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Germans agree on mutual recognition of baptism


Representatives of 11 denominations in Germany gathered at the Magdeburg Cathedral to sign a mutual recognition of Christian baptism agreement. A UMNS photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

A UMNS Report
By Elliott Wright*

May 3, 2007    


Bishop Rosemarie Wenner

The United Methodist Church is one of 11 denominations in Germany that have agreed to mutual recognition of Christian baptism.

The parties involved include the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

"The agreement is a big step forward in the ecumenical fellowship in Germany," said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, the United Methodist bishop in Germany.

Such an agreement means that members can move from one denomination to another without the need for "re-baptism." United Methodists have long recognized baptisms made in the name of the Holy Trinity in other churches.

United Methodist representatives took active roles in achieving the German agreement. Retired United Methodist Bishop Walter Klaiber, immediate past chairman of the ecumenical German Church Council, preached at the April 29 service at Magdeburg Cathedral where the mutual recognition document was signed. He also was a consultant to the dialogue producing the agreement.

In addition to the Roman Catholic, Evangelical (predominantly Lutheran) and United Methodist Churches, signers include the Anglican, Moravian and several Eastern and Oriental Churches.

"The agreement is a big step forward in the ecumenical fellowship in Germany."
- Bishop Rosemarie Wenner
"We recognize baptism in the name of God, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit as a sign of the unity of the church universal-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, as it says in Ephesians 4:4," Wenner said in a May 2 e-mail message from Myrtle Beach, S.C., where she was attending a meeting of the denomination's Council of Bishops.


Bishop Walter Klaiber

Several "free churches," such as Baptist and Mennonite, that practice only "believer baptism," did not sign, but a Mennonite leader brought greetings at the worship service celebrating the agreement. United Methodists, Wenner noted, often serve as a mediating influence between "free churches" and more highly structured denominations.

The bishop said that participation in the baptism agreement was unanimously approved by the Central Conference of The United Methodist Church in Germany. The Rev. Christian Voller-Morgenstern, a district superintendent, represented the denomination at the formal signing. The United Methodist Church in Germany has some 65,000 members.

Several regional agreements served as models for the national mutual recognition on baptism.

"About three years ago, the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Roman Catholic Church started a bilateral dialogue," Wenner said. "They asked the Council of Churches to assist them in inviting other churches to participate in that dialogue.
"The Methodist voice was very much heard in all the stages of writing a first draft of the paper, discussing it with the churches, bringing in the different concerns," she added.

When the churches were asked in 2006 to give their response, the United Methodists "voted unanimously in favor of the document."

*Wright is the information officer of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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