Catholic and Lutheran churches in Aotearoa New Zealand have approved a statement recognizing the unity of each other’s baptisms.
The statement – Baptised Together in Christ – will be particularly helpful for families wanting to baptize their child where one parent is Lutheran and the other Catholic.
The baptism agreement is the first major work of the Roman Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue Commission. The commission has held regular meetings since being created by Lutheran Bishop Mark Whitfield and Catholic Cardinal John Dew in 2017, as part of New Zealand services marking the Reformation of European Christianity that began in 1517, when Martin Luther published his Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg, Germany.
Bishop Whitfield says: “Catholic and Lutheran baptismal rites have much in common, and this work is a welcome opportunity to learn from each other’s practices.”
Cardinal Dew says: “This statement honors our commitment to seek the unity that draws us together, to be transformed by our encounter with one another, and to promote further expressions of our unity across our churches.”
The statement says: “The Catholic and Lutheran churches can learn from one another and speak with a common voice on issues of concern in modern society, with the conviction that they share one baptism and one faith.”
Acknowledging there are differences in understanding and emphasis between the two churches, it adds: “Catholics and Lutherans both assert that through baptism a person becomes a member of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
“A parent couple that includes both a Catholic and a Lutheran partner are encouraged to bring their child for baptism in the church of their choice. They may seek to have both of their pastors/priests participate in the baptismal service.”
It also says: “Christians are encouraged to speak of being baptized into the Christian church, into the Christian faith, or into Christ. They may say that they were baptized in the Catholic or Lutheran church but are discouraged from saying that they have been baptized Catholic or baptized Lutheran.”
Members of the dialogue commission are Pastor Jim Pietsch, Assistant Bishop LCNZ (chair); Fr Tom Rouse, St Columbans Mission Society (secretary); Fr James Lyons, Parish Priest Emeritus; Sr Kathleen Rushton, Sisters of Mercy; and Dr. Petrus Simons, lay member LCNZ.