Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry

Preface

The World Council of Churches is “a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Constitution).

The World Council is here clearly defined. It is not a universal authority controlling what Christians should believe and do. After only three decades, however, it has already become a remarkable community of some three hundred members. These churches represent a rich diversity of cultural backgrounds and traditions, worship in dozens of languages, and live under every kind of political system. Yet they are all committed to close collaboration in Christian witness and service. At the same time, they are also striving together to realize the goal of visible Church unity.

To assist the churches towards this goal, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council provides theological support for the efforts the churches are making towards unity. Indeed the Commission has been charged by the Council members to keep always before them their accepted obligation to work towards manifesting more visibly God’s gift of Church unity.

So it is that the stated aim of the Commission is “to proclaim the oneness of the Church of Jesus Christ and to call the churches to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, in order that the world might believe” (By-Laws).

If the divided churches are to achieve the visible unity they seek, one of the essential prerequisites is that they should be in basic agreement on baptism, eucharist and ministry. Naturally, therefore, the Faith and Order Commission has devoted a good deal of attention to overcoming doctrinal division on these three. During the last fifty years, most of its conferences have had one or another of these subjects at the center of discussion.

The three statements are the fruit of a 50-year process of study stretching back to the first Faith and Order Conference at Lausanne in 1927. The material has been discussed and revised by the Faith and Order Commission at Accra (1974), Bangalore (1978) and Lima (1982). Between the Plenary Commission meetings, a steering group on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry has worked further on the drafting, especially after September 1979 under the presidency of Frere Max Thurian of the Taize Community.

The ecumenical documents also reflect ongoing consultation and collaboration between the Commission members (approved by the churches) and with the local churches themselves. The World Council’s Fifth Assembly (Nairobi 1975) authorized the distribution for the churches’ study of an earlier draft text (Faith and Order Paper No. 73). Most significantly, over a hundred churches from virtually every geographical area and ecclesiastical tradition returned detailed comments. These were carefully analyzed at a 1977 consultation in Cret-Berard (Faith and Order Paper No. 84).

Meanwhile particularly difficult problems were also analyzed at special ecumenical consultations held on the theses of infant and believers’ baptism in Louisville, 1978 (Faith and Order Paper No. 97), on episkope (oversight) and the episcopate in Geneva, 1979 (Faith and Order Paper No. 102). The draft text was also reviewed by representatives of Orthodox Churches in Chambesy, 1979. In conclusion, the Faith and Order Commission was again authorized by the World Council’s Central Committee (Dresden, 1981) to transmit its finally revised document (the “Lima text” of 1982) to the churches, along with the request for their official response as a vital step in the ecumenical process of reception.

This work has not been achieved by the Faith and Order Commission alone. Baptism, eucharist and ministry have been investigated in many ecumenical dialogues. The two main types of interchurch conversations, the bilateral and the multilateral, have proved to be complementary and mutually beneficial. This is clearly demonstrated in the three reports of the Forum on Bilateral Conversations: “Concepts of Unity” (1978), “Consensus on Agreed Statements” (1979), and “Authority and Reception” (1980), subsequently published in Faith and Order Paper No. 107. Consequently, the Faith and Order Commission in its own multilateral consideration of the three themes has tried to build as much as possible on the specific findings of the bilateral conversations. Indeed, one of the tasks of the Commission is to evaluate the net result of all these particular efforts for the ecumenical movement as a whole.

Also important for the development of this text has been the witness of local churches which have already gone through the process of uniting across confessional division. It is important to acknowledge that the search for local church union and the search for universal consensus are intimately linked.

Perhaps even more influential than the official studies are the changes which are taking place within the life of the churches themselves. We live in a crucial moment in the history of humankind. As the churches grow into unity, they are asking how their understandings and practices of baptism, eucharist and ministry relate to their mission in and for the renewal of human community as they seek to promote justice, peace and reconciliation. Therefore our understanding of these cannot be divorced from the redemptive and liberating mission of Christ through the churches in the modern world.

Indeed, as a result of biblical and patristic studies, together with the liturgical revival and the need for common witness, an ecumenical fellowship has come into being which often cuts across confessional boundaries and within which former differences are now seen in a new light. Hence, although the language of the text is still largely classical in reconciling historical controversies, the driving force is frequently contextual and contemporary. This spirit will likely stimulate many reformulations of the text into the varied language(s) of our time.

Where have these efforts brought us? As demonstrated in the Lima text, we have already achieved a remarkable degree of agreement. Certainly we have not yet fully reached “consensus” (consentire), understood here as that experience of life and articulation of faith necessary to realize and maintain the Church’s visible unity. Such consensus is rooted in the communion built on Jesus Christ and the witness of the apostles. As a gift of the Spirit it is realized as a communal experience before it can be articulated by common efforts into words. Full consensus can only be proclaimed after the churches reach the point of living and acting together in unity.

On the way towards their goal of visible unity, however, the churches will have to pass through various stages. They have been blessed anew through listening to each other and jointly returning to the primary sources, namely “the Tradition of the Gospel testified in Scripture, transmitted in and by the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Faith and Order World Conference, 1963).

In leaving behind the hostilities of the past, the churches have begun to discover many promising convergences in their shared convictions and perspectives.

These convergences give assurance that despite much diversity in theological expression the churches have much in common in their understanding of the faith. The resultant text aims to become part of a faithful and sufficient reflection of the common Christian Tradition on essential elements of Christian communion. In the process of growing together in mutual trust, the churches must develop these doctrinal convergences step by step, until they are finally able to declare together that they are living in communion with one another in continuity with the apostles and the teachings of the universal Church.

This Lima text represents the significant theological convergence which Faith and Order has discerned and formulated. Those who know how widely the churches have differed in doctrine and practice on baptism, eucharist and ministry, will appreciate the importance of the large measure of agreement registered here.

Virtually all the confessional traditions are included in the Commission’s membership. The theologians of such widely different traditions should be able to speak so harmoniously about baptism, eucharist and ministry is unprecedented in the modern ecumenical movement. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the Commission also includes among its full members theologians of the Roman Catholic and other churches which do not belong to the World Council of Churches itself.

In the course of critical evaluation the primary purpose of this ecumenical text must be kept in mind. Readers should not expect to find a complete theological treatment of baptism, eucharist and ministry. That would be neither appropriate nor desirable here. The agreed text purposely concentrates on those aspects of the theme that have been directly or indirectly related to the problems of mutual recognition leading to unity. The main text demonstrates the major areas of theological convergence; the added commentaries either indicate historical differences that have been overcome or identify disputed issues still in need of further research and reconciliation.

In the light of all these developments, the Faith and Order Commission now presents this Lima text (1982) to the churches. We do so with deep conviction, for we have become increasingly aware of our unity in the body of Christ. We have found reason to rejoice in the rediscovery of the richness of our common inheritance in the Gospel. We believe that the Holy spirit has led us to this time, a kairos of the ecumenical movement when sadly divided churches have been enabled to arrive at substantial theological agreements. We believe that many significant advances are possible if in our churches we are sufficiently courageous and imaginative to embrace God’s gift of Church unity.

As concrete evidence of their ecumenical commitment, the churches are being asked to enable the widest possible involvement of the whole people of God at all levels of church life in the spiritual process of receiving this text. Specific suggestions relating to its use in the worship, witness and study of men and women in the churches is included as an appendix to the document.

The Faith and Order Commission now respectfully invites all churches to prepare an official response to this text at the highest appropriate level of authority, whether it be a council, synod, conference, assembly or other body. In support of this process of reception, the Commission would be pleased to know as precisely as possible

  • the extent to which your church can recognize in this text the faith of the Church through the ages;

  • the consequences your church can draw from this text for its relations and dialogues with other churches, particularly with those churches which also recognize the text as an expression of the apostolic faith;

  • the guidance your church can take from this text for its worship, educational, ethical, and spiritual life and witness;

  • the suggestions your church can make for the ongoing work of Faith and Order as it relates the material of this text on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry to its long-range research project “Towards the Common Expression of the Apostolic Faith Today.”

It is our intention to compare all the official replies received, to publish the results, and to analyze the ecumenical implications for the churches at a future World Conference on Faith and Order.

All responses to these questions should be sent by 31 December 1984 to the Faith and Order Secretariat, World Council of Churches, 150 route de Ferney, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland.

William H. Lazareth
Director of the Secretariat on Faith and Order

Nikos Nissioti
Moderator of the Commission on Faith and Order

Baptism

I. The Institution of Baptism

  1. Christian baptism is rooted in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, in his death and in his resurrection. It is the incorporation into Christ, who is the crucified and risen Lord; it is entry into the New Covenant between God and God’s people. Baptism is a gift of God, and is administered in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. St. Matthew records that the risen Lord, when sending his disciples into the world, commanded them to baptize (Matt. 28:18-20). The universal practice of baptism by the apostolic Church from its earliest days is attested in letters of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, and the writings of the Fathers. The churches today continue this practice as a rite of commitment to the Lord who bestows his grace upon his people.

II. The Meaning of Baptism

2. Baptism is the sign of new life through Jesus Christ. It unites the one baptized with Christ and with his people. The New Testament scriptures and the liturgy of the Church unfold the meaning of baptism in various images which express the riches of Christ and the gifts of his salvation. These images are sometimes linked with the symbolic uses of water in the Old Testament. Baptism is participation in Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12); a washing away of sin (1 Cor. 6:11); a new birth (John 3:5); an enlightenment by Christ (Eph. 5:14); a reclothing in Christ (Gal. 3:27); a renewal by the Spirit (Titus 3:5); the experience of salvation from the flood (1 Peter 3:20-21); an exodus from bondage (1 Cor. 10:1-2) and a liberation into a new humanity in which barriers of division whether of sex or race or social status are transcended (Gal. 3:27-28; 1 Cor. 12:13). The images are many but the reality is one.

A. Participation in Christ’s Death and Resurrection

3. Baptism means participating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus went down into the river Jordan and was baptized in solidarity with sinners in order to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15). This baptism led Jesus along the way of the Suffering Servant, made manifest in his sufferings, death and resurrection (Mark 10:38-40, 45). By baptism, Christians are immersed in the liberating death of Christ where their sins are buried, where “old Adam” is crucified with Christ, and where the power of sin is broken. Thus those baptized are no longer slaves to sin, but free. Fully identified with the death of Christ, they are buried with him and are raised here and now to a new life in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, confident that they will also ultimately be one with him in resurrection like his (Rom. 6:3-11; Col. 2:13, 3:1; Eph. 2:5-6).

B. Conversion, Pardoning and Cleansing

4. The baptism which makes Christians partakers of the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection implies confession of sin and conversion of heart.

The baptism administered by John was itself a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). The New Testament underlines the ethical implications of baptism by representing it as an ablution which washes the body with pure water, a cleansing of the heart of all sin, and an act of justification (Heb. 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11). Thus those baptized are pardoned, cleansed and sanctified by Christ, and are given as part of their baptismal experience a new ethical orientation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

C. The Gift of the Spirit

5. The Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of people before, in and after their baptism. It is the same Spirit who revealed Jesus as the Son (Mark 1:10-11) and who empowered and united the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2). God bestows upon all baptized persons the anointing and the promise of the Holy Spirit, marks them with a seal and implants in their hearts the first installment of their inheritance as sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit nurtures the life of faith in their hearts until the final deliverance when they will enter into its full possession, to the praise of the glory of God (2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14).

D. Incorporation into the Body of Christ

6. Administered in obedience to our Lord, baptism is a sign and seal of our common discipleship. Through baptism, Christians are brought into union with Christ, with each other and with the Church of every time and place. Our common baptism, which unites us to Christ in faith, is thus a basic bond of unity. We are one people and are called to confess and serve one Lord in each place and in the world. The union with Christ which we share through baptism has important implications for Christian unity. “There is . . . one baptism, one God and Father of us all . . .” (Eph. 4:4-6). When baptismal unity is realized in one holy, catholic, apostolic Church, a genuine Christian witness can be made to the healing and reconciling love of God. Therefore, our one baptism into Christ constitutes a call to the churches to overcome their divisions and visibly manifest their fellowship.

COMMENTARY

The inability of the churches mutually to recognize their various practices of baptism as sharing in one baptism, and their actual dividedness in spite of mutual baptismal recognition, have given dramatic visibility to the broken witness of the Church. The readiness of the churches in some places and times to allow differences of sex, race, or social status to divide the body of Christ has further called into question genuine baptismal unity of the Christian community (Gal. 3:27-28) and has seriously compromised its witness. The need to recover baptismal unity is at the heart of the ecumenical task as it is central for the realization of genuine partnership within the Christian communities.

E. The Sign of the Kingdom

Baptism initiates the reality of the new life given in the midst of the present world. It gives participation in the community of the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of the Kingdom of God and of the life of the world to come. Through the gifts of faith, hope and love, baptism has a dynamic which embraces the whole of life, extends to all nations, and anticipates the day when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

III. Baptism and Faith

8. Baptism is both God’s gift and our human response to that gift. It looks towards a growth into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). The necessity of faith for the reception of the salvation embodied and set forth in baptism is acknowledged by all churches. Personal commitment is necessary for responsible membership in the body of Christ.

9. Baptism is related not only to momentary experience, but to life-long growth into Christ. Those baptized are called upon to reflect the glory of the Lord as they are transformed by the poser of the Holy Spirit, into his likeness, with ever increasing splendor (2 Cor. 3:18). The life of the Christian is necessarily one of continuing struggle yet also of continuing experience of grace. In this new relationship, the baptized live for the sake of Christ, of his Church and of the world which he loves, while they wait in hope for the manifestation of God’s new creation and for the time when God will be all in all (Rom. 8:18-24; 1 Cor. 15:22- 28, 49-57).

10. As they grow in the Christian life of faith, baptized believers demonstrate that humanity can be regenerated and liberated. They have a common responsibility, here and now, to bear witness together to the gospel of Christ, the Liberator of all human beings. The context of this common witness is the Church and the world. Within a fellowship of witness and service, Christians discover the full significance of the one baptism as the gift of God to all God’s people. Likewise, they acknowledge that baptism, as a baptism into Christ’s death, has ethical implications which not only call for personal sanctification, but also motivate Christians to strive for the realization of the will of God in all realms of life (Rom. 6:9ff, Gal. 3:27-28; 1 Peter 2:21–4:6).

IV. Baptismal Practice

A. Baptism of Believers and Infants

11. While the possibility that infant baptism was also practiced in the apostolic age cannot be excluded, baptism upon personal profession of faith is the most clearly attested pattern in the New Testament documents.

In the course of history, the practice of baptism has developed in a variety of forms. Some churches baptize infants brought by parents or guardians who are

ready, in and with the Church, to bring up the children in the Christian faith. Other churches practice exclusively the baptism of believers who are able to make a personal confession of faith. Some of these churches encourage infants or children to be presented and blessed in a service which usually involves thanksgiving for the gift of the child and also the commitment of the mother and father to Christian parenthood.

All churches baptize believers coming from other religions or from unbelief who accept the Christian faith and participate in catechetical instruction.

12. Both the baptism of believers and the baptism of infants take place in the Church as the community of faith. When one who can answer for himself is baptized, a personal confession of faith will be an integral part of the baptismal service. When an infant is baptized, the personal response will be offered at a later moment in life. In both cases, the baptized person will have to grow in the understanding of faith. For those baptized upon their own confession of faith, there is always the constant requirement of a continuing growth of personal response in faith. In the case of infants, personal confession is expected later, and Christian nurture is directed to the eliciting of this confession. All baptism is rooted in and declares Christ’s faithfulness unto death. It has its setting within the life and faith of the Church and, through the witness of the whole Church, points to the faithfulness of God, the ground of all life in faith. At every baptism the whole congregation reaffirms its faith in God and pledges itself to provide an environment of witness and service. Baptism should, therefore, always be celebrated and developed in the setting of the Christian community.

COMMENTARY

When the expressions “infant baptism “and “believers’ baptism” are used, it is necessary to keep in mind that the real distinction is between those who baptize people at any age and those who baptize only those able to make a confession of faith for themselves. The differences between infant and believers’ baptism become less sharp when it is recognized that both forms of baptism embody God’s own initiative in Christ and express a response of faith made within the believing community.

The practice of infant baptism emphasizes the corporate faith and the faith which the child shares with its parents. The infant is born into a broken world and shares in its brokenness. Through baptism, the promise and claim of the Gospel are laid upon the child. The personal faith of the recipient of baptism and faithful participation in the life of the Church are essential for the full fruit of baptism.

The practice of believers’ baptism emphasizes the explicit confession of the person who responds to the grace of God in and through the community of faith and who seeks baptism.

Both forms of baptism require a similar and responsible attitude towards Christian nurture. A rediscovery of the continuing character of Christian nurture may facilitate the mutual acceptance of different initiation practices.

In some churches which unite both infant-baptist and believer-baptist traditions, it has been possible to regard as equivalent alternatives for entry into the Church both a pattern whereby baptism in infancy is followed by later profession of faith and a pattern whereby believers’ baptism follows upon a presentation and blessing in infancy. This example invites other churches to decide whether they, too, could not recognize equivalent alternatives in their reciprocal relationships and in church union negotiations.

Baptism is an unrepeatable act. Any practice which might be interpreted as “re-baptism” must be avoided.

COMMENTARY

Churches which have insisted on a particular form of baptism or which have had serious questions about the authenticity of other churches’ sacraments and ministries have at times required persons coming from other church traditions to be baptized before being received into full communicant membership. As the churches come to fuller mutual understanding and acceptance of one another and enter into closer relationships in witness and service, they will want to refrain from any practice which might call into question the sacramental integrity of other churches or which might diminish the unrepeatability of the sacrament of baptism.

B. Baptism—Chrismation—Confirmation

14. In God’s work of salvation, the paschal mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection is inseparably linked with the pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, participation in Christ’s death and resurrection is inseparably linked with the receiving of the Spirit. Baptism in its full meaning signifies and effects both.

Christians differ in their understanding as to where the sign of the gift of the Spirit is to be found. Different actions have become associated with the giving of the Spirit. For some it is the water rite itself. For others, it is the anointing with chrism and/or the imposition of hands, which many churches call confirmation. For still others it is all three, as they see the Spirit operative throughout the rite. All agree that Christian baptism is in water and the Holy Spirit.

COMMENTARY

Within some traditions it is explained that a baptism conforms us to Christ crucified, buried and risen, so through chrismation Christians receive the gift of the pentecostal Spirit from the anointed Son.

If baptism, as incorporation into the body of Christ, points by its very nature to the eucharistic sharing of Christ’s body and blood, the question arises as to how a further and separate rite can be interposed between baptism and admission to communion. Those churches which baptize children but refuse them a share in the eucharist before such a rite may with to ponder whether they have fully appreciated and accepted the consequences of baptism.

Baptism needs to be constantly reaffirmed. The most obvious form of such reaffirmation is the celebration of the eucharist. The renewal of baptismal vows may also take place during such occasions as the annual celebration of the paschal mystery or during the baptism of others.

C. Towards Mutual Recognition of Baptism

15. Churches are increasingly recognizing one another’s baptism as the one baptism into Christ when Jesus Christ has been confessed as Lord by the candidate or, in the case of infant baptism, when confession has been made by the church (parents, guardians, godparents and congregation) and affirmed later by personal faith and commitment. Mutual recognition of baptism is acknowledged as an important sign and means of expressing the baptismal unity given in Christ. Wherever possible, mutual recognition should be expressed explicitly by the churches.

16. In order to overcome their differences, believer baptists and those who practice infant baptism should reconsider certain aspects of their practices. The first may seek to express more visibly the fact that children are placed under the protection of God’s grace. The latter must guard themselves against the practice of apparently indiscriminate baptism and take more seriously their responsibility for the nurture of baptized children to mature commitment to Christ.

V. The Celebration of Baptism

17. Baptism is administered with water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

18. In the celebration of baptism the symbolic dimension of water should be taken seriously and not minimalized. The act of immersion can vividly express the reality that in baptism the Christian participates in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

COMMENTARY

As seen in some theological traditions, the use of water, with all its positive associations with life and blessing, signifies the continuity between the old and the new creation, thus revealing the significance of baptism not only for human beings but also for the whole cosmos. At the same time, the use of water represents a purification of creation, a dying to that which is negative and

destructive in the world: those who are baptized into the body of Christ are made partakers of a renewed existence.

As was the case in the early centuries, the gift of the Spirit in baptism may be signified in additional ways; for example, by the sign of the laying on of hands, and by anointing or chrismation. The very sign of the cross recalls the promised gift of the Holy spirit who is the installment and pledge of what is yet to come when God has fully redeemed those whom he has made his own (Eph. 1:13-14). The recovery of such vivid signs may be expected to enrich the liturgy.

Within any comprehensive order of baptism at least the following elements should find a place: the proclamation of the scriptures referring to baptism; an invocation of the Holy Spirit; a renunciation of evil; a profession of faith in Christ and the Holy Trinity; the use of water; a declaration that the persons baptized have acquired a new identity as sons and daughters of God, and as members of the Church, called to be witnesses of the Gospel. Some churches consider that Christian initiation is not complete without the sealing of the baptized with the gift of the Holy Spirit and participation in holy communion.

It is appropriate to explain in the context of the baptismal service the meaning of baptism as it appears from scriptures (i.e. the participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, conversion, pardoning and cleansing, gift of the Spirit, incorporation into the body of Christ and sign of the Kingdom).

COMMENTARY

Recent discussion indicates that more attention should be given to misunderstandings encouraged by the socio-cultural context in which baptism takes place.

In some parts of the world, the giving of a name in the baptismal liturgy has led to confusion between baptism and customs surrounding name-giving. This confusion is especially harmful if, in cultures predominantly not Christian, the baptized are required to assume Christian names not rooted in their cultural tradition. In making regulations for baptism, churches should be careful to keep the emphasis on the true Christian significance of baptism and to avoid unnecessarily alienating the baptized from their local culture through the imposition of foreign names. A name which is inherited from one’s original culture roots the baptized in that culture, and at the same time manifests the universality of baptism, incorporation into the one Church, holy, catholic and apostolic, which stretches over all the nations of the earth.

In many large European and North American majority churches infant baptism is often practiced in an apparently indiscriminate way. This contributes to the reluctance of churches which practice believer’s baptism to acknowledge the validity of infant baptism; this fact should lead to more critical reflection on the meaning of baptism within those majority churches themselves.

Some African churches practice baptism of the Holy Spirit without water, through the laying on of hands, while recognizing other churches’ baptism. A study is required concerning this practice and its relation to baptism with water.

Baptism is normally administered by an ordained minister, though in certain circumstances others are allowed to baptize.

Since baptism is intimately connected with the corporate life and worship of the Church, it should normally be administered during public worship, so that the members of the congregation may be reminded of their own baptism and may welcome into their fellowship those who are baptized and whom they are committed to nurture in the Christian faith. The sacrament is appropriate to great festival occasions such as Easter, Pentecost and Epiphany, as was the practice in the early Church.

Eucharist

I. The Institution of the Eucharist

  1. The Church receives the eucharist as a gift from the Lord. St. Paul wrote: “I have received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said: ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance (anamnesis) of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.‘” (1 Cor. 11:23-25; cf. Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20).

The meals which Jesus is recorded as sharing during his earthly ministry proclaim and enact the nearness of the Kingdom, of which the feeding of the multitudes is a sign. In his last meal, the fellowship of the Kingdom was connected with the imminence of Jesus’ suffering. After his resurrection, the lord made his presence known to his disciples in the breaking of the bread. Thus the eucharist continues these meals of Jesus during his earthly life and after his resurrection, always as a sign of the Kingdom. Christians see the eucharist prefigured in the Passover memorial of Israel’s deliverance from the land of bondage and in the meal of the Covenant on Mount Sinai (Ex. 24). It is the new paschal meal of the Church, the meal of the New Covenant, which Christ gave to his disciples as the anamnesis of his death and resurrection, as the anticipation of the Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). Christ commanded his disciples thus to remember and encounter him in this sacramental meal, as the continuing people of God, until his return. The last meal celebrated by Jesus was a liturgical meal employing symbolic words and actions. Consequently the eucharist is a sacramental meal which by visible signs communicates to us God’s love in Jesus Christ, the love by which Jesus loved his own “to the end” (John 13:1). It has acquired many names: for example, the Lord’s Supper, the breaking of bread, the holy communion, the divine liturgy, the mass. Its celebration continues as the central act of the Church’s worship.

II. The Meaning of the Eucharist

2. The eucharist is essentially the sacrament of the gift which God makes to us in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian receives this gift of salvation through communion in the body and blood of Christ. In the eucharistic meal, in the eating and drinking of the bread and wine, Christ grants communion with himself. God himself acts, giving life to the body of Christ and renewing each member. In accordance with Christ’s promise, each baptized member of the body of Christ receives in the eucharist the assurance of the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28) and the pledge of eternal life (John 6:51-58). Although the eucharist is essentially one complete act, it will be considered here under the following aspects: thanksgiving to the Father, memorial of Christ, invocation of the Spirit, communion of the faithful, meal of the Kingdom.

A. The Eucharist as Thanksgiving to the Father

3. The eucharist, which always includes both word and sacrament, is a proclamation and a celebration of the work of God. It is the great thanksgiving to the Father for everything accomplished in creation, redemption and sanctification, for everything accomplished by God now in the Church and in the world in spite of the sins of human beings, for everything that God will accomplish in bringing the Kingdom to fulfillment. Thus the eucharist is the benediction (berakah) by which the Church expresses its thankfulness for all God’s benefits.

4. The eucharist is the great sacrifice of praise by which the Church speaks on behalf of the whole creation. For the world which God has reconciled is present at every eucharist: in the bread and wine, in the persons of the faithful, and in the prayers they offer for themselves and for all people. Christ unites the faithful with himself and includes their prayers within his own intercession so that the faithful are transfigured and their prayers accepted. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ, with him and in him. The bread and wine, fruits of the earth and of human labor, are presented to the Father in faith and thanksgiving. The eucharist thus signifies what the world is to become: an offering and hymn of praise to the Creator, a universal communion in the body of Christ, a kingdom of justice, love and peace in the Holy Spirit.

B. The Eucharist as Anamnesis or Memorial of Christ

5. The eucharist is the memorial of the crucified and risen Christ, i.e., the living and effective sign of his sacrifice, accomplished once and for all on the cross and still operative on behalf of all humankind. The biblical idea of memorial as applied to the eucharist refers to this present efficacy of God’s work when it is celebrated by God’s people in a liturgy.

6. Christ himself with all that he has accomplished for us and for all creation (in his incarnation, servanthood, ministry, teaching, suffering, sacrifice, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Spirit) is present in this anamnesis, granting us communion with himself. The eucharist is also the foretaste of his parousia and of the final kingdom.

7. The anamnesis in which Christ acts through the joyful celebration of his Church is thus both representation and anticipation. It is not only a calling to mind of what is past and of its significance. It is the Church’s effective proclamation of God’s mighty acts and promises.

8. Representation and anticipation are expressed in thanksgiving and intercession. The Church, gratefully recalling God’s mighty acts of redemption, beseeches God to give the benefits of these acts to every human being. In thanksgiving and intercession, the Church is united with the Son, its great High Priest and Intercessor (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). The eucharist is the sacrament of the unique sacrifice of Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for us. It is the memorial of all that God has done for the salvation of the world. What it was God’s will to accomplish in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, God does not repeat. These events are unique and can neither be repeated nor prolonged. In the memorial of the eucharist, however, the Church offers its intercession in communion with Christ, our great High Priest.

COMMENTARY

It is in the light of the significance of the eucharist as intercession that references to the eucharist in Catholic theology as “propitiatory sacrifice” may be understood. The understanding is that there is only one expiation, that of the unique sacrifice of the cross, made actual in the eucharist and presented before the Father in the intercession of Christ and of the Church for all humanity.

In the light of the biblical conception of memorial, all churches might want to review the old controversies about “sacrifice” and deepen their understanding of the reasons why other traditions than their own have either used or rejected this term.

9. The anamnesis of Christ is the basis and source of all Christian prayer. So our prayer relies upon and is united with the continual intercession of the risen Lord. In the eucharist, Christ empowers us to live with him, to suffer with him and to pray through him as justified sinners, joyfully and freely fulfilling his will.

10. In Christ we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice in our daily lives (Rom. 12; 1 Peter 2:5); this spiritual worship, acceptable to God, is nourished in the eucharist, in which we are sanctified and reconciled in love, in order to be servants of reconciliation in the world.

11. United to our Lord and in communion with all the saints and martyrs, we are renewed in the covenant sealed by the blood of Christ.

12. Since the anamnesis of Christ is the very content of the preached Word as it is of the eucharistic meal, each reinforces the other. The celebration of the eucharist properly includes the proclamation of the Word.

13. The words and acts of Christ at the institution of the eucharist stand at the heart of the celebration; the eucharistic meal is the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, the sacrament of his real presence. Christ fulfills in a variety of ways his promise to be always with his own even to the end of the world. But Christ’s mode of presence in the eucharist is unique. Jesus said over the bread and wine of the eucharist: “This is my body . . . this is my blood . . .” What Christ declared is true, and this truth is fulfilled every time the eucharist is celebrated.

The Church confesses Christ’s real, living and active presence in the eucharist. While Christ’s real presence in the eucharist does not depend on the faith of the individual, all agree that to discern the body and blood of Christ, faith is required.

COMMENTARY

Many churches believe that by the words of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine of the eucharist become, in a real though mysterious manner, the body and blood of the risen Christ, i. e., of the living Christ present in all his fullness. Under the signs of bread and wine, the deepest reality is the total being of Christ who comes to us in order to feed us and transform our entire being. Some other churches, while affirming a real presence of Christ at the eucharist, do not link that presence so definitely with the signs of bread and wine. The decision remains for the churches whether this difference can be accommodated within the convergence formulated in the text itself.

C. The Eucharist as Invocation of the Spirit

14. The Spirit makes the crucified and risen Christ really present to us in the eucharistic meal, fulfilling the promise contained in the words of institution. The presence of Christ is clearly the center of the eucharist, and the promise contained in the words of institution is therefore fundamental to the celebration. Yet it is the Father who is the primary origin and final fulfillment of the eucharistic event. The incarnate Son of God by and in whom it is accomplished is its living center. The Holy Spirit is the immeasurable strength of love which makes it possible and continues to make it effective. The bond between the eucharistic celebration and the mystery of the Triune God reveals the role of the Holy Spirit as that of the One who makes the historical words of Jesus present and alive. Being assured by Jesus’ promise in the words of institution that it will be answered, the Church prays to the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit in order that the eucharistic event may be a reality: the real presence of the crucified and risen Christ giving his life for all humanity.

COMMENTARY

This is not to spiritualize the eucharistic presence of Christ but to affirm the indissoluble union between the Son and the Spirit. This union makes it clear that the eucharist is not a magical or mechanical action but a prayer addressed to the Father, one which emphasizes the Church’s utter dependence. There is an intrinsic relationship between the words of institution, Christ’s promise, and the epiklesis, the invocation of the Spirit, in the liturgy, the epiklesis in relation to the words of institution is located differently in various liturgical traditions. In the early liturgies the whole “prayer action” was thought of as bringing about the reality promised by Christ. The invocation of the Spirit was made both on the community and on the elements of bread and wine. Recovery of such an understanding may help us overcome our difficulties concerning a special moment of consecration.

It is in virtue of the living word of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit that the bread and wine become the sacramental signs of Christ’s body and blood. They remain so for the purpose of communion.

COMMENTARY

In the history of the Church there have been various attempts to understand the mystery of the real and unique presence of Christ in the eucharist. Some are content merely to affirm the presence without seeking to explain it. Others consider it necessary to assert a change wrought by the Holy spirit and Christ’s words, in consequence of which there is no longer just ordinary bread and wine but the body and blood of Christ. Others again have developed an explanation of the real presence which, though not claiming to exhaust the significance of the mystery, seeks to protect it from damaging interpretations.

The whole action of the eucharist has an “epikletic” character because it depends upon the work of the Holy Spirit. In the words of the liturgy, this aspect of the eucharist finds varied expression.

The Church, as the community of the covenant, confidently invokes the Spirit, in order that it may be sanctified and renewed, led into all justice, truth and unity, and empowered to fulfill its mission in the world.

The Holy Spirit through the eucharist gives a foretaste of the Kingdom of God: the Church receives the life of the new creation and the assurance of the Lord’s return.

D. The Eucharist as Communion of the Faithful

19. The eucharistic communion with Christ who nourishes the life of the Church is at the same time communion within the body of Christ which is the Church. The sharing in one bread and the common cup in a given place demonstrates and effects the oneness of the sharers with Christ and with their fellow sharers in all times and places. It is in the eucharist that the community of God’s people is fully manifested. Eucharistic celebrations always have to do with the whole Church, and the whole Church is involved in each local eucharistic celebration. In so far as a church claims to be a manifestation of the whole Church, it will take care to order its own life in ways which take seriously the interests and concerns of other churches.

COMMENTARY

Since the earliest days, baptism has been understood as the sacrament by which believers are incorporated into the body of Christ and are endowed with the Holy Spirit. As long as the right of the baptized believers and their ministers to participate in and preside over eucharistic celebration in one church is called into question by those who preside over and are members of other eucharistic congregations, the catholicity of the eucharist is less manifest. There is discussion in many churches today about the inclusion of baptized children as communicants at the Lord’s Supper.

20. The eucharist embraces all aspects of life. It is a representative act of thanksgiving and offering on behalf of the whole world. The eucharistic celebration demands reconciliation and sharing among all those regarded as brothers and sisters in the one family of God and is a constant challenge in the search for appropriate relationships in social, economic and political life (Matt. 5:23f; 1 Cor. 10:16f; 1 Cor. 11:20-22; Gal. 3:28). All kinds of injustice, racism, separation and lack of freedom are radically challenged when we share in the body and blood of Christ. Through the eucharist the all-renewing grace of God penetrates and restores human personality and dignity. The eucharist involves the believer in the central event of the world’s history. As participants in the eucharist, therefore, we prove inconsistent if we are not actively participating in this ongoing restoration of the world’s situation and the human condition. The eucharist shows us that our behavior is inconsistent in face of the reconciling presence of God in human history: we are placed under continual judgment by the persistence of unjust relationships of all kinds in our society, the manifold divisions on account of human pride, material interest and power politics and, above all, the obstinacy of unjustifiable confessional oppositions within the body of Christ.

21. Solidarity in the eucharistic communion of the body of Christ and responsible care of Christians for one another and the world find specific expression in the liturgies: in the mutual forgiveness of sins; the sign of peace; intercession for all; the eating and drinking together; the taking of the elements to the sick and those in prison or the celebration of the eucharist with them. All these manifestations of love in the eucharist are directly related to Christ’s own testimony as a servant, in whose servanthood Christians themselves participate. As God in Christ has entered into the human situation, so eucharistic liturgy is near to the concrete and particular situations of men and women. In the early Church the ministry of deacons and deaconesses gave expression in a special way to this aspect of the eucharist. The place of such ministry between the table and the needy properly testifies to the redeeming presence of Christ in the world.

E. The Eucharist as Meal of the Kingdom

22. The eucharist opens up the vision of the divine rule which has been promised as the final renewal of creation, and is a foretaste of it. Signs of this renewal are present in the world wherever the grace of God is manifest and human beings work for justice, love and peace. The eucharist is the feast at which the Church gives thanks to God for these signs and joyfully celebrates and anticipates the coming of the Kingdom in Christ (1 Cor. 11:26; Matt. 26:29).

23. The world, to which renewal is promised, is present in the whole eucharistic celebration. The world is present in the thanksgiving to the Father, where the Church speaks on behalf of the whole creation; in the memorial of Christ, where the Church, united with its great High Priest and Intercessor, prays for the world; in the prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, where the Church asks for sanctification and new creation.

24. Reconciled in the eucharist, the members of the body of Christ are called to be servants of reconciliation among men and women and witnesses of the joy of resurrection. As Jesus went out to publicans and sinners and had table-fellowship with them during his earthly ministry, so Christians are called in the eucharist to be in solidarity with the outcast and to become signs of the love of Christ who lived and sacrificed himself for all and now gives himself in the eucharist.

25. The very celebration of the eucharist is an instance of the Church’s participation in God’s mission to the world. This participation takes everyday form in the proclamation of the Gospel, service of the neighbor, and faithful presence in the world.

26. As it is entirely the gift of God, the eucharist brings into the present age a new reality which transforms Christians into the image of Christ and therefore makes them his effective witnesses. The eucharist is precious food for missionaries, bread and wine for pilgrims on their apostolic journey. The eucharist community is nourished and strengthened for confessing by word and action the Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for the salvation of the world. As it becomes one people, sharing the meal of the one Lord, the eucharist assembly must be concerned for gathering also those who are at present beyond its visible limits, because Christ invited to his feast all for whom he died. Insofar as Christians cannot unite in full fellowship around the same table to eat the same loaf and drink from the same cut, their missionary witness is weakened at both the individual and the corporate levels.

III. The Celebration of the Eucharist

27. The eucharistic liturgy is essentially a single whole, consisting historically of the following elements in varying sequence and of diverse importance:

  • hymns of praise;
  • act of repentance;
  • declaration of pardon;
  • proclamation of the Word of God, in various forms;
  • confession of faith (creed);
  • intercession for the whole Church and for the world;
  • preparation of the bread and wine;
  • thanksgiving to the Father for the marvels of creation, redemption and sanctification (deriving from the Jewish tradition of the berakah);
  • the words of Christ’s institution of the sacrament according to the New Testament tradition;
  • the anamnesis or memorial of the great acts of redemption, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, which brought the Church into being;
  • the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiklesis) on the community, and the elements of bread and wine (either before the words of institution or after the memorial, or both; or some other reference to the Holy Spirit which adequately expresses the “epikletic” character of the eucharist);
  • consecration of the faithful to God;
  • reference to the communion of saints;
  • prayer for the return of the Lord and the definitive manifestation of his Kingdom;
  • the Amen of the whole community;
  • the Lord’s prayer;
  • sign of reconciliation and peace;
  • the breaking of the bread;
  • eating and drinking in communion with Christ and with each member of the Church;
  • final act of praise;
  • blessing and sending.

28. The best way towards unity in eucharistic celebration and communion is the renewal of the eucharist itself in the different churches in regard to teaching the liturgy. The churches should test their liturgies in the light of the eucharistic agreement now in the process of attainment.

The liturgical reform movement has brought the churches closer together in the manner of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. However, a certain liturgical diversity compatible with our common eucharistic faith is recognized as a healthy and enriching fact. The affirmation of a common eucharistic faith does not imply uniformity in either liturgy or practice.

COMMENTARY

Since New Testament days, the Church has attached the greatest importance to the continued use of the elements of bread and wine which Jesus used at the Last Supper. In certain parts of the world, where bread and wine are not customary or obtainable, it is now sometimes held that local food and drink serve better to anchor the eucharist in everyday life. Further study is required concerning the question of which features of the Lord’s Supper were unchangeably instituted by Jesus, and which features remain within the Church’s competence to decide.

29. In the celebration of the eucharist, Christ gathers, teaches and nourishes the Church. It is Christ who invites to the meal and who presides at it. He is the shepherd who leads the people of God, the prophet who announces the word of God, the priest who celebrates the mystery of God. In most churches, this presidency is signified by an ordained minister. The one who presides at the eucharistic celebration in the name of Christ makes clear that the rite is not the assemblies’ own creation or possession; the eucharist is received as a gift from Christ living in his Church. The minister of the eucharist is the ambassador who represents the divine initiative and expresses the connection of the local community with other local communities in the universal Church.

30. Christian faith is deepened by the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Hence the eucharist should be celebrated frequently. Many differences of theology, liturgy and practice are connected with the varying frequency with which the Holy Communion is celebrated.

31. As the eucharist celebrates the resurrection of Christ, it is appropriate that it should take place at least every Sunday. As it is the new sacramental meal of the people of God, every Christian should be encouraged to receive communion frequently.

32. Some churches stress that Christ’s presence in the consecrated elements continues after the celebration. Others place the main emphasis on the act of celebration itself and on the consumption of the elements in the act of communion. The way in which the elements are treated requires special attention. Regarding the practice of reserving the elements, each church should respect the practices and piety of the others. Given the diversity in practice among the churches and at the same time taking note of the present situation in the convergence process, it is worthwhile to suggest:

  • that, on the one hand, it be remembered, especially in sermons and instruction, that the primary intention of reserving the elements is their distribution among the sick and those who are absent, and
  • on the other hand, it be recognized that the best way of showing respect for the elements served in the eucharistic celebration is by their consumption, without excluding their use for communion of the sick.

33. The increased mutual understanding expressed in the present statement may allow some churches to attain a greater measure of eucharistic communion among themselves and so bring close the day when Christ’s divided people will be visibly reunited around the Lord’s Table.

Ministry

I. The Calling of the Whole People of God

  1. In a broken world God calls the whole of humanity to become God’s people. For this purpose God chose Israel and then spoke in a unique and decisive way in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Jesus made his own the nature, condition and cause of the whole human race, giving himself as a sacrifice for all. Jesus’ life of service, his death and resurrection, are the foundation of a new community which is built up continually by the good news of the Gospel and the gifts of the sacraments. The Holy Spirit unites in a single body those who follow Jesus Christ and sends them as witnesses into the world. Belonging to the Church means living in communion with God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

2. The life of the Church is based on Christ’s victory over the power of evil and death, accomplished once for all. Christ offers forgiveness, invites to repentance and delivers from destruction. Through Christ, people are enabled to turn in praise to God and in service to their neighbors. In Christ they find the source of new life in freedom, mutual forgiveness and love. Through Christ their hearts and minds are directed to the consummation of the Kingdom where Christ’s victory will become manifest and all things made new. God’s purpose is that, in Jesus Christ, all people should share in this fellowship.

3. The Church lives through the liberating and renewing power of the Holy Spirit. That the Holy spirit was upon Jesus is evidenced in his baptism, and after the resurrection that same Spirit was given to those who believed in the risen Lord in order to recreate them as the body of Christ. The Spirit calls people to faith, sanctifies them through many gifts, gives them strength to witness to the Gospel, and empowers them to serve in hope and love. The Spirit keeps the Church in the truth and guides it despite the frailty of its members.

4. The Church is called to proclaim and prefigure the Kingdom of God. It accomplishes this by announcing the Gospel to the world and by its very existence as the body of Christ. In Jesus the Kingdom of God came among us. He offered salvation to sinners. He preached good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, liberation to the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Christ established a new access to the Father. Living in this communion with god, all members of the Church are called to confess their faith and to give account of their hope. They are to identify with the joys and sufferings of all people as they seek to witness in caring love. The members of Christ’s body are to struggle with the oppressed towards that freedom and dignity promised with the coming of the Kingdom. This mission needs to be carried out in varying political, social and cultural contexts. In order to fulfill this mission faithfully, they will seek relevant forms of witness and service in each situation. In so doing they bring to the world a foretaste of the joy and glory of God’s Kingdom.

5. The Holy Spirit bestows on the community diverse and complementary gifts. These are for the common good of the whole people and are manifested in acts of service within the community and to the world. They may be gifts of communicating the Gospel in word and deed, gifts of healing, gifts of praying, gifts of teaching and learning, gifts of serving, gifts of guiding and following, gifts of inspiration and vision. All members are called to discover, with the help of the community, the gifts they have received and to use them for the building up of the Church and for the service of the world to which the Church is sent.

6. Though the churches are agreed in their general understanding of the calling of the people of God, they differ in their understanding of how the life of the church is to be ordered. In particular, there are differences concerning the place and forms of the ordained ministry. As they engage in the effort to overcome these differences, the churches need to work from the perspective of the calling of the whole people of God. A common answer needs to be found to the following question: How, according to the will of God and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the life of the Church to be understood and ordered, so that the Gospel may be spread and the community built up in love?

III. The Church and the Ordained Ministry

7. Differences in terminology are part of the matter under debate. In order to avoid confusion in the discussions on the ordained ministry in the Church, it is necessary to delineate clearly how various terms are used in the following paragraphs.

a. The word charism denotes the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit on any member of the body of Christ for the building up of the community and the fulfillment of its calling.

b. The word ministry in its broadest sense denotes the service to which the whole people of God is called, whether as individuals, as a local community, or as the universal Church. Ministry or ministries can also denote the particular institutional forms which this service may take.

c. The term ordained ministry refers to persons who have received a charism and whom the church appoints for service by ordination through the invocation of the Spirit and the laying on of hands.

d. Many churches use the word priest to denote certain ordained ministers. Because this usage is not universal, this document will discuss the substantive questions in paragraph 17.

A. The Ordained Ministry

8. In order to fulfill its mission, the Church needs persons who are publicly and continually responsible for pointing to its fundamental dependence on Jesus Christ, and thereby provide, within a multiplicity of gifts, a focus of its unity. The ministry of such persons, who since very early times have been ordained, is constitutive for the life and witness of the Church.

9. The Church has never been without persons holding specific authority and responsibility. Jesus chose and sent the disciples to be witnesses of the Kingdom (Matt. 10:1-8). The Twelve were promised that they would “sit on thrones judging the tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30). A particular role is attributed to the Twelve within the communities of the first generation. They are witnesses of the Lord’s life and resurrection (Acts 1:21-26). They lead the community in prayer, teaching, the breaking of bread, proclamation and service (Acts 2:42-47; 6:2-6, etc). The very existence of the Twelve and other apostles shows that, from the beginning, there were differentiated roles in the community.

COMMENTARY

In the New Testament the term “apostle” is variously employed. It is used for the Twelve but also for a wider circle of disciples. It is applied to Paul and to others as they are sent out by the risen Christ to proclaim the Gospel. The roles of the apostles cover both foundation and mission.

10. Jesus called the Twelve to be representatives of the renewed Israel. At that moment they represent the whole people of God and at the same time exercise a special role in the midst of that community. After the resurrection they are among the leaders of the community. It can be said that the apostles prefigure both the Church as a whole and the persons within it who are entrusted with the specific authority and responsibility. The role of the apostles as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ is unique and unrepeatable. There is therefore a difference between the apostles and the ordained ministers whose ministries are founded on theirs.

11. As Christ chose and sent the apostles, Christ continues through the Holy Spirit to choose and call persons into the ordained ministry. As heralds and ambassadors, ordained ministers are representatives of Jesus Christ to the community, and proclaim his message of reconciliation. As leaders and teachers they call the community to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, the teacher and prophet, in whom law and prophets were fulfilled. As pastors, under Jesus Christ the chief shepherd, they assemble and guide the dispersed people of God, in anticipation of the coming Kingdom.

COMMENTARY

The basic reality of an ordained ministry was present from the beginning (cf. para. 8). The actual forms of ordination and of the ordained ministry, however, have evolved in complex historical developments (cf. para. 19). The churches, therefore, need to avoid attributing their particular forms of the ordained ministry directly to the will and institution of Jesus Christ.

12. All members of the believing community, ordained and lay, are interrelated. On the one hand, the community needs ordained ministers. Their presence reminds the community of the divine initiative, and of the dependence of the Church on Jesus Christ, who is the source of its mission and the foundation of its unity, they serve to build up the community in Christ and to strengthen its witness. In them the Church seeks an example of holiness and living concern. On the other hand, the ordained ministry has no existence apart from the community. Ordained ministers can fulfill their calling only in and for the community. They cannot dispense with the recognition, the support and the encouragement of the community.

13. The chief responsibility of the ordained ministry is to assemble and build up the body of Christ by proclaiming and teaching the Word of God, by celebrating the sacraments, and by guiding the life of the community in its worship, its mission and its caring ministry.

COMMENTARY

These tasks are not exercised by the ordained ministry in an exclusive way. Since the ordained ministry and the community are inextricably related, all members participate in fulfilling these functions. In fact, every charism serves to assemble and build up the body of Christ. Any member of the body may share in proclaiming and teaching the Word of God, may contribute to the sacramental life of that body. The ordained ministry fulfills these functions in a representative way, providing the focus for the unity of the life and witness of the community.

14. It is especially in the eucharistic celebration that the ordained ministry is the visible focus of the deep and all-embracing communion between Christ and the members of his body. In the celebration of the eucharist, Christ gathers, teaches and nourishes the Church. It is Christ who invites to the meal and who presides at it. In most churches this presidency is signified and represented by an ordained minister.

COMMENTARY

The New Testament says very little about the ordering of the eucharist. There is no explicit evidence about who presided at the eucharist. Very soon however it is clear that an ordained ministry presides over the celebration. If the ordained ministry is to provide a focus for the unity of the life and witness of the Church, it is appropriate that an ordained minister should be given this task. It is intimately related to the task of guiding the community, i. e. supervising its life (episkope) and strengthening its vigilance in relation to the truth of the apostolic message and the coming of the Kingdom.

B. Ordained Ministry and Authority

15. The authority of the ordained minister is rooted in Jesus Christ, who has received it from the Father (Matt. 28:18), and who confers it by the Holy Spirit through the act of ordination. This act takes place within a community which accords public recognition to a particular person. Because Jesus came as one who serves (Mark 10:45; Luke 22:27), to be set apart means to be consecrated to service. Since ordination is essentially a setting apart with prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the authority of the ordained ministry is not to be understood as the possession of the ordained person but as a gift for the continuing edification of the body in and for which the minister has been ordained. Authority has the character of responsibility before God and is exercised with the cooperation of the whole community.

16. Therefore, ordained ministers must not be autocrats or impersonal functionaries. Although called to exercise wise and loving leadership on the basis of the Word of God, they are bound to the faithful in interdependence and reciprocity. Only when they seek the response and acknowledgment of the community can their authority be protected from the distortions of isolation and domination. They manifest and exercise the authority of Christ in the way Christ himself revealed God’s authority to the world, by committing their life to the community. Christ’s authority is unique. “He spoke as one who has authority (exousia), not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29). This authority is an authority governed by love for the “sheep who have no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). It is confirmed by his life of service and, supremely, by his death and resurrection. Authority in the Church can only be authentic as it seeks to conform to this model.

COMMENTARY

Here two dangers must be avoided. Authority cannot be exercised without regard for the community. The apostles paid heed to the experience and the judgment of the faithful. On the other hand, the authority of ordained ministers must not be so reduced as to make them dependent on the common opinion of the community. Their authority lies in their responsibility to express the will of God in the community.

C. Ordained Ministry and Priesthood

17. Jesus Christ is the unique priest of the new covenant. Christ’s life was given as a sacrifice for all. Derivatively, the Church as a whole can be described as a priesthood. All members are called to offer their being “as a living sacrifice” and to intercede for the Church and the salvation of the world. Ordained ministers are related, as are all Christians, both to the priesthood of Christ, and to the priesthood of the Church. But they may appropriately be called priests because they fulfill a particular priestly service by strengthening and building up the royal and prophetic priesthood of the faithful through word and sacraments, through their prayers of intercession, and through their pastoral guidance of the community.

COMMENTARY

The New Testament never uses the term “priesthood” or “priest” (hiereus) to designate the ordained ministry or the ordained minister. In the New Testament, the term is reserved, on the one hand, for the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ and, on the other hand, for the royal and prophetic priesthood of all baptized.

The priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of the baptized have in their respective ways the function of sacrifice and intercession. As Christ has offered himself, Christians offer their whole being “as a living sacrifice.” As Christ intercedes before the Father, Christians intercede for the Church and the salvation of the world. Nevertheless, the differences between these two kinds of priesthood cannot be overlooked. While Christ offered himself as a unique sacrifice once and for all for the salvation of the world, believers need to receive continually as a gift of God that which Christ has done for them.

In the early Church the terms “priesthood” and “priest” came to be used to designate the ordained ministry and minister as presiding at the eucharist. They underline the fact that the ordained ministry is related to the priestly reality of Jesus Christ and the whole community. When the terms are used in connection with the ordained ministry, their meaning differs in appropriate ways from the sacrificial priesthood of the Old Testament, from the unique redemptive priesthood of Christ and from the corporate priesthood of the people of God. St. Paul could call his ministry “a priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16).

D. The Ministry of Men and Women in the Church

18. Where Christ is present, human barriers are being broken. The Church is called to convey to the world the image of a new humanity. There is in Christ no male or female (Gal. 3:28). Both women and men must discover together their contributions to the service of Christ in the Church. The Church must discover the ministry which can be provided by woman as well as that which can be provided by men. A deeper understanding of the comprehensiveness of ministry which reflects the interdependence of men and women needs to be more widely manifested in the life of the Church.

Though they agree on this need, the churches draw different conclusions as to the admission of women to the ordained ministry. An increasing number of churches have decided that there is no biblical or theological reason against ordaining women, and many of them have subsequently proceeded to do so. Yet many churches hold that the tradition of the Church in this regard must not be changed.

COMMENTARY

Those churches which practice the ordination of women do so because of their understanding of the Gospel and of the ministry. It rests for them on the deeply held theological conviction that the ordained ministry of the Church lacks fullness when it is limited to one sex. This theological conviction has been reinforced by their experience during the years in which they have included women in their ordained ministries. They have found that women’s gifts are as wide and varied as men’s and that their ministry is as fully blessed by the Holy Spirit as the ministry of men. None has found reason to reconsider its decision.

Those churches which do not practice the ordination of women consider that the force of nineteen centuries of tradition against the ordination of women must not be set aside. They believe that such a tradition cannot be dismissed as a lack of respect for the participation of women in the Church. They believe that there are theological issues concerning the nature of humanity and concerning Christology which lie at the heart of their convictions and understanding of the role of women in the Church.

The discussion of these practical and theological questions within the various churches and Christian traditions should be complemented by joint study and reflection within the ecumenical fellowship of all churches.

III. The Forms of the Ordained Ministry

A. Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons

19. The New Testament does not describe a single pattern of ministry which might serve as a blueprint or continuing norm for all future ministry in the Church. In the New Testament there appears rather a variety of forms which existed at different places and times. As the Holy Spirit continued to lead the Church in life, worship and mission, certain elements from this early variety were further developed, and became settled into a more universal pattern of ministry. During the second and third centuries, a threefold pattern of bishop, presbyter and deacon became established as the pattern of ordained ministry throughout the Church. In succeeding centuries, the ministry by bishop, presbyter and deacon underwent considerable changes in its practical exercise. At some points of crisis in the history of the Church, the continuing functions of ministry were in some places and communities distributed according to structures other than the predominant threefold pattern. Sometimes appeal was made to the New Testament in justification of these other patterns. In other cases, the restructuring of ministry was held to lie within the competence of the Church as it adapted to changed circumstances.

20. It is important to be aware of the changes the threefold ministry has undergone in the history of the Church. In the earliest instances, where threefold ministry is mentioned, the reference is to the local eucharistic community. The bishop was the leader of the community. He was ordained and installed to proclaim the Word and preside over the celebration of the eucharist. He was surrounded by a college of presbyters and by deacons who assisted in his tasks.

In this context the bishop’s ministry was a focus of unity within the whole community.

21. Soon, however, the functions were modified. Bishops began increasingly to exercise episkope over several local communities at the same time. In the first generation, apostles had exercised episkope in the wider Church. Later Timothy and Titus are recorded to have fulfilled a function of episkope in a given area. Later again this apostolic task is carried out in a new way by the bishops. They provide a focus for unity in life and witness within areas comprising several eucharistic communities. As a consequence, presbyters and deacons are assigned new roles. The presbyters become the leaders of the local eucharistic community, and as assistants of the bishops, deacons receive responsibilities in the larger area.

COMMENTARY

The earliest Church knew both the travelling ministry of such missionaries as Paul and the local ministry of leadership in places where the gospel was received. At local level, organizational patterns appear to have varied according to circumstances. The Acts of the Apostles mention for Jerusalem the Twelve and the Seven, and later James and the elders; and for Antioch, prophets and teachers (Acts 6.:1-6; 15:13-22; 13:1). The letters to Corinth speak of apostles, prophets and teachers (I Cor. 12:28); so too does the letter to the Romans, which also speaks of deacons or assistants (Rom. 16:1). In Philippi, the secular terms episkopoi and diskonoi were together used for Christian ministers (Phil. 1:1).

Several of these ministries are ascribed to both women and men. While some were appointed by the laying on of hands, there is no indication of this procedure in other cases. Whatever their names, the purpose of these ministries was to proclaim the Word of God, to transmit and safeguard the original content of the Gospel, to feed and strengthen the faith, discipline and service of the Christian communities, and to protect and foster unity within and among them. These have been the constant duties of ministry throughout the developments and crises of Christian history.

22. Although there is no single New Testament pattern, although the Spirit has many times led the Church to adapt its ministries to contextual needs, and although other forms of the ordained ministry have been blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, nevertheless the threefold ministry of bishop, presbyter and deacon may serve today as an expression of the unity we seek and also as a means for achieving it. Historically, it is true to say, the threefold ministry became the generally accepted pattern in the Church of the early centuries and is still retained today by many churches. In the fulfillment of their mission and service the churches need people who in different ways express and perform the tasks of the ordained ministry in its diaconal, presbyteral and episcopal aspects and functions.

23. The Church as the body of Christ and the eschatological people of God is constituted by the Holy Spirit through a diversity of gifts or ministries. Among these gifts a ministry of episkope is necessary to express and safeguard the unity of the body. Every church needs this ministry of unity in some form in order to be the Church of God, the one body of Christ, a sign of the unity of all in the Kingdom.

24. The threefold pattern stands evidently in need of reform. In some churches the collegial dimension of leadership in the eucharistic community has suffered diminution. In others, the function of deacons has been reduced to an assistant role in the celebration of the liturgy: they have ceased to fulfill any function with regard to the diaconal witness of the Church. In general, the relation of the presbyterate to the episcopal ministry has been discussed throughout the centuries, and the degree of the presbyter’s participation in the episcopal ministry is still for many an unresolved question of far-reaching ecumenical importance. In some cases, churches which have not formally kept the threefold form have, in fact, maintained certain of its original patterns.

25. The traditional threefold pattern thus raises questions for all the churches. Churches maintaining the threefold pattern will need to ask how its potential can be fully developed for the most effective witness of the Church in this world. In this task churches not having the threefold pattern should also participate. They will further need to ask themselves whether the threefold pattern as developed does not have a powerful claim to be accepted by them.

B. Guiding Principles for the Exercise of the Ordained Ministry in the Church

26. Three considerations are important in this respect. The ordained ministry should be exercised in a personal, collegial and communal way. It should be personal because the presence of Christ among his people can most effectively be pointed to by the person ordained to proclaim the Gospel and to call the community to serve the Lord in unity of life and witness it should also be collegial, for there is need for a college of ordained ministers sharing in the common task of representing the concerns of the community. Finally, the intimate relationship between the ordained ministry and the community should find expression in a communal dimension where the exercise of the ordained ministry is rooted in the life of the community and requires the community’s effective participation in the discovery of God’s will and the guidance of the Spirit.

COMMENTARY

These three aspects need to be kept together. In various churches one or another has been over-emphasized at the expense of the others. In some churches, the personal dimension of the ordained ministry tends to diminish the collegial and communal dimension takes so much importance that the ordained

ministry loses its personal dimension. Each church needs to ask itself in what way its exercise of the ordained ministry has suffered in the course of history.

An appreciation of these three dimensions lies behind a recommendation made by the first World Conference on Faith and Order at Lausanne in 1927: “In view of (i) the place which the episcopate, the council of presbyters and the congregation of the faithful, respectively, had in the constitution of the early Church, and (ii) the fact that episcopal, presbyteral and congregational systems of government are each today, and have been for centuries, accepted by great communions in Christendom, and (iii) the fact that episcopal, presbyteral and congregational systems are each believed by many to be essential to the good order of the Church, we therefore recognize that these several elements must all, under conditions which require further study, have an appropriate place in the order of life of a reunited Church. . . “

27. The ordained ministry needs to be constitutionally or canonically ordered and exercised in the Church in such a way that each of these three dimensions can find adequate expression. At the level of the local eucharistic community there is need for an ordained ministry acting within a collegial body. Strong emphasis should be placed on the active participation of all members in the life and the decision-making of the community. At the regional level there is again need for an ordained minister exercising a service of unity. The collegial and communal dimensions will find expression in regular representative synodal gatherings.

C. Functions of Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons

28. What can then be said about the functions and even the titles of bishops, presbyters and deacons? A uniform answer to this question is not required for the mutual recognition of the ordained ministry. The following considerations on functions are, however, offered in a tentative way.

29. Bishops preach the Word, preside at the sacraments, and administer discipline in such a way as to be representative pastoral ministers of oversight, continuity and unity in the Church. They have pastoral oversight of the area to which they are called. They serve the apostolicity and unity of the Church’s teaching, worship and sacramental life. They have responsibility for leadership in the Church’s mission. They relate the Christian community in their area to the wider Church, and the universal Church to their community. They, in communion with the presbyters and deacons and the whole community, are responsible for the orderly transfer of ministerial authority in the Church.

30. Presbyters serve as pastoral ministers of Word and sacraments in a local eucharistic community. They are preachers and teachers of the faith, exercise pastoral care, and bear responsibility for the discipline of the congregation to the end that the world may believe and that the entire membership of the Church may be renewed, strengthened and equipped in ministry. Presbyters have particular responsibility for the preparation of members for Christian life and ministry.

31. Deacons represent to the Church its calling as servant in the world. By struggling in Christ’s name with the myriad needs of societies and persons, deacons exemplify the interdependence of worship and service in the Church’s life. They exercise responsibility in the worship of the congregation: for example by reading the scriptures, preaching and leading the people in prayer. They help in the teaching of the congregation. They exercise a ministry of love within the community. They fulfill certain administrative tasks and may be elected to responsibilities for governance.

COMMENTARY

In many churches there is today considerable uncertainty about the need, the rationale, the status and the functions of deacons. In what sense can the diaconate be considered part of the ordained ministry? What is it that distinguishes it from other ministries in the Church (catechists, musicians, etc)? Why should deacons be ordained while these other ministries do not receive ordination? If they are ordained, do they receive ordination in the full sense of the word or is their ordination only the first step towards ordination as presbyters? Today, there is a strong tendency in many churches to restore the diaconate as an ordained ministry with its own dignity and meant to be exercised for life. As the churches move closer together there may be united in this office ministries now existing in a variety of forms and under a variety of names.

Differences in ordering the diaconal ministry should not be regarded as a hindrance for the mutual recognition of the ordained ministries.

D. Variety of Charisms

32. The community which lives in the power of the Spirit will be characterized by a variety of charisms. The Spirit is the giver of diverse gifts which enrich the life of the community. In order to enhance their effectiveness, the community will recognize publicly certain of these charisms. While some serve permanent needs in the life of the community, others will be temporary. Men and women in the communities of religious orders fulfill a service which is of particular importance for the life of the Church. The ordained ministry, which is itself a charism, must not become a hindrance for the variety of these charisms. On the contrary, it will help the community to discover the gifts bestowed on it by the Holy Spirit and will equip members of the body to serve in a variety of ways.

33. In the history of the Church there have been times when the truth of the Gospel could only be preserved through prophetic and charismatic leaders. Often new impulses could find their way into the life of the Church only in unusual ways. At times reforms required a special ministry. The ordained ministers and the whole community will need to be attentive to the challenge of such special ministries.

IV. Succession in the Apostolic Tradition

A. Apostolic Tradition in the Church

In the Creed, the Church confesses itself to be apostolic. The Church lives in continuity with the apostles and their proclamation. The same Lord who sent the apostles continues to be present in the Church. The Spirit keeps the Church in the apostolic tradition until the fulfillment of history in the Kingdom of God. Apostolic tradition in the Church means continuity in the permanent characteristics of the Church of the apostles: witness to the apostolic faith, proclamation and fresh interpretation of the Gospel, celebration of baptism and the eucharist, the transmission of ministerial responsibilities, communion in prayer, love, joy and suffering, service to the sick and the needy, unity among the local churches and sharing the gifts which the Lord has given to each.

COMMENTARY

The apostles, as witnesses of the life and resurrection of Christ and sent by him, are the original transmitters of the Gospel, of the tradition of the saving words and acts of Jesus Christ which constitute the life of the Church. This apostolic tradition continues through history and links the Church to its origins in Christ and in the college of the apostles. Within this apostolic tradition is an apostolic succession of the ministry which serves the continuity of the Church in its life in Christ and its faithfulness to the words and acts of Jesus transmitted by the apostles. The ministers, appointed by the apostles, and then the episkopoi of the churches, were the first guardians of this transmission of the apostolic tradition; they testified to the apostolic succession of the ministry which was continued through the bishops of the early Church in collegial communion with the presbyters and deacons within the Christian community. A distinction should be made, therefore, between the apostolic tradition of the whole Church and the succession of the apostolic ministry.

B. Succession of the Apostolic Ministry

35. The primary manifestation of apostolic succession is to be found in the apostolic tradition of the Church as a whole. The succession is an expression of the permanence and, therefore, of the continuity of Christ’s own mission in which the Church participates. Within the Church the ordained ministry has a particular task of preserving and actualizing the apostolic faith. The orderly transmission of the ordained ministry is therefore a powerful expression of the continuity of the Church throughout history; it also underlines the calling of the ordained minister as guardian of the faith. Where churches see little importance in orderly transmission, they should ask themselves whether they have not to change their conception of continuity in the apostolic tradition. On the other hand, where the ordained ministry does not adequately serve the proclamation of the apostolic faith, churches must ask themselves whether their ministerial structures are not in need of reform.

36. Under the particular historical circumstances of the growing Church in the early centuries, the succession of bishops became one of the ways, together with the transmission of the Gospel and the life of the community, in which the apostolic tradition of the Church was expressed. This succession was understood as serving, symbolizing and guarding the continuity of the apostolic faith and communion.

COMMENTARY

In the early Church the bond between the episcopate and the apostolic community was understood in two ways. Clement of Rome lined the mission of the bishop with the sending of Christ by the Father and the sending of the apostles by Christ (Cor. 42:44). This made the bishop a successor of the apostles, ensuring the permanence of the apostolic mission in the Church.

Clement is primarily interested in the means whereby the historical continuity of Christ’s presence is ensured in the Church thanks to the apostolic succession. For Ignatius of Antioch (Magn. 6:1, 3:1-2; Trall. 3:1), it is Christ surrounded by the Twelve who is permanently in the Church in the person of the bishop surrounded by the presbyters. Ignatius regards the Christian community assembled around the bishop in the midst of presbyters and deacons as the actual manifestation in the Spirit of the apostolic community. The sign of apostolic succession thus not only points to historical continuity; it also manifests an actual spiritual reality.

37. In churches which practice the succession through the episcopate, it is increasingly recognized that a continuity in apostolic faith, worship and mission has been preserved in churches which have not retained the form of historic episcopate. This recognition finds additional support in the fact that the reality and function of the episcopal ministry have been preserved in many of these churches, with or without the title “bishop.” Ordination, for example, is always done in them by persons in whom the Church recognizes the authority to transmit the ministerial commission.

38. These considerations do not diminish the importance of the episcopal ministry. On the contrary, they enable churches which have not retained the episcopate to appreciate the episcopal succession as a sign, though not a guarantee, of the continuity and unity of the Church. Today churches, including those engaged in union negotiations, are expressing willingness to accept episcopal succession as a sign of the apostolicity of the life of the whole Church. Yet, at the same time, they cannot accept any suggestion that the ministry exercised in their own tradition should be invalid until the moment that it enters into an existing line of episcopal succession. Their acceptance of the episcopal succession will best further the unity of the whole Church if it is part of a wider process by which the episcopal churches themselves also regain their lost unity.

V. Ordination

A. The Meaning of Ordination

39. The Church ordains certain of its members for the ministry in the name of Christ by the invocation of the Spirit and the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6); in so doing it seeks to continue the mission of the apostles and to remain faithful to their teaching. The act of ordination by those who are appointed for this ministry attests the bond of the Church with Jesus Christ and the apostolic witness, recalling that it is the risen Lord who is the true ordainer and bestows the gift. In ordaining, the Church, under the inspiration of the Holy spirit, provides for the faithful proclamation of the Gospel and humble service in the name of Christ. The laying on of hands is the sign of the gift of the Spirit, rendering visible the fact that the ministry was instituted in the revelation accomplished in Christ, and reminding the Church to look to him as the source of its commission. This ordination, however, can have different intentions according to the specific tasks of bishops, presbyters and deacons as indicated in the liturgies of ordination.

COMMENTARY

The original New Testament terms for ordination tend to be simple and descriptive. The fact of appointment is recorded. The laying on of hands is described. Prayer is made for the Spirit. Different traditions have built different interpretations on the basis of these data.

It is evident that there is a certain difference between the unspoken cultural setting of the Greek cheirotonein and that of the Latin ordo or ordinare. The New Testament use of the former term borrows its basic secular meaning of “appointment” (Acts 14:23; II Cor. 8:19), which is, in turn, derived from the original meaning of extending the hand, either to designate a person or to cast a vote. Some scholars see in cheirotonein a reference to the act of laying on of hands, in view of the literal description of the action in such seemingly parallel instances as Acts 6:6, 8:17, 13:3, 19:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1: 6. Ordo and ordinare, on the other hand, are terms derived from Roman law where they convey the notion of the special status of a group distinct from the plebs, as in the term ordo clarissimus for the Roman senate. The starting point of any conceptual construction using these terms will strongly influence what is taken for granted in both the thought and action which result.

B. The Act of Ordination

41. A long and early Christian tradition places ordination in the context of worship and especially of the eucharist. Such a place for the service of ordination preserves the understanding of ordination as an act of the whole community, and not of a certain order within it or of the individual ordained. The act of ordination by the laying on of hands of those appointed to do so is at one and the same time invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiklesis); sacramental sign; acknowledgment of gifts and commitment.

42. (a) Ordination is an invocation to God that the new minister be given the power of the Holy Spirit in the new relation which is established between this minister and the local Christian community and, by intention, the Church universal. The otherness of God’s initiative, of which the ordained ministry is a sign, is here acknowledged in the act of ordination itself. “The Spirit blows where it wills” (John 3:3): the invocation of the Spirit implies the absolute dependence on God for the outcome of the Church’s prayer. This means that the Spirit may set new forces in motion and open new possibilities “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

43. (b) Ordination is a sign of the granting of this prayer by the Lord who gives the gift of the ordained ministry. Although the outcome of the Church’s epiklesis depends on the freedom of God, the Church ordains in confidence that God, being faithful to his promise in Christ, enters sacramentally into contingent, historical forms of human relationship and uses them for his purpose. Ordination is a sign performed in faith that the spiritual relationship signified is present in, with and through the words spoken, the gestures made and the forms employed.

44. (c) Ordination is an acknowledgment by the Church of the gifts of the Spirit in the one ordained, and a commitment by both the Church and the ordinand to the new relationship. By receiving the new minister in the act of ordination, the congregation acknowledges the minister’s gifts and commits itself to be open towards these gifts. Likewise those ordained offer their gifts to the Church and commit themselves to the burden and opportunity of new authority and responsibility. At the same time, they enter into a collegial relationship with other ordained ministers.

C. The Conditions for Ordination

45. People are called in differing ways to the ordained ministry. There is a personal awareness of a call from the Lord to dedicate oneself to the ordained ministry. This call may be discerned through personal prayer and reflection, as well as through suggestion, example, encouragement, guidance coming from family, friends, the congregation, teachers, and other church authorities, this call must be authenticated by the Church’s recognition of the gifts and graces of the particular person, both natural and spiritually given, needed for the ministry to be performed. God can use people both celibate and married for the ordained ministry.

46. Ordained persons may be professional ministers in the sense that they receive their salaries from the church. The church may also ordain people who remain in other occupations or employment.

47. Candidates for the ordained ministry need appropriate preparation through study of scripture and theology, prayer and spirituality, and through acquaintance with the social and human realities of the contemporary world. In some situations, this preparation may take a form other than that of prolonged academic study. The period of training will be one in which the candidate’s call is tested, fostered and confirmed, or its understanding modified.

48. Initial commitment to ordained ministry ought normally to be made without reserve or time limit. Yet leave of absence from service is not incompatible with ordination. Resumption of ordained ministry requires the assent of the Church, but no reordination. In recognition of the God-given charism of ministry, ordination to any one of the particular ordained ministries is never repeated.

49. The discipline with regard to the conditions for ordination in one church need not be seen as universally applicable and used as grounds for not recognizing ministry in others.

50. Churches which refuse to consider candidates for the ordained ministry on the ground of handicap or because they belong, for example, to one particular race or sociological group should re-evaluate their practices. This re- evaluation is particularly important today in view of the multitude of experiments in new forms of ministry with which the churches are approaching the modern world.

VI. Towards the Mutual Recognition of the Ordained Ministries

51. In order to advance towards the mutual recognition of ministries, deliberate efforts are required. All churches need to examine the forms of ordained ministry and the degree to which the churches are faithful to its original intentions. Churches must be prepared to renew their understanding and their practice of the ordained ministry.

52. Among the issues that need to be worked on as churches move towards mutual recognition of ministries, that of apostolic succession is of particular importance. Churches in ecumenical conversations can recognize their respective ordained ministries if they are mutually assured of their intention to transmit the ministry of Word and sacrament in continuity with apostolic times. The act of transmission should be performed in accordance with the apostolic tradition, which includes the invocation of the Spirit and the laying on of hands.

53. In order to achieve mutual recognition, different steps are required of different churches. For example:

a. Churches which have preserved the episcopal succession are asked to recognize both the apostolic content of the ordained ministry which exists in churches which have not maintained such succession and also the existence in these churches of a ministry of episkope in various forms.

b. Churches without the episcopal succession, and living in faithful continuity with the apostolic faith and mission, have a ministry of Word and sacrament, as is evident from the belief, practice, and life of those churches. These churches are asked to realize that the continuity with the Church of the apostles finds profound expression in the successive laying on of hands by bishops and that, though they may not lack the continuity of the apostolic tradition, this sign will strengthen and deepen that continuity. They may need to recover the sign of the episcopal succession.

54. Some churches ordain both men and women, others ordain only men. Differences of this issue raise obstacles to the mutual recognition of ministries. But those obstacles must not be regarded as substantive hindrance for further efforts towards mutual recognition. Openness to each other holds the possibility that the Spirit may well speak to one church through the insights of another. Ecumenical consideration, therefore, should encourage, not restrain, the facing of this question.

55. The mutual recognition of churches and their ministries implies decision by the appropriate authorities and a liturgical act from which point unity would be publicly manifest. Several forms of such public act have been proposed: mutual laying on of hands, eucharistic concelebration, solemn worship without a particular rite of recognition, the reading of a text of union during the course of a celebration. No one liturgical form would be absolutely required, but in any case it would be necessary to proclaim the accomplishment of mutual recognition publicly. The common celebration of the eucharist would certainly be the place for such an act.

Church of the Brethren Response

I. The Reception Process and the Church of the Brethren

In January 1982, the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches transmitted a text on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry to member churches. Considered by the Commission “to have been brought to such a stage of maturity that it is now ready for transmission, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry was offered to aid the churches to grow together on these topic and so move toward the manifestation of visible unity.

The Bylaws of the World Council of Churches state: “The Faith and Order Commission is to proclaim the oneness of the Church of Jesus Christ and to call the churches to a goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship expressed in worship and common life in Christ in order that the world might believe.” In 1978, at the plenary meeting of the Commission on Faith and Order, three elements needed for visible unity were identified: 1) a common understanding of the apostolic faith; 2) full mutual recognition of baptism, eucharist and ministry; 3) agreement on common ways of teaching and decision- making. Agreement on baptism, eucharist and ministry has been the focus of Faith and Order’s attention since the First World Conference on Faith and Order at Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1927. These statements therefore are the fruit of more than fifty years of theological labor by Faith and Order.

The Church of the Brethren became a participant in these baptism, eucharist and ministry discussions at the point when the text was transmitted to member churches. The transmission of the text was also an invitation to churches “to prepare an official response . . . at the highest level of authority, whether it be a council, synod, conference, assembly or other body.” The preparation of an official response was understood to be an initial step in a longer “process of reception.” “Reception” refers to all phases of the process whereby a church appropriates the fruits of ecumenical conversation as integral to its own life and faith. It is a process that may take years, and only comes to fruition by the power of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the “process of reception” is to renew all churches, and all Christians, in faith, prayer, and responsible witness in the world.

In Brethren polity, “the highest level of authority” is the delegate body gathered as a congregation at Annual Conference to speak to matters brought before it. However, the members’ voices are to be heard in response to the text before the Annual Conference delegate body speaks. Accordingly, a draft of the Brethren response, received first by delegates to the 1986 Annual Conference, was commended to congregations and districts for study and response. In conversation with congregations and districts, the draft was reworked and is now brought before the delegate body for adoption at the 1987 Annual Conference. It will thereby become the official response of the Church of the Brethren. And the voice of the Church of the Brethren will thereby join other ecclesial voices around the world in response to the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text.

A theological task force — Robert C. Bowman, Dale W. Brown, Dena Pence Frantz, Estella B. Horning, Melanie A. May, and Lauree Hersch Meyer — was appointed to articulate a response on behalf of the Church of the Brethren. In preparing the draft, the task force responded neither to the document as such nor out of Brethren life and thought as such. The focus of response is how “the faith of the Church through the centuries” is recognizable in the document to Brethren, who have received particular manifestations of that faith. We understand that all communions are called to be mutually accountable to our common faith and life in Jesus Christ rather than to assess the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text or one another by our particular heritage, faith and practice. By the same measure, when Christian communions and traditions offer our gifts to one another, we confess common membership in Jesus Christ’s risen body, the Church throughout all ages in every place. In our response, the Church of the Brethren seeks to confess the integrity of our faith and practice, to confess wherein we disagree, and to confess wherein we fear to lose ourselves.

The task force took guidance from the various responses Church of the Brethren members made to the text. A number of districts and congregations have made the text a focus for discussion. Insight Sessions on the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document have been held at Annual Conference. Members of the Church of the Brethren have been asked to speak on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry at a meeting of the religious news writers of North America and at various regional ecumenical gatherings. Articles on the document, authored by Brethren, have appeared in Messenger, Brethren Life and Thought, Ecumenical Trends, and Mid-Stream.

Brethren have also participated in the 1983 and 1986 Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry Conferences held in Chicago and jointly sponsored by the National Council of Churches of Christ Commission on Faith and Order and the Associated Chicago Theological Seminaries. Brethren were among the slated speakers and responders on each occasion.

The Church of the Brethren co-sponsored the Believers’ Church Conference on Baptism in 1983. Papers delivered at this consultation are available in a book, Baptism and Church: A Believers’ Church Vision, edited by Merle Strege (Grand Rapids: Sagamore Books, 1986). The Eighth Believers’ Church Conference, to be held in September 1987, on Ministry has been called by the Committee on Interchurch Relations and Bethany Theological Seminary.

II. The Church of the Brethren in Faith and Order Conversations

The World Council of Churches’ call that communions receive the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document has occasioned reflection within the Church of the Brethren about the theological significance of these common ecclesial practices. The Church of the Brethren at once rejoices in and has deep concern regarding the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document. We rejoice that Christians confess with clarity and power that Jesus is Lord. Christians know ourselves bonded to Jesus Christ through particular forms of our denominational life and thought. Therefore, Brethren, as other Christians, enter ecumenical conversations knowing that we are called to be transformed, to be continuously converted. We find that painful. We seek to be faithful and open to transformation. Yet Christians know God’s gifts, promises, and inheritance in the specific forms and realities of our histories, languages, cultures, hopes and memories. To be transformed means to be turned from what has been the bearer of God’s life and fulfillment for us to what and how God is now giving, bringing, calling us to new life and service.

Our deep concern is anchored precisely in our joy. The call to speak with one voice as Church challenges Christians to relinquish identifying our specific denominations with Christ’s whole body as Church. Our heads know that well. But we feel fearful. What if we should be called to relinquish that very inheritance which constitutes God’s gift and promise to us? We know other communions also have such anxiety. That is why ecumenical conversations are so painful: Christians seek to speak as members both of our specific communions and of Jesus Christ.

The churches of the magisterial and reformation traditions plumb matters of truth by looking to confessions, asking whether believers believe truly. Communions of the free church and contemporary traditions are more prone to look to actions, asking whether believers believe truly, asking whether believers’ confessions of faith are practiced or not; believed enough to live or only enough to speak them. The Church of the Brethren, as other free churches, has historically validated faith by carefully examining its embodiment among believers.

III. Brethren Responses to the Text

A. Introduction

The Church of the Brethren shares with other Christians that baptism, eucharist, and ministry are central to Christian life and faith. From the perspective of our ecclesial experience, Brethren view baptism, eucharist and ministry as three expressions of one apostolic life. How we understand baptism, eucharist, and ministry reflects and nurtures our particular heritage and formation experience. Amid a hostile political and religious environment, Christian formation has characteristically occurred in the home. In such an environment, Brethren reserved baptism for that time when adults were prepared to live publicly as citizens of God’s Kingdom, even when that meant rejecting legally valid claims made upon them by political and religious authorities. Baptism was and is understood as ordination to the priesthood of all believers; all those baptized into Jesus Christ are minister/servant (diakonos). All are knit together as a community constituted as Jesus’ family,

through Bible study, worship, prayer and mutual aid. All are reconciled to one another by the liturgy of reconciled service according to Matthew 18. All are renewed in life and ministry through Love Feast, which is preceded by feetwashing and the agape meal, and consummated with the bread and cup as solemn reunion together as Christ’s risen body with Jesus’ very self as the Life of our life.

Brethren believe others’ Christian faith bears the image of its incarnate context as deeply as does ours. We have come to know God enters and is present to other communions and their traditions as powerfully as, but painfully different from God’s presence in and claim on our tradition. One gift of ecumenical life has been the ability to see ourselves through the eyes of other communions. Now we can confess that our human need to define faith and practice normatively is just that: our human need. In scripture, as in the life of believing communities, God did and does not circumscribe to one expression what is the content of faithful belief and practice.

The Church of the Brethren brings our response to the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text believing we can recognize, receive, and be ministered to through the varied ecclesial expressions of baptism, eucharist, and ministry. These ecclesial expressions manifest Christ’s incarnate life, knitting together the many members of Jesus’ living body, the Church.

Church of the Brethren polity already allows for the reception of the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text. The Church of the Brethren allows for reception by 1) recognizing the validity of baptisms other than our own, upon a confession of faith, believing with the New Testament that there is but one baptism, a covenant with God to which God remains faithful; 2) opening communion to all committed Christians and encouraging members to participate in other celebrations of the Eucharist; 3) recognizing the ordination of other church bodies and receiving ministers with the stipulation that the person understand and teach Brethren heritage and belief and be accountable to decisions and disciplines articulated by the corporate voice of Annual Conference while serving among the Brethren.

The Church of the Brethren has often been alienated by the language and life of the sacramental ontology that characterizes the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text. With other free churches, the Church of the Brethren, has thought of itself as nonsacramental because our formation as church arose in embodying our affirmations of Jesus’ living presence and lordship at the risk of death. But Brethren affirm the sacramentality of all of life. For precisely this reason, we find it inappropriate that Christians reduce to one understanding of sacrament statements intended to speak to our shared confessions regarding baptism, eucharist and ministry.

B. The Church of the Brethren, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, and the Faith of the Church throughout the Ages

In this section, we note wherein Brethren find convergence, have concern, and need further reflection with reference to the text. We find convergence with the document in the affirmation of.

  1. baptism as both God’s gift and our human response to that gift. Brethren have understood that baptism is rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and that as members are incorporated into Christ the reality of new life is initiated, indeed incarnate, in the midst of the present world.

2. eucharist as the anamnesis of Jesus’ death and resurrection in which Christ himself is present, granting us communion with himself and with one another as members of Christ’s risen body, and as a representative act of thanksgiving and offering on behalf of all aspects of life, of the whole world. The text’s articulation of this rich understanding of eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s real presence has enhanced Brethren belief and practice, encouraging congregations to celebrate with bread and cup more often than at the semi-annual Love Feast.

3. ministry as the representation of Christ in the way Christ himself revealed God, in and by commitment to the community of faith. Brethren have understood that ministry, especially ordained ministry, is not the possession of the one ordained but the gift of God’s Holy Spirit for the upbuilding of Christ’s body, the Church, in the world. Ministers are therefore of Christ, though we expect Brethren ministers to believe, teach, and nurture our heritage. And when we worship with ministers of other communions, we expect to encounter their particular heritage, and through it, God’s redemptive presence.

Brethren have concern about the document when it speaks of:

  1. baptism as “an repeatable act” and of “re-baptism.” As sacrament, baptism is both the sign and the reality signified. Concern for baptism’s unrepeatability attends only to its sign (gift) aspect. Disallowing “re-baptism” protects the validity of God’s gift and the validity of other communions’ baptizing ministry. In this regard, we note the imperative, “must,” in *paragraph 13. This is the only imperative and negative safeguard in the document. No similar imperative addresses the reality signified, the validity of baptized person’s committed discipleship as Christ’s members. Making imperative the ontological while failing to address existential dimensions of baptismal sacrament constitutes a truncated Christology whose esslesiology is able to clarify its concepts but is not equally compelled to indwell its confession.

Accordingly, we are concerned insofar as the text does not clarify and confirm the integral relationship between the confession of a believer and the validation of a community on behalf of that believer who comes for (“re”)baptism. Put differently, the text is predisposed to speak of baptism in soteriological and/or sacramental language, without speaking to the Brethren understanding that baptism is a covenant with a community of faith and is, in this sense, ordination to the priesthood of all believers. One indication of this predisposition is the predominance of baptismal images of dying over images of rising into new life in Christ, as a member of Christ’s body, the Church.

2. eucharist in a context that is quite different from the context Brethren find in New Testament writings and witnesses. For Brethren, that is, there is no theological difference between breaking bread with one another in the agape meal and receiving the bread broken and cup offered from Jesus as eucharist. Brethren confess the real presence of Christ, meaning the bodily presence of Christ as the congregation rather than as the transubstantiated bread and cup. Baptized members break bread to/with one another, enacting the priesthood of all believers. Although the language and images in this section are familiar and indeed could be read as expressions of Brethren practice, the document implies that eucharist occurs as individual believers come before a priest. And although the text affirms that the celebration of the eucharist is “an instance of the Church’s participation in God’s mission to the world, participation that takes everyday form in the proclamation of the Gospel, service of the neighbor, and faithful presence in the world,” Brethren feel this section of the document nearly negates the apostolic affirmation that the congregation, the eucharistic community itself, is Christ’s risen and living body in and for the world of God’s creation.

Accordingly, Brethren are concerned insofar as this section emphasizes eucharist as atonement without emphasizing eucharist as “a covenant of good conscience” which rebinds the believing community to one another in Jesus Christ. In this regard, Brethren miss reference to feetwashing and the agape meal that are part of Jesus’ legacy to us. Again we feel the common quality of sacrament — namely, sharing a meal together and directly serving one another — is de-emphasized while the proper understanding and administration of eucharistic elements is carefully addressed. What is spoken in this document carries the implicit weight of being normative, and what remains unaddressed or unacknowledged seems quaint, impractical, unimportant for the common heritage. Yet feetwashing and the agape meal are part of the church’s common scriptural heritage. Our common scriptural heritage is richer than the eucharistic discussion in the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text. Likewise, our Christian eucharistic life is richer than the concerns addressed in the document. Eucharist as sacrament of incarnate life decidedly addresses concerns of hospitality, table fellowship, and service.

3. ministry so as to presuppose and perpetuate a sacramental and set- apart understanding of the priesthood and ministry. Although this section begins with an affirmation of the priesthood of all believers, most of the section focuses on priesthood in the context of the apostolic succession and sacramentality. Therefore, while Brethren could interpret the text meaningfully, substantive consideration of the ministry of all God’s laos is almost entirely excluded.

Accordingly, Brethren are concerned insofar as the text intimates that if the understandings and signs by which we recognize the formal qualities of sacramental life, i.e., ordination, the unity of the church will be made manifest. Specifically, Brethren ask about acceptance of the episcopal succession as a sign of the continuity and unity of the Church. Although the diverse patterns of ministry described in the New Testament relative to different times and places are acknowledged, this section of the text does not discuss patterns of ministry relative to changed and changing circumstances. In this regard, more attention must be given to the ministry of diakonia as well as to the ministry of episkope relative to the missionary call of the Church in the world today.

Last, but not least, Brethren are concerned about the text’s treatment of the ordination of women. Our concern is a testimony to the ways in which our life as a community of faith has been blessed by the ministry of women. Although we appreciate the reasons for caution regarding the ordination of women, especially with respect to our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Church, we are disappointed insofar as the text did not treat this matter with as much seriousness as any other matter. Our deepest disappointment comes at the point where the text states with reference to disagreement on the ordination of women that “those obstacles must not be regarded as substantive hindrance for further efforts toward mutual recognition” (*par. 54). It is our prayer that, just as churches refusing to consider candidates for ordination on the ground of handicap or race or class are called to reevaluate their practices (*par. 50), so all churches will be called into conversation around this critical matter.

Brethren need further reflection on:

  1. the practice of believers’ baptism relative to sociological shifts. In earlier eras, the common age for baptism, upon confession of faith, was the time when a young man or woman would assume adult responsibilities as a member of the community. We have not yet reflected on the practice of believers’ baptism with regard to the fact that by the age of eighteen most youth no longer live in Church of the Brethren communities.

2. the baptism of the Holy Spirit. As an expression of solidarity with our Quaker sisters and brothers, we call for consideration of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and so for qualification of the text’s rather exclusive emphasis on water baptism.

3. the reality that Christ’s members may be stumbling blocks to us in matters of theology, polity, and practice. We confess our slowness to be self-critical and our predisposition to seek paradise lost rather than to open ourselves to one another and so to God’s transformation wrought in ways we look not for.

C. The Church of the Brethren, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry and Relationships with other Churches

Brethren have expressed our affirmation of faith by seeking ways to embody common faith. Our contribution to the Church’s incarnate presence in the world has been clearest in projects like Church World Service, CROP, Heifer Project, Volunteer Service programs, international workcamps, and student exchange programs. Many of these were Brethren, and all were initially Believers’ Church programs, before they became common expressions of the church’s witness to God’s presently embodied compassion.

Deeply able to contribute to common enactments of faith, Brethren have been reluctant to engage in ecumenical reflection aimed at identifying normative understandings even of Christian baptism, eucharist, and ministry. Perhaps the ghosts of our past have seemed too close. Believers’ churches, in particular, came into being under threat of persecution. Both secular and religious authorities required conformity to their beliefs within their kingdoms. Too often Christians have created a trail of blood by conforming other believers to normative confessions. Christians of the Radical Reformation refused to identify even the religious domain with God’s Kingdom as Church. Subsequently, heirs to their radicality tend to mistrust normative definitions about faith far more than embodied expressions of faith. Brethren are more experienced at expressing our faith and practices embodied as action than we are in drawing believers into the gospel drama through liturgy or explicating the content of our faith.

The Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text calls us to be accountable to our mutual membership in the Body of Christ, thereby changing our perspective and posture in relation to one another. Although our faith is usually embodied as action, encounter with this text has clarified Brethren commitment an articulation of our common faith. Encounter with this text has been an experience of renewal as Brethren have asked how diverse understandings and expressions of baptism, eucharist and ministry may be life-giving for all members of Christ’s body.

D. The Church of the Brethren, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry and Worship, Educational, Ethical, and Spiritual Life and Witness

Three points in the text are of particular concern to Brethren: 1) the ministry of the laity, i.e., the priesthood of all believers; 2) the ordination of women, which is directly related to the first concern; 3) baptism as a pledge of allegiance to Christ, which is directly related to the role of the Church in the world, especially in relation to the call to peacemaking.

Basically, however, Brethren rejoice in the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text. We believe it fosters conversation among Christians. We pledge ourselves to join that conversation, knowing that in shared worship, prayer, and study, God will bring us closer to being the living Church, the Body of Jesus Christ.

Amid our deep joy and affirmation regarding this document, we do think it is but a beginning. Many Christian voices are heard and represented, yet many remain unvoiced. We miss for example the sacramental expression of the Society of Friends; we listen for voices of emerging churches with their concern for the incarnate, contextual, “human” side of sacrament and Christology. We hope to hear the voices of women and men from diverse racial, economic, and sociological situations.

Brethren also hope for a more balanced sacramental and Christological expression in our continuing ecumenical conversations and statements. We believe greater attention to the Trinity will help us nurture the richness of our Christology. When we expect God’s Spirit to call us to renewal and unity, we are more open to hear God’s voice in unlikely (or even, to us, “heretical”) places: as unlikely as the resurrection, as heretical as the confession in Acts 2 that God’s Holy spirit ministers through all who belong to Jesus Christ.

E. The Church of the Brethren and the Relationship of Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry to “Towards the Common Expressions of the Apostolic Faith Today”

Brethren question the normative role the Nicene Creed is given in the study of the Apostolic Faith. Formally the Nicene and other ancient creeds of the church have no place in the tradition and present life of the Church of the Brethren. The content of these creeds, however, is central to our understanding of the Apostolic Faith and our own self-understanding. These two affirmations may appear contradictory; they both belong to our formation as part of the Radical Reformation, as we have both Anabaptist and Pietist roots.

The Church of the Brethren believes any statement on faith is a reduction of the Apostolic Faith, however significant those statements. We found and find in the New Testament a rule of faith and practice more adequate and reliable than any logically focused summaries of faith. We do believe statements of faith are important to Christians. We also observe that believers are prone to reduce the Apostolic Faith to treasured dimensions of their own heritage.

Thus creeds as statements and confessions of faith are particularly prone to be interpreted in ways which defend a communions’ investment, values and concerns. While the New Testament can also be used or abused in this way, scriptural texts which defy or challenge us remain part of our confessed inheritance and faith.

IV. Concluding Remarks

Brethren are deeply moved and hopeful as Christians today proclaim that our trust in and loyalty to Jesus Christ calls us to conversion regarding how we express that trust and loyalty in relation to our specific communions. As noted above, Brethren have adopted documents in recent years which so amended our policy that we can already receive the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text. We are committed to unity in and as members of Christ’s body.

Nonetheless, we remain concerned insofar as ecumenical conversation often seems to reflect a truncated ontology, emphasizing the eternal, the conceptual, and the homogeneous over the concrete, the experiential, and the heterogeneous aspect of our Christology. Ecumenical documents express great concern for achieving convergence regarding the content of faith. These documents seem less concerned with fostering attitudes and relationships which will enable Christians to engage in the reality to which theological convergence statements bear witness. The Brethren experience of ecumenical life, as of our own formation, is that convergence statements arise from experiencing together that we are made one in Jesus Christ by God’s Holy Spirit. We therefore trust even the existential dissonance of our particular historical realities, not only conceptual consensus regarding ontological signs, as we express our faith. Our cultural and ecclesial vision, therefore, is more heterogeneous than homogeneous; we receive the diversity that threatens to divide us as different gifts given by God for the upbuilding of a common life.

We recognize that since we all know the fully divine only in the fully human contexts of our inheritance, our faith concepts are necessarily universalizations of our particular concrete confessions. But precisely that affirmation calls us to recognize that concepts and logic are primarily confessions to one another of the implications and limits of our incarnate heritages. Brethren confess that God’s Spirit, not only our own committed faithful reflection, unites us in and as Christ’s incarnate body, the Church.

Action of the Committee on Interchurch Relations: Passed to Annual Conference with the recommendation that the above be adopted as the official response document, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry Faith and Order Commission Paper No. 111, World Council of Churches.

*Footnote

Melanie A. May, Chair, William A. Hayes, Jean Lichty Hendricks, Estella Boggs Horning, Anita Flowers Metzler, David G. Metzler, Ronald D. Petry, Donald E. Miller (ex-officio)

The text to which references are made throughout this response is Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, published by the World Council of Churches in 1982. Copies are available upon request from the Committee on Interchurch Relations.

Action of the 1987 Annual Conference: Ira W. Gibbel, a Standing Committee delegate from the district of Western Pennsylvania, presented the recommendation from the Standing Committee. The delegate body voted to adopt the recommendation that the 1987 Annual Conference approve the CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN RESPONSE to the document, BAPTISM, EUCHARIST AND MINISTRY, as the current Church of the Brethren contribution to the ongoing study process of baptism, eucharist and ministry by the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and order.