The sacrament of baptism in the UMC
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Baptism in the United Methodist Church
Water sustains life for humans, animals, and plants. We clean with warm water and relax in cool water. We find peace listening to the roar of the ocean or taking a stroll in the rain.
Water is also important to our life in the church.
In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, “we are initiated into Christ’s holy church, … incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit,” the Introduction to the Baptismal Covenant says. “All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.”
As the circumcision of male children is the initiatory act into God’s covenant with the Hebrew people (see Genesis 17:9-14), baptism is our initiation into the new covenant in Jesus Christ.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter offers the promise of baptism without regard to age, saying it is for those present, their children, and those far away (Acts 2:38-41). Later in Acts, we read of Paul and Silas baptizing Lydia and her household, and later their jailer with his entire family (Acts 16).
We continue this practice by baptizing the children of those who reaffirm their baptismal vows, receiving them into God’s mighty acts of salvation.
All those who receive the sacrament in a United Methodist congregation, are baptized members of the Church universal, the denomination of The United Methodist Church, and their local congregation, regardless of age.
By Water and the Spirit explains, “Just as infants are members of their human families, but are unable to participate in all aspects of family life, so baptized infants are members of the Church—the family of faith—but are not yet capable of sharing everything involved in membership.”
While all those baptized in a United Methodist church are members, when reporting membership statistics we count professing members, those who are baptized and have publicly professed the baptismal and membership vows for themselves.
Because baptism is an act of God, initiating us into the universal church, “the sacrament is to be received by an individual only once,” By Water and the Spirit states.
Some baptized persons may like to commemorate and celebrate profound faith experiences in a special way. For this purpose, The United Methodist Hymnal contains Baptismal Covenant IV, which By Water and the Spirit calls “a powerful ritual of reaffirmation which uses water in ways that remind us of our baptism.” The membership vows of The United Methodist Church also contain a reaffirmation of the baptismal vows.