Baptism agreement: UCC, Presbyterians, Reformed, Roman Catholics

Culminating seven years of ecumenical dialog, delegates to the UCC’s 28th General Synod in Tampa, Fla., will deliberate and potentially vote on a proposal recommending the “Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism.”

The US Catholic bishops voted 204-11 last fall to approve the agreement. The Presbyterian Church-USA has also ratified the agreement. The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church are scheduled to consider the agreement at their respective national gatherings this summer. UCC ecumenical partner, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has a long-standing common baptism agreement with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Full story at UCC News.


  1. I am a UCC pastor and am quite hopeful for the Synod approval of this agreement. I anticipate debate on the portions regarding the alternate baptismal formula “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” – Which is an attempt at gender neutrality (while presenting significant theological and ecumenical problems). On this matter, the agreement will at least make it clear that if you want your baptism to be universally recognized then follow the formula given in Matthew 28.

    However, in our polity, Synod resolutions are non-binding on each of the smaller expressions of the church (Conferences, Associations, and Congregations). That is, we could pass this resolution while at the same time not expect dissenting pastors to comply with the agreement, i.e. still baptize in the name of the “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.”

    Given that situation, does this agreement really achieve an assumption of validity? I really don’t like being ecumenically pessimistic, but to be frank: Even as a UCC pastor, I don’t assume the validity of all baptisms preformed in a UCC context because of the popularity of the alternate formula.

    Maybe I am making too much of the “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” bit. There is much to be praised in the work done to achieve this agreement.

  2. Joel,

    I am nominally Roman Catholic, but attend a large UCC parish on occasion. The staff and congregants are some of the most inclusive, liberal people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and this appeals to my personal spirituality. However, they are SO liberal and inclusive that they appear to eschew any and all references to gender in the liturgy. I have cringed whenever they baptize someone; it’s always “in the name of our God: Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit,” or “in the name of God, who created you; Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you; and the Holy Spirit, who sustains you.”

    Worse still, a page on their Web site states: “The recognition of our baptism[s] by the ecumenical church is important to us, and the Book of Worship encourages the use of language recognized in most Christian churches… Feminine images for God may surround these words to enrich understandings and offer balance.”

    I don’t have a problem in principle with adding feminine imagery to the traditional Trinitarian formula as the above seems to advocate. However, this particular parish isn’t even going by its own statement that the recognition of baptisms is important to them. If it is, then use the accepted formula. I haven’t had the heart to e-mail someone at the church to “call them on” their contradictory baptism notice.

    On a side note, they don’t even use the proper words of institution when celebrating Communion (they almost always use “life” in place of “blood”). Argh.

    I do share your concern about the UCC’s pronouncements not being binding. If they are mere suggestions, what use are they? I understand that parishes should have recourse if they disagree with one, but still…

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