AUGSBURG, Germany — A five-year discussion of baptism among Mennonites, Catholics and Lutherans has yielded new insights.
Representatives of the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Lutheran World Federation and Mennonite World Conference gathered Feb. 9-14 in Augsburg for the fifth and final meeting of the Trilateral Dialogue Commission on Baptism.
John Rempel of Canada said reflecting on each group’s practice of baptism helped participants learn to respect, trust and challenge each other.
“From the Lutherans, I have seen more clearly that their concern about justification by grace through faith is not that discipleship is a secondary matter,” said Rempel, who is professor emeritus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., and the Toronto School of Theology. “Their concern is that following Christ be a lifestyle of gratitude for God’s grace and not good works to earn God’s favor.
“From the Catholics, I have learned that the sacrament of baptism does not have an automatic role in salvation. If someone persistently lives life against the Spirit of Christ, baptism will not save them.”
Rempel said observations from Catholics and Lutherans prompted reflection on his own Mennonite tradition.
“One insight is that our concern for the human response to God’s grace in conversion and baptism is so central that we neglect to give God’s initiative toward us its due,” he said.
The commission’s final report will summarize three themes: the relationship of baptism to sin and salvation, the celebration of baptism and its relation to faith and to membership in the Christian community, and the living of baptism in discipleship.
MWC participants included Rebecca Adongo Osiro of Kenya, Alfred Neufeld of Paraguay, Fernando Enns of Germany, Larry Miller of France and Wolfgang Krauss of Germany.