June 23rd, 2006

lindisfarne gospels

Okay, I've got it out of my system now

A UM clergy friend of mine made a strong statement advancing what is called "believers' baptism." I declined to rise to the bait, but I was perturbed.

Now, I do lots of baptisms. Probably 60% of our professions of faith (youth and adult) require baptism. These are folks whose parents did not have them baptized as children, or who are from traditions where that was not done, or who were raised without religious instruction in any form and are basically coming into the Church from heathendom/folk Christianity.

That said, though, I haven't done a baptism by immersion in eight years. Not because I have some sort of objection to it: I've done plenty of dunkings in other places. But I have found that when you tell those who are candidates for baptism that they can have any form of baptism they might desire, then unless they have been conditioned to prefer immersion, most choose sprinkling or pouring. I consistently explain their options, and stand ready to dunk (indoors or out -- we have a baptistry in the church, plus I have no fear of creeks and ponds), but most simply don't desire it. Even those from families where I would have expected some pressure on them to be dunked have indicated no preference for it (at least, in this parish).

What really burns my bacon, though, are the people who rebaptize -- either to make it "official," or as a kind of boutique experience, as if it didn't matter. I have no quarrel with people choosing to wait and do it upon profession of faith, but those who practice "believers' baptism" basically don't respect what fellow clergy (even in the same Church) do.

So, I lay awake that night after my friend said his piece, and did a slow burn. And I came up with this response, which I was prepared to give if he re-opened the topic.

My response

Years ago, there was an old lady in a country UM church I pastored who used to grump about people not being baptized right. She was emphatic in the need for people to be baptized by total immersion to have done it correctly. "Helen," I said (that was her name), "I'll make you a deal. I'll agree to do all baptisms in this congregation by total immersion if you'll agree to use real wine in communion."

For if obeying the NT instructions and/or following the NT example is important -- if authenticity is what one desires -- then I can make a far stronger case for using fermented wine (watered, as was the practice in the First Century) in the eucharist than I can for demanding that baptism be conferred only by total immersion and only upon those able to testify to their own repentance and regeneration.*

Oh, but then we get off onto a discussion of the evils of consuming alcohol, and putting temptation in the way of any alcoholics present, and the merely symbolic nature of the juice of the grape, and how the Church should be able to adapt rites and ceremonies to local conditions and changes in social mores, yada yada yada.

Well, fine. But if the Church is able to adapt rites and ceremonies, etc., so as to alter the Scriptural model, then the Church has the power to adapt baptism at least as much as she has the power to adapt eucharist. And our denomination is explicit in forbidding rebaptism, so why do some people think they can disobey the Church? Oh, but the Scripture trumps the Church. OK, so why do these same people think they can disobey the Scripture? And so on.

Long before we get to a discussion of the Scriptural foundations for infant baptism, and long before we start in on a critique of the theology of "believers' baptism" and its skewed view of grace, it seems to me that the "believers' baptism" proponents -- especially those within a denomination that explicitly allows for/promotes infant baptism -- have to confront their lack of integrity on this issue.


*Not only that, but if we're going to be absolutely authentic, then we'd better have all those candidates baptized in the nude -- using deaconesses holding up blankets to preserve the modesty of the young women.
compass rose

Being wise as serpents and innocent as doves

I was talking with two District Superintendents last week in Africa. These are sharp guys, they've got a lot going; but it seemed to me that they were playing in a rigged game. In the interest of playing fair, I thought I should have the kind of discussion with them that I have had with American missionaries on several occasions. So the three of us sat together and I explained the politics of the American UMC to them. They were shocked to say the least, but at least now they know the score.Collapse )
roadkill soup


Got a call yesterday that the deal on renting the Harrodsburg parsonage fell through, so we are all back to square one. I am scheduled to move next week, and have noplace to move TO. So, collinsmom and I are driving over to Yonder UMC tomorrow to talk to the Trustees and see what we can work out. I may have to delay my actual move for a week or two while we secure adequate lodgings.

Really, this is beyond bizarre. And it's really a very simple question of management. If a task is to be accomplished, not only must that task be defined, but the person(s) responsible for accomplishing it must be identified (and accept that responsibility).

So -- if they had told ME back in April that I needed to secure my own housing (and here's the budget . . .) I would have had this done and wrapped up before going to Africa. Or if the DS had told the Committee, "you need to get this resolved by X date," it would have gotten done, unless they're all hopeless duffers.

Instead, nobody told me that the parsonage they were hoping to buy (and are buying) wouldn't be available until the end of the year until some weeks after I'd met with them. They knew that then; why didn't they tell me? And why did the DS keep gassing about possibilities he ultimately couldn't deliver, when he could have just told them, "Do X?" As it is, he's the one who stinks the worst in all this, and he probably feels hurt because he was only trying to help.

Well, as a secretary I used to have always said, "We'll all get over it if we live long enough."