Baptism: A Sacrament of the United Methodist Church

What is Baptism?

In Matthew 28 Jesus says to the disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Baptism marks the beginning of the journey of discipleship.  It is fundamentally a gift of God’s grace (unearned love and mercy).  It is a sign of our acceptance by God and our entrance into the Body of Christ, the church.  It is one of two sacraments recognized and practiced in the United Methodist Church.

“Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.  We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.  All this is God’s gift offered to us without price. (Baptismal Covenant I, UM Hymnal p. 33)

Forms of Baptism

While sprinkling of water from the baptismal font is the most common form, pouring and immersion are also practiced.

At what age is Baptism appropriate?

Baptism is available to persons of all ages.  Infant baptism is the predominate form in our church because it is the perfect expression of the reception of God’s amazing grace, offered to us out of God’s loving Spirit, not in response to our faith or worthiness. As a sacrament, infant baptism is about what God is doing in the life of the child.  The parents make a commitment to raise the child in the church.  Baptism, as a sacrament, is distinct from “dedication” or “christening.”  At any age, baptism is God’s gift of grace to us and is distinct from our profession of faith.

What is Confirmation?

Confirmation is a course offered during the 6th grade year (and periodically for youth) wherein children learn the fundamentals of the faith and Christian history.  The Confirmation year culminates in a worship service where children have the opportunity to publicly profess their faith in God through Jesus Christ and join the church.  We believe that we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, so this public profession marks the moment of justification/salvation that begins the lifelong process of sanctification – growing more and more like Christ until we genuinely love God and our neighbor in all that we do.

Children who are baptized as infants are expected to attend Confirmation.  Children who have not yet been baptized can receive baptism in the Confirmation worship service.

What do we believe about re-baptism?

Where Holy Communion is a sacrament that is repeated over and over, Baptism is done only once in someone’s life.  This is based on the belief that Baptism is a covenant between the person baptized and God and God never breaks God’s side of the covenant.  If we fall away from faith and break our side of the covenant, we can participate in a remembrance of our baptism and a recommitment to our faith.  We recognize and honor the baptism of anyone baptized in a Christian denomination.

Why is Baptism important?

“Baptism is at the heart of the gospel of grace, and it is at the core of the church’s mission.  When we baptize we say what we understand as Christians about ourselves and our community:  that we are loved into being by God, and lost because of sin, but redeemed and saved in Jesus Christ to live new lives and look for his coming again in glory…As baptized people of God, we therefore respond with praise and thanksgiving, praying that God’s will be done in our own lives.” (By Water and the Spirit Study Guide, p. 49)  We are baptized into the church universal, rather than into an individual local church; therefore baptism always precedes church membership.

Is there a Baptism class required?

Yes, for all who are interested in baptism for themselves or their children we ask that you attend a baptism class.  In this class, we discuss the meaning and significance of Christian baptism as well as the United Methodist understanding of the sacrament.  We also address questions about the logistics of the worship service.  Total class time is about one hour.