Protestants and Orthodox Laud Agreement in Germany on Baptism (ENI Release)
Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
06 October 2004
By Frauke Brauns
Bielefeld, Germany, 6 October (ENI)--The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the country's main Protestant grouping, and the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople have signed an agreement to recognise baptisms.
Under the agreement announced after a September meeting in Istanbul, Christians who convert from one denomination to another will not be baptised again.
"Although [full] church fellowship does not yet exist between our churches, we each regard the other's members as being baptised and in the case of a change of confession we reject undertaking a new baptism," the two churches said in a joint statement.
The statement was signed by Metropolitan Augoustinos of Germany who is responsible for Orthodox Christians in central Europe, for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and Bishop Rolf Koppe, head of foreign relations for the EKD.
Baptism, a religious ceremony performed with water, is acknowledged throughout the Christian world to be a commandment of Jesus and the fundamental rite of initiation into the Church.
"During our negotiations Metropolitan Augoustinos pointed out that the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Germany has not baptised converts for many years," said Dr Dagmar Heller, the EKD officer responsible for ecumenism and Orthodoxy. "But signing this paper helps to combat misunderstanding and prejudices."
The EKD and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have held talks since 1969 partly to help promote the integration of Greek Orthodox Christians into German society. Many Greeks came to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s to seek work in the industrial regions of Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne and Dusseldorf.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Germany has more than 400 000 members, making it the country's third biggest Christian denomination after the EKD and the Roman Catholic Church.
A major World Council of Churches-sponsored conference earlier this year highlighted the importance of the mutual recognition of baptism, considered by some to offer currently the most promising way to promote church unity.
In 2003, the then WCC general secretary, Konrad Raiser, said there would be "a 'Copernican Revolution' in ecumenical dialogue if churches were genuinely to recognise each other's baptism". [348 words]