What does The United Methodist Church believe about baptism?
Key Points Concerning Baptism
Baptism is the glorious sign of inclusion into the family of God. This great privilege is offered to us, freely, through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Our Lord has commissioned all who are part of His family to, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19). Thus, the command to baptize is an inseparable part of disciple making. It is an expression of the exuberance of becoming part of God's eternal family.
Baptism is a sign of belonging to the family of God. We are not saved by baptism. It is a symbol of salvation, not the act. Methodists practice infant baptism because there is scriptural evidence that entire households, including children and infants, were baptized, as recorded in the book of Acts. (Acts 16:15 )
A person only needs to be baptized once, even if the baptism occurs as an infant.
A person who was baptized as an infant and wishes to affirm their commitment to Christ has the option of partaking in a ritual of reaffirmation of baptism. Baptism is one of the two sacraments of the United Methodist Church. The other is Holy Communion. A sacrament is a special command of the Lord, using outward signs (water or bread and wine) to convey the grace of God. Asbury offers a focused retreat, called Faith Steps, for all older children (baptized or not baptized) to help prepare them to receive Christ as Savior. This retreat culminates in New Life Sunday in which the retreat participants are invited to make a public profession of faith. Historically, the term used for this focused time of learning and commitment is called confirmation.
At Asbury, we recognize that persons come from different traditions and scriptural understandings of baptism. We embrace and respect the differences. Some persons affirm infant baptism, others believer's baptism only. No one is compelled to embrace or adopt a position different from their own scriptural view. We realize that baptism is an integral part of our response to the Lord and that all are called to participate in it. As part of our Methodist heritage, Asbury offers both infant and believer's baptism. We do not forget, though, that what unites us is Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord; everything else is secondary. Through water, baptism becomes an outward sign of the grace of God at work in the life of the person being baptized. Because water is a symbol of God's work, we believe that the manner in which a person is baptized is optional. We baptize by three means: sprinkling (symbolic of the Biblical act of sprinkling to cleanse), pouring (symbolic of the Holy Spirit being poured out on believers), and immersion (symbolic of our dying and rising with Christ). Just as a wedding ring is an outward sign of a marriage relationship, the water used in baptism is an outward sign of an individual becoming part of the family of God through the sacrificial gift of Christ on the cross.
Infants are declared to be a part of God's family through the profession of faith of the parents. Also, the parents promise to bring the child up in the Christian faith and to be active the local church. The inclusion of infants into the family of God is the affirmation that “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Our Lord declared that children have a special place in the Kingdom of God . As such they are no less part of God's family here on earth. The baptism of an infant is not a substitute for the radical change necessary in the hearts of all people. This change (salvation or spiritual birth) occurs by receiving the good news of Jesus Christ through faith.
Persons of the age to hear and respond to the Gospel message are called into a relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship is created through faith in Jesus Christ. After entering into this relationship with Christ a person is baptized as an outward sign of their faith and of being adopted into God's family.