Friday, April 23, 2010

Ana the Baptist and Methodist ReBaptists: Missional Sacraments part 7

This contarian gal pictured here
baptized me.

Picture that.

It felt contarian, subversive, unkosher...and completely right.

It was long after I came to Christ.
But long before she read this book.

But let's piggy back on the book's title. and jump into the deep waters of post #7 on missional sacraments.

"missional churches will do well to realize that baptism is open to all who believe in Christ alone for salvation, is non-denominational in nature and may be administered by any Christian."
-Igneous Quill

You know, I am amazed the only posts I see on "missional sacraments" on Google are mine.
The phrase can't be that oxymoronic..or more timely.

Of course, all of life is sacramental (see Toni's post in the comments here)
And all of life is missional.
So maybe this is all too obvious.

Or obviously not.
Or not obvious yet.

My seminary friend (and a fellow "mom"...uh, ask him about that), Talbot Davis posted a helpful and brave (in his circles) post on....well, his post title explains the controversy:
In the UMC, it is officially unkosher to re-baptize..

Read his post below, and join the conversation (here, on the Facebook mirror... or there on his blog):

by Talbot Davis:

What is a cardinal sin for Methodist preachers?


It's one of the things that can get us in some ecclesiastical trouble. If we knowingly baptize someone who was baptized as an infant or child, we are likely to hear from Methodist higher ups.

The history behind the "rebaptism controversy" is quite long (you can read some
here) and much broader than just the Methodist movement. Yet the driving distinction between those who re-baptize and those who don't revolves around who is the main actor in a baptism. Is baptism something God does or is it the volitional choice of the person being baptized?

Historically, Methodists have believed baptism is what God does -- so we don't "re-do" what God has already done.

Our Baptist friends, among others, contend that the person being baptized is the central figure in the sacrament -- that's why in their view an infant baptism is not valid. What infant can decide from himself or herself to follow Christ? So they will eagerly re-baptized people.

Yet as I have wrestled with the issue, two other items come to mind. First, baptism in the New Testament seems to be an exclusively "after" event: it is observed "after" a person comes to faith in Christ. (Yes, Acts
16:16 and 16:33 suggest "family wide" baptisms, but those references are imprecise at best.)

The bigger argument against a firm "no rebaptism" policy is Acts 19:1-7 which I include below:

1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?"
They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
3So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?"
"John's baptism," they replied.

4Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." 5On hearing this, they were baptized into[b] the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[c] and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all.

What does the story describe?

A re-baptism . . . because the converts did not fully comprehend the nature of their first baptism. Once they had received full teaching about Christ and his Holy Spirit, they received it with joy and were baptized into the faith. A volitional choice made after conversion.

Hmmmm. A biblical second baptism.

Infant baptism is certainly different that "John's baptism" (19:3) . . . yet both involve incomplete or absent knowledge & awareness.

And just like the converts in Acts 19, those who have been baptized as infants need to receive the urgent news of what Christ has done for them so they too can make a volitional choice for faith.

And after that? That's a matter for more prayer. And conversation.


Now, I too have pastored in the UMC, and know that the rule is not well-enforced.
By the way, I was invited out (given the "right foot of fellowship") not for rebaptizing, but for a sin apparently far more unpardonable and cardinal:

suggesting that churches temporarily withhold money from their denomination until the denomination keeps its own rules.

Go figure.
(That story is water under the bridge, but found by clicking : "We've done everything we can to work with Rev, Wainscott ...)

And as one who also swims in an Anabaptist stream, i am obviously open to appropriate re-baptism (the very meaning of the term ana-baptism.) And just ask messianic Rabbi Adam about "re-baptism"...we need the rabbi to weigh in here!..unless we don't really want to be biblical (:

I was not re-baptized, or baptized as a believer, or by immersion, until after leaving the UMC.
Then a "layperson" ...and a female, at that!....baptized me, not long after I baptized her.

I agree that some cases for re-baptism may be all wet. Who fully knows what they are getting into as they get into the water?

As a pastor who has baptized (often re-baptized) folks in the Jordan on every trip (and in this video clip below...and I have another clip from another year, in which Pastor Scott..who drives Toyotas.. roasted me for breaking church rules) I make to Israel....partly because the Jordan water somehow seems holier (There is almost a sign, "Jesus Swam Here"). But largely because there often comes a time when a believer feels its time to get their feet wet (Excellent teaching by Van Der Laan on the Jordan and baptism on DVD, short transcript here)

And if sacraments are intrinsically and inherently missional, who is to say that an infant baptism..or a baptism where we don't fully know what we're getting into (=all cases)...can't "count"?



  1. As a former Methodist myself, I pretty much adhere to the strain of thought that baptism is an act of God so I don't perform "re-baptisms" but I do enact affirmations of baptism. The person affirms the vows taken on their behalf and is immersed as a symbol of their desire to live out those vows. Since I am NOT a theologian or a scholar, I'm sure that this is probably wrong on many levels but it works for us as a way to honor what has gone before and acknowledge the heart of the now. Personally, I think the sacrament of baptism is holy and want guard against turning it into a Saturday night bath kind of thing while recognizing the deep symbolism it represents to baptized infants who have lived apart from God and find His grace as adults. I don't know how to add my name - Pastor Nancy so I'm selecting anonymous.

  2. For what it is worth, I agree with Super Prof. Wildman Dave, the Holy Heteroclyte. I think the Acts passage quoted is a great reference. Baptism should always be about spiritual significance (meaning). It is an act for the believer as an expression of faith to God not for God. (The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.) When more truth and light came to those who heard Paul's preaching, they received a fuller understanding and the symbol had a deeper significance to them spiritually and sealed a greater work in them through this tangible expression of their faith. Was it required by God? Don't think so. Was it a more assuring expression and meaningful milemarker experience? Think so. Anonymously Dallas Elder

  3. Thanks, you two...great stuff.

    Nancy, it is ironic for a tradition that historically (vs. Calvinism) has emphasized free will/human response, it is striking how deeply UMs can see baptism as an "act Of God." looks like you may have thought i quoted the Acts give credit, it was my friends' post that i quoted...I touched up my post to make that more obvious.
    Your "to God and for God" has really got me thinking.

    Thanks for being known anonymous commenters.
    Love you both..

    Still waiting for Rabbi Adam's got deleted somehow..

  4. It's always interesting to me to read Christian thoughts on Biblical subjects totally divorced from their historical Jewish context. What the Greek translates as "baptism" is an ancient Hebrew concept (going back to the Torah) called "tevillah", immersion for ritual purity. It occurred(s) on a regular basis. Tevillah can only occur in a "mikvah," a body of "living water" (moving water, preferabky from a natural source).

    The idea was whenever you became ritually impure (through contact with a dead body, for example) or were going to go ti the Temple, you needed to become ritually clean again. It is performed on a regulae basis, to remind us of the constant need for teshuvah (repentance, literally returning).

  5. Rabbi Adam is the definitive Anabaptist, or anaanaananananananabaptist


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!