An Ecumenical Undervaluing of Baptism

David F. Wright, “One Baptism or Two? Reflections on the History of Christian Baptism” in Infant Baptism in Historical Perspective: Collected Studies, Studies in Christian History and Thought (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2007): 268-9.
It is…surprising that the ecumenical movement, which has occupied so many of the energies of the churches in the twentieth century, should have been so slow to grasp this particular nettle. It is only in the last ten years or so [ed. note: this essay was originally published in 1988, right about the time that the various churches were responding to BEM] that it has feature high on the agenda of the Faith and Order arm of the World Council of Churches. Its earlier, long-lasting preoccupation with the interrelated issues of ministry and eucharist has contributed, I suggest, to an ecumenical undervaluing of baptism, which finds a parallel in evangelical Christianity. Both main traditions have for too long given inadequate recognition to the constitutive and practical significance of baptism in New Testament Christianity. When ecumenical theologians tell us that the church is a eucharistic community, I respond that they would be far truer to the New Testament to call it a baptismal community. When they set before us the goal of intercommunion, I want to place a higher premium on interbaptism.
Food for thought. Bold and italics are mine.


Halden said…
I've felt this way for a long time. The whole mode of ecumenism that is fixated on finding a way to take eucharist together seems to me to miss this fundamental point.
I wouldn't say that it misses the point; I would say that it is working a bit further down stream than necessary.
Brad East said…
Great quote, and great point. What is interesting about the Eucharist is that it is not always about differing forms of (external/visible) praxis, but in differing ways of understanding what is happening during the act itself. What of whom is that representative? The clergy? A few educated members of the congregation?

With baptism, though not totally differentiated, it is interesting that the form of the practice itself is in question (along with, of course, questions of what is happening). In any case, thanks for this quote.

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