Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wash Away My Baptism

I need to work through this because thinking about it makes me very upset. I mean it consumes me. I found out a loved one of mine had to be rebaptized to join her church. They would not except her as a member until she was submerged. This church was the place that her husband decided they were going to call home and that is the reason she went through with it. Her husbands parents came up all excited about her (re)baptism and wanted to celebrate it. She told them she was doing this to join the church and that was the reason, (I'm guessing not because of some conversion experience like they may have thought).

This is what really gets under my skin. I mean deep down, infuriatingly type of stuff. The main reason is that a church told this person, and persummably more, that their baptism doesn't count. That some how it wasn't holy enough to really matter, because less water was used. When congregations do that they negate my baptism as well.

This loved one was baptized as an infant, as I was. Saying that she didn't get it right the first time means I am not right. It means my wife, my son, all the people and children I have baptized are not right with God because a handful of water was used and not a tub full. That hurts, to the deep center of my being. Rebaptism states that God didn't get it right the first time and I find that offensive.

As you could probably tell this church is not a United Methodist church and it makes me so proud to be in this denomination when stuff like this happens. I got the pleausure of having three baptizims in a row in as many weeks. I baptized an infant, a four year old and an adult. Each one was special and God was present.

Thank God the blessing, love, grace, and joy found in that sacrament is not our responsibility. God got it right for me, for my loved one (both times), and each and every time. Putting samantics on the style or amount of water is handcuffing God to a pole and saying God can only work a certain way. The God I worship, the God present at the sacraments I have witnessed, is SO much bigger than that.

7 comments:

johnmeunier said...

Our God is bigger than all of that.

I really do not want to hijack your thread or your thinking, but I could not help - as I read your words about feeling like the other church's statement about baptism was an attack on you and your relationship with God - I could not help hearing in your words echoes of words I hear from folks who are pained by the UMC's language on gay marriage and gay clergy.

I won't dwell on that because I know that is not related to your intentions with the post.

All baptism is the work of God's grace, not human effort or will. We miss the point when we suggest otherwise.

Jim said...

John, I think you are correct, there are echos of that. To stray a little from my intention of the post, it is funny how open we (the UMC) is with our sacraments yet how closed off we still are on the homosexual issue.

Earl said...

Baptismal theology is not consistent across denominational lines. Obviously this incident did not occur in a UM congregation for what you describe reflects a understanding that views Baptism not as a sacrament but as an ordinance. If your family member joined a Baptist church, it would not be surprising, given their understanding of "believers baptism" and their emphasis on a "regenerate church membership" that she would be required to be re-baptized. From such a perspective, no baptism would be valid unless received following a profession of faith in Christ. Some would also insist upon a particular mode with immersion being the norm. In regard to Baptism not all such congregations are so rigidly inflexible. Hopefully both your family member and her husband will with his parents find in this congregation many opportunities to grow in the grace, knowledge and love of Jesus.

Prisca@Peace said...

I have a story like that in my family. What is different is that it did follow a conversion experience. When my brother called to tell me that he was being baptized I had to support and love new-found faith. it was, for him, a profound way to enter into a new community of faith.

But what is interesting is that he's left that 'baptist' community and now is active in a 'methodist' (not UMC) one. And he says he's trying to understand the differences (probably including baptismal theology).

As a Lutheran, we have a strong statement that we are not responsible for the grace in baptism - therefore it is appropriate and significant to baptism infants. And the method is not the key. It was the fad at seminary to baptism babies with full immersion, but no one else.

What I think hurts you, Jim, is that notion that only this kind of baptism is valid. I always stress in class that in the larger church, we recognize all baptism in the name of the Triune God as valid. it's a pity that this church is so parochial. I just reminded my brother that it was God's doing both times! (and in my heart - I still think the first baptism is the real one!)

Jim said...

Earl, I understand what you are saying and I by no means was lumping all Baptist congregations together. It just frustrates me this loved one's baptism wasn't seen as valid.

It got me thinking about say the clergywomen of my denomination (UMC) and how they feel when other denominations (like Baptists and Catholics) do not see their ordinations as valid. I can imagine that hurts, deep too.
Once again I think this limits the God we worship.

Erin G said...

erin (bumgarner) here... I've been lurking on your blog for a while (so insightful!) and this post has finally lured a comment out of me.

we talked about this in my bible study recently... I'm pretty sure I believe that you get baptized ONCE. it's like getting married. once you're baptized (or married), you're baptized. you can do it over again, renew the ceremony, etc, but it's sort of futile since it's already DONE. doing it again doesn't change anything, so it's sort of pointless.

to do it again because someone thinks the first one wasn't right, or to negate the first one... well that's just deeply troublesome.

Jim said...

Thanks for leaving a comment Erin, nice to hear from you. I agree with what you said and what I tell my congregants is, no matter if it was pre or post conversion, infant or adult, sprinkled or dunked, God got it right. God always gets it right.