Friday, October 28, 2016

General Assembly Resolution Concerning the Ritual for Infant Baptism

BAPTISM OF INFANTS                                                                         800.2


800.2. The Baptism of Infants or Young Children

When the sponsors shall have presented themselves with the child (or children) the minister shall say:                                                                      

            DEARLY BELOVED:  The sacrament of baptism is the sign and seal of the new covenant of grace.  [While we do not hold that baptism imparts the regenerating grace of God, we do believe that Christian baptism]  It signifies [for this young child] the prevenient nature of God’s gracious acceptance of this young child within the community of Christian faith.  It anticipates his (her) personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ.

The earliest and simplest statement of Christian belief, into which you now bring this child to be baptized, is the Apostles’ Creed, which reads as follows:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;

“And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

“I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic (universal) Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

Will you have your child baptized into this faith? If so, answer, “I will.”

Response: I will.

In presenting this child for baptism you are hereby witnessing to your own personal Christian faith and to your purpose to guide him (her) early in life to a knowledge of Christ as Savior.  To this end it is your duty to teach him (her), as soon as he (she) shall be able to learn, the nature and end of this holy sacrament; to watch over his (her) education, that he (she) may not be lead astray; to direct his (her) feet to the sanctuary; to restrain him (her) from evil associates and habits; and as much as in you lies, to bring him (her) up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

            Will you endeavor to do so by the help of God?  If so, answer, “I will.”

            The minister may then ask the parents or guardians to name the child, and shall then baptize the child, repeating his (her) full name and saying:

            _______________, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                

           The minister may then offer the following prayer or may use an extemporary prayer.                                                                      

            Heavenly Father, we humbly pray that Thou wilt take this child into Thy loving care.  Abundantly enrich him (her) with Thy heavenly grace; bring him (her) safely through the perils of childhood; deliver him (her) from the temptations of youth; lead him (her) to a personal knowledge of Christ as Savior; help him (her) to grow in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man, and to persevere therein to the end.  Uphold the parents with loving care, that with wise counsel and holy example they may faithfully discharge their responsibilities to both this child and to Thee.  In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


1.  The changes above bring this ritual of baptism into much closer alignment with the ritual for The Baptism of Believers.  Since believers and infant baptisms are both Christian baptisms, they should reflect the same reality.

2.  While the changes above bring this ritual into much closer alignment with that of The Baptism of Believers, it marks a greater distinction between it and the rituals for The Dedication of Infants or Young Children.  Since those two acts are significantly different, it is fitting that the rituals be sufficiently distinct.

3.  While clarifying statements may be made parenthetically by the presiding clergy, good rituals do not state what we do not believe (especially as an opening statement in the ritual).  Rather, good rituals state what we do believe.  The above resolution allows us to make the baptism of infants and young children a positive, celebratory time, rather than presenting a sense of uncertainty or defensiveness, which the wording of the current ritual may produce.

4.  The above resolution is more consistent with Wesleyan sacramental theology and the teachings of John Wesley, which utilizes the Apostles’ Creed, and which speaks of the sacraments as means of God’s grace.  (It is not that baptism, itself, imparts any grace, but rather that God does impart grace through the means, by faith.)

5.  The above resolution provides clarity as to the prevenient nature of God’s gracious acceptance the child within the community of Christian faith signified in baptism.

6.  The above resolution is more closely in line with Article of Faith XII. Baptism, paragraph 12, in that it neither reduces our beliefs, nor imposes doctrinal positions not stated within the Article of Faith.  Thus, the above resolution provides a ritual that is readily usable for all who espouse belief in Article of Faith XII, whereas, the current ritual does not provide such an opportunity for those whose belief in Article of Faith XII is understood in a consistent fashion with John Wesley’s own beliefs.

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