Lutherans, Catholics and Mennonites at Halfway Point in Trilateral Dialogue

Participants of the trilateral dialogue in Elspeet. Photo: Alfred Neufelt/MWC
Participants of the trilateral dialogue in Elspeet. Photo: Alfred Neufelt/MWC

Commission Studies Baptismal Practices and Traditions

(LWI) – The five-year trilateral dialogue between Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Mennonites focusing on baptism has reached its halfway point, with the continued study on “Baptism and Incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church.”

The trilateral dialogue commission of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Mennonite World Conference (MWC) and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), held its third meeting, 9-13 February at Elspeet, Netherlands, on the topic, “Baptism: Communicating Grace and Faith.”

Besides hearing presentations on the topic of the meeting from all three dialogue parties, the commission this time paid special attention to baptismal rites in the Mennonite tradition. It further reviewed the work of the two previous meetings, and agreed on an outline for a final report due in 2017. The members also had opportunity to meet with leaders of the local Mennonite community to learn about the life of the Dutch Mennonite church today, including their practice of baptism in a highly secularized society.

LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka, commission co-secretary, reflected on the dialogue process thus far. “From the perspective of the painful experiences that the three Christian communions had 500 years ago, it is remarkable that we are able to meet today to discuss in a respectful manner the issue of baptism, which at the time of the Reformation led into persecution of the Anabaptists—whose tradition the Mennonites are carrying today—both by Lutherans and Catholics,” she said.

At their meetings, commission members study the Bible together, helping to create an atmosphere of sharing and trust. “I believe this will help the commission to address the otherwise rather challenging issues relating to our different understandings of baptism and gives fresh impulses for the topic of the dialogue,” she added.

The MWC hosted this year’s meeting at the Mennorode Conference Center, an important house for international Mennonite meetings since the 1920s. The meeting was co-chaired by Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga of Colombia (Catholic), Prof. Friederike Nüssel of Germany (Lutheran) and Prof. Alfred Neufeld of Paraguay (Mennonite).

The fourth session of the trilateral commission is scheduled for 28 February to 4 March 2016 in Colombia, where it will discuss “Discipleship: Living Out Baptism.”

Read the Communiqué.