Believers baptism churches meet

Representatives gather, share changing understandings

Feb 2, 2015 by

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — For the first time, representatives of six churches that practice believers baptism gathered to discuss mutual recognition of baptism and Christian unity.

Representatives from six believers baptism traditions gathered for the first time Jan. 8-10 in Kingston, Jamaica. Mennonites were represented by Rebecca Oriso, first row, third from right; Fernando Enns, back row, left; and Alfred Neufeld, back row, second from left. — Mennonite World Conference

Representatives from six believers baptism traditions gathered for the first time Jan. 8-10 in Kingston, Jamaica. Mennonites were represented by Rebecca Oriso, first row, third from right; Fernando Enns, back row, left; and Alfred Neufeld, back row, second from left. — Mennonite World Conference

At the consultation, held Jan. 8-10 in Kingston, participants shared their understandings and practices of baptism and explored how their thinking has changed in light of the emerging theological convergence on baptism and growing ecumenical encounter over the past 30 years.

Participants included Mennonites, Baptists, Pentecostals and members of the Church of the Brethren, Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ.

The 18 participants came from Jamaica, Kenya, Germany, Para­guay, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Mennonite participants were Fernando Enns of Germany, Alfred Neufeld of Para­guay and Rebecca Osiro of Kenya.

The consultation grew out of the annual meeting of Secretaries of Christian World Communions in 2012, which noted fresh thinking and official agreements around the mutual recognition of baptism between churches that practice infant baptism and those that practice believers baptism.

The consultation included presentations from each tradition on their past and current teaching and practice of baptism, with attention to how understandings have changed or developed.

A representative of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches was present to provide input from the wider global discussion on baptism within the ecumenical movement.

Highlights included:

  • Gratitude for the opportunity to reflect openly and honestly on the meaning, practice and shared understandings of baptism;
  • Naming the potential found in the image of “being on a journey” for the Christian life, with different expressions of initiation and confession, while sharing a similar call to discipleship;
  • The significance of understanding the Holy Spirit as a source of both diversity and unity in Christ;
  • The need to re-examine the language of sacrament, ordinance, sign and symbol as ways to acknowledge that God is the primary actor in baptism;
  • The need to recognize the ecumenical continuity between other traditions and the practices that mark each tradition as a unique expression of the body of Christ.

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