Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The picture (above) of a United Methodist Ordained elder, a woman, anointing and praying for a Roman Catholic cardinal caused quite a stir amongst the news media. After all, the Catholic Church has never ordained women. For a high-ranking official like Cardinal O’Malley to willingly participate is recognition there’s something of a new breeze of ecumenism afoot.
That still doesn’t lower the level of misunderstanding about issues which divide us in the first place.
One of those issues is baptism.
In yesterday’s post I wrote rather frivolously that I’d been asked “62 times per day” about the “why” of my change from Baptist to Methodist (it never was more than 57). The perception behind the question “why” is many-faceted, not the least of which is baptism. That perception, sometimes stated and sometimes not, is that Methodists and Baptists (among others) think so differently about the meaning and method.
I am not convinced.
For instance – both Methodists and Baptists baptize by full-immersion. And neither group sees baptism as regenerative (salvation) in the act. While Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, “…affirmed a regenerative grace of infant baptism, he also insisted upon the necessity of adult conversion for those who have fallen from grace.”
While Baptists would never baptize an infant, they often bring those infants before the church in an act of dedication, with the parents vowing to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
Having stood before both kinds of congregations, holding Baptist babies and Methodist babies, I can tell you the ones dedicated, as well as the ones sprinkled both have parents who stand there with hearts bursting with joy and anticipation. You see that anticipation in their wrinkled brow, knowing they feel the weight of their parental responsibility. They want God to cover their inability to raise that child alone.
They’re asking for grace!
Both kinds of babies know nothing of what’s going on. Both kinds of congregations are feeling a mixture of incredible joy and wondering about the future for those parents, praying they’ll make good decisions.
They’re counting on grace!
As for the adults, never before baptized; there is not a shred of difference (other than the amount of water used) between a Methodist and a Baptist who makes the decision to be obedient to our Lord’s command to be baptized. I’ve never seen a Baptist come up from “under” without a smile reaching from East to West.
Similarly, Methodists rejoice (and some even whisper a sweet “amen”).
They’re both trusting fully in God’s grace.
Don’t tell me there’s not something holy going on in both!
What I’ve written here isn’t a treatise on baptism per se. It’s just a few thoughts on the similarities we have, and how miscommunication often divides us unnecessarily. It’s merely stuff I had to settle in my heart before I transitioned to Wesleyan Methodism.
Today…for you to settle:
Think about this verse:
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 1 John 4:20 (NLT)
Those Methodists and Baptists are all over the place; you’ve seen ‘em. There’s a bunch of other brands too.
They’re all wondering and need God’s grace.
Put aside the divide – go love like that Catholic Cardinal and Methodist preacher-woman! Seems they got it right, deciding they had more in common than their “differences” that divided them.