The (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland is urging its congregations to celebrate their common baptism with Roman Catholics for the first time by using a special joint liturgy for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows.
Hailed as a "monumental" step in inter-church links, the call was made in a report of the Church's Ecumenical Relations Committee (ERC) to the General Assembly, which will be convening from May 20-26.
The liturgy was devised by the Joint Commission on Doctrine, made up of officials from both churches, who published a report on baptism in 2008 as a study guide for local congregations. The Ecumenical Relations Committee is recommending that the liturgy be used at major Christian festivals such as Easter and Pentecost.
"This booklet could not have been written 20 years ago and harvests the fruits of decades of faith and order discussion within the World Council of Churches and between the WCC and the Vatican," the Ecumenical Relations Committee report reads. "Though some may dismiss this important aspect of the ecumenical movement as 'old fashioned,' the faith and order agenda continues to provide the platform on which local developments can grow."
According to the Church of Scotland, both they and the Catholic Church are unified theologically on the issue of baptism, which they say involves conversion, pardoning and cleansing, and marks the beginning of a new life in Christ, characterized by growth.
The Church of Scotland further acknowledges that while there are "continuing divisions" between them and the Catholic Church, a "real though imperfect communion" exists between Reformed and Roman Catholic believers.