Incorporation into the body of Christ

Fourth meeting of the Catholic, Lutheran and Mennonite Trilateral Dialogue Commission on baptism 

BOGOTA, Colombia

Photo courtesy of Catholic Bishops Conference (CEC) of Colombia

Representatives of the Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), The Lutheran World Federation, and Mennonite World Conference met in Bogotá, Colombia, 29 February–4 March 2016, for the fourth meeting of the International Trilateral Dialogue Commission.

The Commission developed the general topic of the dialogue “Baptism and Incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church” through papers on “Living out our Baptism,” the theme of the fourth meeting.

Marie-Hélène Robert (Catholic), Alfred Neufeld (Mennonite) and Raj Patta (Lutheran), made major presentations reflecting on discipleship, participation in Christ and public witness. In anticipation of the conclusion of the trilateral dialogue, members reviewed the work of the previous years and further developed the document prepared by the drafting group. Each day began and ended in common prayer with morning prayers including joint reflections on biblical texts relating to baptism.

The meeting, hosted jointly by the Lutheran, Mennonite and Catholic churches in Colombia took place at the premises of the Catholic Bishops Conference (CEC) of Colombia where the members of the commission enjoyed the warm hospitability of the staff of the CEC. One evening commission members met with Alberto Franco CSsR, representative of the Interchurch Dialogue for Peace – DiPaz and heard about the ways the local churches participate in and promote the peace and reconciliation process in Colombia. The participants visited also the Cathedral of Bogotá and the Basílica del Señor de Monserrate.

The fifth and final meeting of the Trilateral Commission is scheduled to take place 8–14 February 2017 in Germany where the commission is expected to finalize its report for submission to The Lutheran World Federation, Mennonite World Conference and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

—Mennonite World Conference release courtesy of Lutheran World Federation

Reflections from Mennonite participants in dialogue: 

Meeting in the Colombian context of wide scale violence and focusing on this meeting’s topic “Living out our Baptism,” I had expected this gathering to become “a moment of glory” for our Mennonite interpretations of adult baptism. Yet, I was humbled by the rich insight of the Lutheran presentation by a Dalit theologian from India on Dietrich Bonhoeffer´s witness on costly discipleship. And I was surprised by the accentuation of the call to evangelism as a fruit of our baptism by a Roman Catholic sister from France. In most societal contexts we find ourselves in today (so different from the European setting of the 16th century, where our traditions went different ways), it seems so appropriate to acknowledge each other’s baptism as authentic commitments to witness to the peace of Christ, together.

—Fernando Enns, chair, (Peace-) Theology and Ethics, Faculty of Theology, Free University, Amsterdam

From “Baptism and Discipleship: Holding together ‘sola fide’ and ‘imitatio Christi,’” a presentation on Mennonite understanding of baptism: 

It seems clear that for the three traditions that in Christian initiation the primary actor is God, his grace and his justification….

Christian life must have a beginning, it must be positively affirmed and embraced by each one living in a discipleship relation to Jesus and his body, the church. And it needs continued nurture, instruction, forgiveness and encouragement. From the self-understanding of the Mennonite tradition, this best can be achieved and comes closest to Scripture evidence through conscious believer’s baptism and discipleship within the committed community of the church.

—Alfred Neufeld, chair, MWC Faith and Life Commission


Roman Catholic 

* Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, IMC (co-chair, Colombia);

* Revd. Prof. William Henn, OFM Cap (USA/Italy);

* Revd. Prof. Luis Melo, SM (Canada);

* Sister Prof. Dr. Marie-Hélène Robert, NDA (France);

* Revd. Avelino Gonzalez (co-secretary, USA/Vatican).


* Prof. Dr. Friederike Nüssel (co-chair, Germany);

* Bishop Emeritus Dr. Musawenkosi Biyela (South Africa);

* Prof. Dr. Theodor Dieter (France);

* Revd. Raj Bharath Patta (India/UK);

* Revd. Dr. Kaisamari Hintikka (co-secretary, Finland/Switzerland).


* Prof. Dr. Alfred Neufeld (co-chair, Paraguay);

* Prof. Dr. Fernando Enns (Germany);

* Prof. Dr. John Rempel (Canada);

* Revd. Dr. Larry Miller (co-secretary, France).


* Revd. Prof. Peter Li (Lutheran)

* Revd. Rebecca Osiro (Mennonite).

Read about previous meetings

One Spirit, one baptism

Mennonites, Catholics, Lutherans dive into baptism question

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