The Sacrament of Baptism

As stated in Article XI, ¬∂ 3,¬† of the Christ Congregational Church Declaration of Faith, we believe Baptism “to be an ordinance of perpetual obligation, rightly administered to believers by the application of water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; that it is a public sign and seal of their cleansing from sin, of their union to Christ in His death and resurrection, of the impartation of the Holy Spirit to them, of their initiation into the Christian Church, and of their union with their fellow-Christians.”

But because Baptism has been, and continues to be, a source of some division within Protestantism, perhaps further comments might be helpful. Therefore, we would like specifically to discuss the position of Christ Church as regards baptism under three headings:  Subjects, Mode and Relation to Church Membership.

Subjects

Simply stated, we believe that the only proper subjects of baptism are believers–that is, those who have professed personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation, and of which salvation, ¬†baptism is the sign and seal (please see Acts 2.38 and Acts 16.25-33).¬† Therefore, we do not practice or teach the validity of infant baptism at Christ Church, as, in our view,¬† infants are incapable of professing personal faith or repentance, and because we find neither precept nor example for the practice in all of Scripture.

Mode

Professing believers are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with water.  We believe that what is essential here is the use of water, not how much water one uses or how much of the subject is actually covered with it. Therefore, depending on circumstances or the preference of the one to be baptized, at Christ Church, we affirm and practice all three modes of water baptism historically used in the church:  sprinkling, effusion (pouring), and immersion.

Relation to Church Membership

Part of what baptism symbolizes is the believer’s initiation into the Christian Church and his union with his fellow-Christians.¬† Therefore, most churches, Christ Church among them, requires water baptism as a condition of membership.

But perhaps a person wishing to become a member of Christ Church has only been baptized as an infant.  Since Christ Church teaches and practices believer’s baptism, does that mean that that person would have to be (from his perspective) re-baptized as a believer in order to join?  The answer is:  not necessarily.

The by-laws of Christ Church include a provision which allows persons who have been baptized as infants only to be admitted to the membership (as distinct from the leadership) of the church, provided that:

a. Such persons do not believe in baptismal regeneration; that is, they do not believe that the simple act of their baptism as infants actually saved them then or constituted a guarantee of saving grace to be granted to them at any point in the future;

b.¬† Such persons do believe after significant thought, study, discussion and prayer, that it would be contrary to Scripture and conscience‚ÄĒand not just family tradition or personal desires‚ÄĒto be baptized now as a believer, and thus to hold their infant baptism as invalid;

c. Such persons do, even when holding firmly to views different from the official doctrinal position of this church and its leadership regarding baptism, demonstrate a humble and teachable disposition with respect to the church leadership, and to an understanding of the sacrament of baptism particularly.