aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

To my evangelical colleagues: a word about baptism

Over the course of 40 years or so of ministry, I have had the privilege of witnessing many professions of faith. I'd say at least a third of them, youth and adult, required baptism. Maybe more in recent years. Nor did I re-baptize people while calling it a "remembrance of baptism." These were legit first-time baptisms.

Such are the exigencies of our times, in which people are raised in all kinds of religious traditions, and no kind of religious tradition. We're not just dealing with people raised in our church, who were all baptized as babies and presented for confirmation later. We're dealing with everybody and all their unique spiritual histories.

So, I've done a lot of baptisms. And, since we UMs believe that all modes of baptism are valid, I've offered those to be baptized the full range of choices. I've baptized indoors and outdoors, by immersion and pouring and sprinkling. And what I've noticed is, unless you were raised by those who gave you a certain expectation of being baptized one way or another, you probably don't care.

In fact, at one church I served for eight years -- and which actually possessed an in-the-sanctuary immersion baptistry -- probably half those joining the church were also baptized. But NOT ONE requested immersion, even when I offered it, as I did, every time.

My observation is that you have to be taught to want one thing over another; meanwhile, some of those in the UMC who argue for believer's baptism, or immersion, or both, have their thumb on the scale. THEY have a jones for dunking people. It makes THEM feel great. They subtly (and sometimes, not so subtly) set out to convey their preferences to the candidates, some of whom would have other preferences if we didn't press them. And their need to baptize (as distinct from somebody else's need to be baptized) leads to a fair number of re-baptisms, which we're not supposed to do, not to mention a whole lotta confused teaching.

So, if you're not a candidate for baptism because you were baptized earlier, I'm sorry, but I won't give you a do-over (assuming I were pastoring again). That's a matter of integrity on my part, but it's not disconnected from my love for you: you deserve a pastor who tells you the truth and who follows a consistent practice in harmony with the teaching of our church. And if you are a proper candidate for baptism, why then, I will attempt to honor your choice and not herd you one way or another to suit my preference or convenience. (Though squirt guns are a No, so don't ask.)

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