The Gift of Baptism In The Cariboo House Churches
Because we are a congregation that is Presbyterian in structure and accountability and interdenominational in practice, we have found ourselves having to sort through the issues around baptism in a way that affirms all those who call the house churches home. We thought that we would share our work in this area with those who are interested. This is what we have.....
We affirm the statements about baptism that are found in Living Faith section7.6, including…
- Baptism is a sign and seal of our union with Christ and with his church.
- Through it we share in the death and resurrection of Christ and are commissioned to his service.
- In Baptism, water is administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
- The water signifies the washing away of sin,the start of new life in Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- By the power of the Holy Spirit God acts through Baptism.
- It is the sacrament not of what we do but of what God has done for us in Christ…
- Baptism assures us that we belong to God.
Baptism is available to adults who wish to profess their faith in God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and for infants and children of believing parents who have been baptized and profess their faith and are committed to raising those children to know and follow Jesus Christ. A service of affirmation of baptism celebrates the commitment made by baptized believers in order to publicly profess their faith within the congregation.
Baptism is a gift as well as a sign and seal from God. It is given not for God’s benefit, but for ours. The practice of infant baptism followed by a personal, mature profession of faith through the affirmation of baptism affirms the work of God in our lives. Likewise, the dedication of infants followed by baptism as a youth or adult also affirms the call and grace of God in our lives. While we value and encourage our Presbyterian tradition of infant baptism, it does not necessarily preclude the practice of infant dedication and believer’s baptism.
Baptism, being a sign of our being a part of the family of God is a celebration for the whole family and happens in the context of public worship.
Cariboo House Churches Family:
We recognize and affirm that the family of the Cariboo House Churches is made up of people from a variety of church backgrounds and perspectives as well as those who have come to faith without a church background. We have ‘members’ of our fellowship who come from both believer’s baptism and infant baptism traditions, as well as non-sacramental branches of the church.
We affirm first and foremost the need for people to make a personal commitment to Christ, and that they should be encouraged to make it public in ways that reflect the grace of God in their lives.
We affirm our own denomination’s practise of baptising the children or infants of believing families where the vows to raise the child in the faith will be taken seriously. A theology of grace underlies this practise and is essential to who we are as a church in the Reformed tradition.
At the same time we respect and honour the theology of repentance and salvation that underlies the practice of believer’s baptism and which is not necessarily in conflict with our own emphasis on grace.
There will be people who, because of their theological background, will not be able to receive the theological and Biblical basis for infant baptism. These folks need to be lovingly welcomed into the fold in a meaningful way.
We anticipate welcoming brothers and sisters who come from backgrounds such as:
- those who have been baptised as children, but have now made a commitment to Christ and wish to be baptised to demonstrate their desire to follow Jesus – especially those for whom their infant baptism holds negative associations.
- those who come from a believer’s baptism background and wish to have their children dedicated.
- those who have not had a Trinitarian baptism.
In every situation we seek to pastorally encourage the faith of our people and challenge them to grow deeper in the grace of the Lord.
Process of Baptism
Normally a person seeking baptism for themselves or their children would make a request to an elder within the congregation (teaching or ruling). They would be referred to one of the pastoral team for follow-up on whatever level seems appropriate. (ie. For a new believer, several meetings to explain baptism might be appropriate, whereas for a person well-established in their faith bringing their child might only need a time of prayer and encouragement)
The member of the pastoral team would counsel the person on the meaning of baptism and together they would discern the course of action – either baptism, infant dedication, or affirmation of baptism.
The name of the person would come before the session for approval and a date set.
The people of God will gather to celebrate the grace of God in the member’s life through the means of grace administered.
In rare cases, baptism may be administered outside the context of public worship if an emergency medical situation arises. At these times as well, it is appropriate for a ruling elder, or if necessary, another believer, to administer baptism if one of the pastoral team is not available. This would then be reported to the session.
Responses to Pastoral Concerns:
The normal practice for those who have been raised in the Reformed tradition is for infant baptism followed by an affirmation of faith when the person reaches a point of choosing to follow Christ for themselves. We will endeavour to teach to our church family as they grow up in Christ about the blessings and value of the symbols of infant baptism within the Christian family. We will educate our youth to known that their baptism is to be celebrated and can be affirmed with vows and, if they wish, the symbol of water, when they feel led to publicly proclaim their faith in and commitment to God in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit.
As noted above, some of our family will come to baptism with various issues. These are possible responses to some of the most common concerns.
For those who have been baptised as children, but have now made a commitment to Christ and wish to be baptised to demonstrate their desire to follow Jesus – especially those for whom their infant baptism holds negative associations:
Explain to them the theology of grace whereby God was at work in their lives long before they were able to respond. God is much greater than our own symbols and rituals and is able to be at work even when our faith is inadequate. Therefore God is able to make meaning of their baptism even if they couldn’t. Encourage them to affirm the work of God in their lives through the years and the new commitment they have come to. Affirmation of baptism can happen through the use of the symbol of water to ‘remember their baptism’ in a tangible way.
In a pastoral way, the theology of the covenant of grace in infant baptism could be explained. If they are still uncomfortable and wish a dedication then have a service of dedication without the Trinitarian formula of baptism.
Baptise them, as they were not baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit within an orthodox Christian understanding.
We recognize that this document does not cover all the possible situations that may arise with respect to baptism. We seek to stay faithful to our Reformed theology and traditions while making room for other traditions that share our deep love and commitment for the work of God in our lives. It is our hope that as each person comes to faith and seeks an expression of their personal commitment to Christ, that as a congregation we will find the guidance of the Holy Spirit to celebrate that faith in ways appropriate to each situation and in line with the ancient and holy gift of baptism as shown in the Scriptures.