October 14, 2012
The United Methodist Church baptizes infants. It does not dedicate them. I’m genuinely concerned about what seems to be confusion on this issue. ‘Baptize’ and ‘dedicate’ point toward radically different theologies of sacramental grace and atonement, and it’s central to the UMC liturgical articulation of God’s grace.
Even if one doesn’t look beyond Wesley or our own doctrinal standards to the broader Christian Tradition, United Methodists affirm (and must affirm) infant baptism. This derives from (and is integrally related to) our affirmation of Christ’s commandment to baptize in the Gospel of Matthew and our affirmation of sacraments as means of Grace through which God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit communicates the person and work of Christ (atonement and sanctification) to Christian believers. Our affirmation of infant baptism cannot be separated from our understanding of Grace or from our understanding of the ways in which God prevails over the forces of sin and death to unite God’s people to God’s self.
This is important, friends, and we really need to cling to our UMC heritage, indeed the tradition of the entire Christian faith back to the apostles and the Gospels before we unknowingly sever ourselves from the Means of Grace by which we enter the Body of Christ, the Church.
A Very Short Bibliography:
Wesley, John. “On Baptism” John Wesley. Albert Outler, ed. Oxford, UK. Oxford University Press. 1964. 317-332.
UMC Book of Discipline, Article XVII of Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church (p. 63) and Article VI of The Confession of Faith of the EUB (both in OUr Doctrinal Standards and General Rules).
Jones, Scott J. United Methodist Doctrine. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 261-262.
Maddox, Randy L. Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 1994.221-227.