CHURCH AND SACRAMENTS
Being a Christian has necessarily both a personal and a communal
aspect. It is a vital relationship to God in and through Jesus Christ
in which faith, conversion of life, and membership in the Church
are essential. Individual believers are joined in a family of disciples,
so that belonging to Christ means also belonging to the Church which
is his body.
12. Both the personal and communal aspects of
the Christian life are present in the two sacraments that Methodists
and Roman Catholics consider basic. Baptism initiates the individual
into the koinonia of the Church; in the eucharist Christ is really
present to the believer (cf. Dublin Report, 1976, no. 54), who is
thus bound together in koinonia both with the Lord and with others
who share the sacramental meal2.
It is by divine institution that the Church has received baptism
and the eucharist, outward signs of inward grace consisting of actions
and words by which God encounters his people; these signs are recognized
as sacraments by both Churches. The Church has authority to institute
other rites and ordinances which are valued as sacred actions and
signs of God's redeeming love in Christ (cf. Honolulu Report, no.
49 concerning Marriage). Some of these the Roman Catholic Church
recognizes as sacraments since it sees them as ultimately derived
from the will of Christ. Methodists, while using the term "sacrament"
only of the two rites for which the Gospels explicity record Christ's
institution, do not thereby deny sacramental character to other
Sacraments are to be seen in the wider context of God's action in
salvation history, in the Church, and in individual human lives.
The grace which comes through the sacraments is the grace of Christ,
the visible image of the unseen God, in whom divine and human natures
are united in one person; the Church proclaims the action of the
same Christ at work within us; and the individual sacraments likewise
convey the reality of his action into our lives.
15. The sacraments are effective signs by which
God gives grace through faith. Their efficacy should not be conceived
in any merely mechanical way. God works through his Spirit in a
mysterious way beyond human comprehension, but he invites a full
and free human response.
Salvation is ultimately a matter of our reconciliation and communion
with God - a sharing in God's life which is effected through real
union with Christ. Those actions of the Church which we call sacraments
are effective signs of grace because they are not merely human acts.
By the power of the Holy Spirit they bring into our lives the life-giving
action and even the self-giving of Christ himself. It is Christ's
action that is embodied and made manifest in the Church's actions
which, responded to in faith, amount to a real encounter with the
risen Jesus. And so, when the Church baptizes it is Christ who baptizes
Likewise it is Christ who says: "This is my body ... this is
my blood" and who truly gives himself to us. The fruit of such
encounters is our sanctification, and the building up of the body
Our discussions revealed that we must still examine and resolve persisting differences concerning the efficacy of baptism, particularly of infants. Neither of us believes that a non-baptized person is by that very fact excluded from salvation, nor that baptism automatically ensures perseverance unto salvation. Both in this paragraph and the succeeding one the references to the eucharist emphasize only certain communal and personal aspects which are immediately relevant to this discussion of the Church. In the Dublin Report, nn. 47-74, the Commission has given a much fuller account of the present areas of agreement and of remaining disagreement concerning this sacrament.
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