Turku, Finland, October 3, 2022
The Finnish Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland signed a joint declaration on the meaning and significance of Baptism last week.
The address was signed at the Lutheran church’s main cathedral in Turku by Archbishop Leo of Finland and the Lutheran Archbishop Tapio after being adopted at theological discussions on September 20 to 21, reports the Finnish Orthodox Church.
The Finnish Church was represented at the discussions by Metropolitan Ilija of Oulu, Archpriest Heikki Huttunen, Doctor of Theology, Archpriest Mikael Sundqvist, Master of Theology (M.Div.) and Soili Penttonen.
In his remarks at the signing, Abp. Leo emphasized that he hopes the document will help the churches “convey the importance of the meaning of Baptism in a more accessible way” against the background of declining numbers of Baptism among children.
The joint declaration testifies that Baptism was instituted as a Sacrament by the Lord Jesus Christ, in which a man becomes a member of the Body of Christ through immersion in water in the name of the Holy Trinity.
According to the declaration, although “we have different ideas about Baptism and how to celebrate it,” converts from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy in Findland or vice versa are not to be received by Baptism, as the “churches recognize the efficacy of Baptism celebrated in both of them.”
Read the full declaration below:
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:4-5).
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27).
These New Testament texts testify to the confidence of the ancient Church that God decided to give the world a new, eternal life by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to accomplish the work of the salvation of man and the entire world. The work of salvation was accomplished by the Triune God through the Incarnation, public activity, and the death and Resurrection of Christ.
Man becomes a participant in salvation when he is puts on Christ in Baptism. Both churches recognize Baptism as a Sacrament or Mystery. In it, God Himself accepts the baptized from death into life. Baptism is celebrated in the name of the Triune God using water, according to the commandment of the risen Christ: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). In Baptism, a man enters the Church, the community called in the New Testament the Body of Christ. A baptized person who is recognized as a member of this community can receive the grace of eternal life in Christ.
The practice of Baptism in both churches and the understanding of the importance of joint Christian witness in our country are based on the fact that we share this Christian faith and the vision of the importance of Baptism derived from it. In a situation when a member of one of our churches decides to become a member of the other church, Baptism is not celebrated over him anew. In this sense, our churches recognize the efficacy of Baptism celebrated in both of them.
Our churches have common roots in the undivided Christianity of the first millennium. After that, the development of doctrine took different paths, and therefore we have different ideas about Baptism and how to celebrate it. They were discussed during theological discussions and set out in the communiques published after them.
The theological discussions between our churches and the everyday coexistence of our members prompted us to draw up a common address on Baptism. Today we are facing challenges in transmitting the Christian tradition. Many may find themselves outside of what is given in Baptism. We wish to bear witness together about the gift of Baptism and encourage everyone to become more familiar with it.
Adopted by the Bishops’ Council of the Finnish Orthodox Church on 3.15.2022 and the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland on 5.5.2022.