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USCCB, 4 Protestant communities agree to recognize one another’s baptisms

Catholic World News - February 04, 2013

Representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church-USA, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ have signed an agreement formally pledging to recognize one another’s baptisms when water and the Trinitarian formula are used.

In 1948, the Holy Office declared that “baptism conferred in the sects of the Disciples of Christ, the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, [and] Methodists” is “presumed as valid unless in a particular case it is proven to the contrary,” as long as “the necessary matter and form have been used.”

In 1993, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity called for ecumenical agreements about baptism, noting that

baptism is conferred with water and with a formula which clearly indicates that baptism is done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is therefore of the utmost importance for all the disciples of Christ that baptism be administered in this manner by all and that the various Churches and ecclesial Communities arrive as closely as possible at an agreement about its significance and valid celebration.

“Together we affirm that baptism is a sacrament of the church, enacted in obedience to the mission confided to it by Christ’s own word,” according to the agreement between the USCCB and the four Protestant communities. “For our baptisms to be mutually recognized, water and the scriptural Trinitarian formula ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28: 19-20) must be used in the baptismal rite.”

In their reception statement responding to the common agreement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said that “there is no reason for doubting the validity of… baptism conferred in…[these] ecclesial Communities unless, in a particular case, an examination clearly shows that a serious reason exists for having a doubt about one of the following: the matter and form and words used in the conferral of baptism, the intention of an adult baptized or the minister of the baptism.”

A 2005 study conducted by the United Church of Christ (UCC) found that hundreds of UCC congregations do not use the Trinitarian formula in baptism:

the majority (78%) use traditional trinitarian words of “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or Ghost),” while another 9% use those words, but add more inclusive words such as “One God, Mother of us all,” and 14% use “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,” or a variation of it.

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