impression that RCs do not accept the baptism of those baptized in other Christian denominations. That is a complete misunderstanding. If one has been baptized in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, their baptism is completely accepted within the Roman Catholic Church.
They will require confirmation (w/oil, etc.), but they will not be re-baptized.
Also, not sure what you were trying to say in your opening statement about "I would think anyone with integrity have already crossed the Tibre." - Please explain.
Thanks for taking time to comment. I hope that this clears up the RCs position on their acceptance of baptism by other Christians.

Thomas said...

As a Catholic I can confirm what Todd has said here. Catholics do not "re-baptize" Christians from other denominations. I have been involved in the process of conversion at a Catholic parish where Christians of other denominations were accepted into the Catholic Church. It was made very clear to them from the start that no one who was previously baptized in another Christian church would be re-baptized. Some of the converts actually wanted to be baptized again and specifically requested it, but the priest had to explain to them that he would not do it - he refused. As long as they were baptized in the correct form, with water and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then the Church accepts it as a valid Sacrament. It cannot be repeated.

On another note: I agree Todd that these Catholic/Anglican talks are rather interesting considering the formation of the Ordinariate. Some Catholics (myself included) wonder if this dialogue has effectively been shut down since the recent turn of events. I wonder if it is now simply a "good-will gesture" or "keep up appearances."

Avey said...

Don't want to sound like a stuck record player, but I agree with all that has been said above from others.... it's just that I know of the issues I have stated.....

I certain parts of the UK RC church, we are seeing an intensification (along with the myths) hence the inconsistencies....partly because of a folk theology amongst Deacons who are operating as Priests in many cases due to the shortage of Priests....

Thomas said...

Whatever the situation among specific deacons in the UK Church, I would just point out that the *official position* of the Catholic Church is that baptism (as described above) is recognized as valid and unrepeatable from other denominations.

I am sure there are members of the clergy who act in opposition to this official Church teaching. Individuals do err on this and other matters. I always like to point out that Martin Luther was a Catholic priest, but he opposed Catholic doctrine on a number of issues. Being *ordained* in the Catholic Church does not remove a person's ability to be in error.

The point I would make here is that the actions of this bishop (opening the baptistry to other Christians) appears to be fully inline with Catholic teaching on the Sacrament of Baptism... Whereas, the deacons you describe apparently are in error (if I understand you correctly).

Avey said...

Just another note of the clash between theology and practice...

I am a Prison Chaplain, and I have just learned that a prisoner who had been baptized by an Anglican Chaplain in prion, had found a church (Pentecostal) who insisted that he be Baptized in their church regardless... this particular Minister informed the person that the Anglican Baptism wasn't complete because he had been sprinkled instead of being fully submerged......Again, I agree with all stgaed previously, but the reality is unfortunately badly wrong it seems....

Todd Stepp said...

Avey,
It is true (and unfortunate) that there are those (notably Baptists and some/most? Pentecostals) that believe that baptism must be by immersion. They will not accept any baptism that is not by immersion, because they simply do not believe that it is a baptism.

There are some, I think, that will not accept sprinkling, but only immersion and pouring. (Roman Cathohlics may be here, I don't recall).

And there are certain Baptists that require that you be baptized into their group. It is a local church, and they won't accept anyone else's baptism; not even other Baptists.

Further, there are some Protestants that will not accept Roman Catholic baptisms, because they beleive that the RCC is not a Christian church.

Having said that, the vast, vast majority of denominations, e.g., R.C., all mainline (except maybe the adult/immersionists like American Baptists and Disciples of Christ?), and Wesleyan (in as much as they are truly Wesleyan) denominations as well as others do follow the principle of not rebaptizing. They hold that Trinitarian baptism (i.e., in the name of the Triune God) is baptism into The Church.

I think it is interesting, if the Pentecostal church used the language that you used; the language of the baptism not being "complete." If they used that language, that could be an attempt at being generous, despite a belief in immersion only. They did not say that it was "invalid," or "no baptism at all." - Though, of course, they were requiring (re)baptism. Their language seems to allow that it was "something." It was "an attempt" to baptize. It may have been "somewhat valid," but not complete. Perhaps even that the "part" of him that was "covered with water" was validly baptized, but there wasn't enough water to "cover all of him."

Anyway, it is the unfotunate reality. But, had he gone to a Lutheran, Presyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic, etc., the baptism would have likely been accepted.