Baptism is an outward and visible sign of a covenant or promise that is made between God and us. In baptism, God adopts us as one of God’s own children, washes us clean, gives us new life and joins the story of our lives with the story of God’s work in the world. All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price. In baptism, we also have a responsibility. In baptism, we promise to respond to God’s love in faith by loving God and loving our neighbor and we promise to be on the journey of knowing, loving and serving God.
People of all ages can be baptized, but when we are children we are not able to make promise by ourselves. Our parents, family, friends and our community of faith make those promises for us. Our children then reconfirm the promise made by their parents when they go through confirmation.
Here are some FAQ’s about baptism in the United Methodist Church:
Q: What does United Methodism fundamentally believe about baptism?
A: Baptism is a sacrament. In a sacrament, God uses common elements (in this case, water) as means or vehicles of divine grace. Baptism is administered by the church as the Body of Christ. It is the act of God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Q: What is the difference between infant baptism and believer’s baptism?
A: In all forms of Christian Baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to profess their faith, with divine grace. Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are — whatever our age.
Q: May we have our baby dedicated instead of baptized?
A: No, the theological understandings of the two services are very different. Dedication is a human act — something we pledge or give to God. Baptism is a divine act, a pledge and gift God gives to us. Baptism of infants includes the reaffirmation of the vows of the Baptismal Covenant by parents, sponsors, and the congregation; but chiefly it celebrates what God is doing and will do in the life of the infant.
Q: How about Christening?
A: Christening is not a separate ritual, but rather historically part of the Ritual of Baptism.
Q: Is sprinkling the only way that United Methodists baptize?
A: No, our church has always offered to people being baptized and to the parents of infants the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.
Q: May I be baptized again if I feel the need?
A: No, baptism is an act of God, and God does it right the first time. Our side of the covenant relationship with God will need re-commitment and reaffirmation, but God always remains faithful to the divine side.
Q: Does baptism mean that I am saved?
A: No, baptism offers the promise that the Holy Spirit will always be working in our lives, but salvation requires our acceptance of that grace, trust in Christ, and ongoing growth in holiness as long as we live.