A statement of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) on "Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry" (BEM) unanimously approved at the Commission plenary meeting at Lima, Peru, on Jan. 12, 1982. It purports to be a statement of convergence rather than full consensus, and is submitted to the churches for their reception and response.
The roots of the Lima Text go back to discussions in the Faith and Order Movement since the First World Conference at Lausanne in 1927, when efforts were made to find common ground on questions concerning sacraments and ministry. The Faith and Order Commission meeting in Louvain in 1971 reviewed earlier consensus statements on the Eucharist and on Baptism dating from 1967 and 1968 and a new draft report on the Ordained Ministry. At the Accra meeting of the Faith and Order Commission (1974) the reports on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry were revised and combined in a single brochure. The Nairobi Assembly of the WCC (1975) asked the member churches to submit their reactions to the three reports. Taking account of these reactions, a small committee of experts headed by Max Thurian composed the draft for Lima, which considered and voted on many amendments to produce the final text.
The very dense text cannot be adequately summarized. The language adheres closely to that of previous Faith and Order documents and, in general, that of the Bible. Where there are clear disagreements among the churches, an effort is made to give a fair statement of each position. The disagreements are explained in a running commentary which is part of the official text.
The chapter on Baptism has 23 paragraphs, with commentary. Baptism is described as a participation in Christ's death and Resurrection, as an event of conversion and cleansing, as a bestowal of the Holy Spirit, as incorporation into the Body of Christ, and as a sign of the Kingdom. Infant and adult ("believers") baptism are presented as "equivalent alternatives." The unusual practice of baptizing without water is noted as requiring further study.
The chapter on Eucharist contains 33 paragraphs, with commentary. The Eucharist (or Lord's Supper) is depicted as thanksgiving to the Father, as a memorial of Christ, as invocation of the Holy Spirit, as communion of the faithful, as an anticipation of the eschatological meal. It is described as "the sacrament of the unique sacrifice of Christ," a memorial wherein the Church intercedes in union with the great High Priest. Transubstantiation is mentioned in the commentary, with the remark that many churches do not link Christ's presence so definitely to the consecrated elements. Intercommunion is encouraged as a manifestation of "the catholicity of the Eucharist" (Comm. 19).
The chapter on Ministry (55 paragraphs with commentary) begins with a treatment of the ministry of the whole people of God and states that a special or ordained ministry is constitutive of the life and witness of the Church. The ordained are described as heralds and ambassadors, as leaders and teachers, and as pastors who direct the community. Disagreements about the ordination of women are noted in the commentary.
The threefold pattern of bishop, presbyter, and deacon is recognized as ancient and as holding promise for Church unity. Bishops are portrayed as charged with preserving continuity and unity in the Church and with pastoral oversight of a given area. The apostolicity of the whole Church is held to be served and symbolized by the continuous succession of bishops. Churches that have maintained this succession are, however, urged to recognize the "apostolic content" of the ordained ministry in other churches.
Responses. The Lima text is preceded by a preface (not technically part of the Text) in which all churches are asked to respond officially to four questions: To what extent can you recognize in this text the faith of the Church throughout the ages? What consequences can you draw for relations with other churches? What guidance can you find in the text for your worship, life, and witness? How should Faith and Order make use of this text for its future research? The Vancouver Assembly of the WCC (1983) reaffirmed the request that the churches respond to these questions.
The official response of the the Catholic Church to BEM issued by SPUC on July 21, 1987, was basically positive, characterizing the Lima texts as "perhaps the most significant result of the [Faith and Order] movement so far." "The study of BEM," it asserted, "has been for many Catholics an enriching experience." Noting that "BEM demonstrates clearly that serious progress is being made in the quest for visible unity," the response encouraged Faith and Order "to continue its valuable work of seeking unity in faith as a basis for visible unity."
While observing that BEM converges with Catholic doctrine and practice on a broad range of issues, the response noted that there are occasional passages which suggest options in theology and practice not consistent with Catholic faith. Some of these may here be indicated under the headings of Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry.
On Baptism, the SPUC found the Lima text to be "grounded in the apostolic faith received and professed by the Catholic Church." The trinitarian, sacramental, and missionary dimensions of Baptism, according to the response, are well stated. But the text was faulted for its failure to treat a number of points that Catholics consider important; e.g., the necessity of Baptism for salvation, original sin, the Baptismal character, and the completion of initiation through Confirmation (as a distinct sacrament) and the Eucharist. The SPUC response also considered that the value of infant Baptism and the importance of nurture in a Christian community should have been given more emphasis.
On the Eucharist the SPUC response praised, among other things, the strong trinitarian and christological dimensions of the text, its use of patristic and liturgical sources, and its rich ecclesiological and eschatological context. The Secretariat, however, found unfortunate ambiguities in the treatment of the Eucharist as sacrifice and in the handling of Christ's real presence through the conversion of the elements, which Catholics regard as a matter of faith. The report also objected that the problem of eucharistic sharing among churches was discussed without sufficient attention to the ecclesial significance of Holy Communion. Lima's treatment of reservation of the consecrated species was also found deficient.
On the Ministry text, SPUC was likewise positive.
Well aware of the complexity of the ecumenical dialogue on ministry, we are grateful for the work achieved on it by the Commission and we appreciate especially the fact that its presentation goes in the direction of the major lines of what we recognize 'as the faith of the Church throughout the ages'.
On the ordination of women, SPUC took the position that this is excluded by apostolic tradition, which the Church has no authority to change. The response expressed regret that BEM is unclear as to whether the threefold ministry of bishop, presbyter, and deacon is a constitutive feature of the Church or a historically contingent disposition. It would have welcomed more emphasis on the collegiality of the bishops and on the papacy as the "focus of unity." While acknowledging that ordination is in effect treated as a sacrament (without the word being used), SPUC took the position that "ordained ministry requires sacramental ordination by a bishop standing in the apostolic succession"—a point not affirmed by BEM. For this reason SPUC considered the proposals of BEM on the mutual recognition of ministries premature.
In proposing future work for Faith and Order, SPUC called attention to three areas needing further treatment: first, sacrament and sacramentality, including (it would seem) the Church as a real and effective "icon of the presence of God and His Kingdom in the world"; second, apostolic tradition, which should be clearly distinguished from the particular "traditions" that develop in the separate churches; and third, authority in the Church, including the power of definite persons and bodies to discern and make binding decisions.
On Aug. 31, 1987, Günther Gassmann, the director of Faith and Order, welcomed this response by SPUC as the first official response ever given by the Catholic Church to an ecumenical document. He interpreted this response as an unambiguous commitment of the Catholic Church to the one ecumenical movement. He also applauded the support given in the response to multilateral dialogue as complementary to the bilateral dialogues that the Catholic Church has vigorously sponsored since Vatican Council II.
Bibliography: Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper 111 (Geneva 1982). j. gros, ed., "Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry and Its Reception in the U.S. Churches," Journal Ecumenical Studies 21, no. 1 (Boston 1984). secretariat for promoting christian unity, "Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry: An Appraisal," Origins 17, no. 23 (Nov. 19, 1987) 401–16. m. thurian, ed., Ecumenical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper 116 (Geneva 1983); Churches Respond to BEM. Official Responses to the "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" Text, 6 v. (Geneva 1986–88). m. a. fahey, ed., Catholic Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry. A Study Commissioned by the Catholic Theological Society of America (Lanham, Md. 1986). g. limouris and n. vaporis, Orthodox Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper 128 (Brookline, Mass. 1985); also printed in The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 30, no. 2 (1985).