A Church of Scotland body is urging congregations to celebrate their common baptism with Roman Catholics for the first time by using a special joint liturgy for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows.
The groundbreaking call, seen as a huge step in inter-church links, is made in the report of the Kirk’s Ecumenical Relations Committee to the General Assembly.
The liturgy was devised by the Presbyterian denomination's Joint Commission on Doctrine, made up of officials from both churches.
Following an extensive study period which looked at our common understanding of baptism, this new service is now being recommended by the Ecumenical Relations Committee for use at major Christian festivals, such as Easter and Pentecost. This year Pentecost falls on the Sunday of General Assembly week (23 May 2010).
Theologically, both churches believe baptism involves conversion, pardoning and cleansing and marks the beginning of a new life in Christ, characterised by growth.
The report acknowledges that there are “continuing divisions” between Christians in the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church, largely stemming from the understanding of the nature of the Church. But it does say that a “real though imperfect communion” exists between Reformed and Catholic believers.
Biblically, greater ecumenism is inspired and encouraged by the Gospel of John, chapter 17 verse 21, where believers are called, in the light of Christ's commissioning prayer, to seek unity as their goal.