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Unread 09-08-2016, 06:28 AM   #1
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Protocols for preparing for baptism of adults

Hi all!

What protocols does your church have in place in terms of a formal process to prepare an adult convert for baptism (and/or, if your tradition practises infant baptism, to prepare the parents)?

Do you have a tradition of godparents/sponsors? That is, people who are responsible for keeping the person preparing for baptism on the 'straight and narrow', making sure they are living according to the way of Christ?

In the Orthodox Church we have a process called the catechumenate (Greek: 'one who receives teaching'). It's generally about a year long nowadays, but can be longer, and in the ancient Church it was three years long. You're expected to choose two sponsors ('godparents'), usually a man and a woman, and their spouses don't count as the other person because one presumes that if you ask a married person to be your godmother/father, you're getting their husband or wife as a 'package deal'

There's a part of the Divine Liturgy (the service we celebrate every Sunday morning) where the Church prays for the catechumens. Some churches omit this if there aren't any catechumens in that particular parish, some retain it even if there are no catechumens since they're still praying for the catechumenselsewhere.

Folks are usually baptized (or Chrismated, which is like Confirmation in the RC/Episcopal churches, only we anoint the forehead, ears, mouth, eyes, hands, and feet where the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans only anoint the forehead) on one of the major Feasts of the Church calendar - Pascha (Easter) is the most popular time, but other feasts work. In my own case the plan is for me to be chrismated on the feast of the baptism of Christ in the Jordan (Theophany), in early January.

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Lo! How a rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as seers of old hath sung,
It came a flower bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half-spent was the night.

Isaiah t'was foretold it, the rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind,
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Saviour,
When half-spent was the night.

O flower whose fragrance tender with gladness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious speldour the darkness everywhere,
True man, yet very God! From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.


Last edited by IsaactheSyrian; 09-08-2016 at 06:44 AM.
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Unread 09-08-2016, 06:39 AM   #2
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Given that there are numerous understandings as to what baptism is about, this should be an interesting thread.

In my denomination, baptism is considered to be part of the initial conversion experience. A public confession of faith (usually mirroring Peter's "You are the Christ" confession) is made before the person is immersed. There is no formal training or class before baptism.
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Unread 09-08-2016, 07:59 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leboman
Given that there are numerous understandings as to what baptism is about, this should be an interesting thread. In my denomination, baptism is considered to be part of the initial conversion experience. A public confession of faith (usually mirroring Peter's "You are the Christ" confession) is made before the person is immersed. There is no formal training or class before baptism.
Ours closely mirrors this, though we add an interview with a pastor/elder to talk through this, with the goal to verify that they have experienced an authentic conversion experience. That, to avoid Baptist people who are either not saved, or who have a misunderstanding of what baptism is all about. We try to avoid a lengthy process, as in the bible, there were two ingredients: public declaration of faith, and water to dunk.
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Unread 09-08-2016, 11:09 AM   #4
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My thoughts on it are to look at the passage of the Ethiopian eunuch; "Look! There is water! What is preventing me from being baptized?" And they went and he was baptized immediately; I don't think we have to have a right relationship with God to be baptized, but rather baptism is what brings us into that relationship (being buried with Christ and raised into His life). That in mind, I think anyone who desires to follow Christ should be immediately baptized, and the rush to the water should be like the rush to the emergency room.
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Unread 09-08-2016, 12:07 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dwight Schrute View Post
Ours closely mirrors this, though we add an interview with a pastor/elder to talk through this, with the goal to verify that they have experienced an authentic conversion experience. That, to avoid Baptist people who are either not saved, or who have a misunderstanding of what baptism is all about. We try to avoid a lengthy process, as in the bible, there were two ingredients: public declaration of faith, and water to dunk.
One's understanding of the purpose of baptism definitely comes into play here.

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My thoughts on it are to look at the passage of the Ethiopian eunuch; "Look! There is water! What is preventing me from being baptized?" And they went and he was baptized immediately; I don't think we have to have a right relationship with God to be baptized, but rather baptism is what brings us into that relationship (being buried with Christ and raised into His life). That in mind, I think anyone who desires to follow Christ should be immediately baptized, and the rush to the water should be like the rush to the emergency room.
That's pretty much where I am.
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Unread 09-08-2016, 01:44 PM   #6
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Interesting point regarding the Apostle Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. I'd point out that pastors these days didn't have the privilege of eating breakfast every day with Jesus Christ Himself The point is, things were different in the days of the Apostles, and the Church got more reserved in how it did some things as time went on. The Ethiopian Eunuch himself may have been an exceptional case in which the Apostle used his apostolic discretion. As a friend of mine said, "It's unclear to me that the hurly-burly of the initial explosion that was the "infant" Church should provide anything like a normative standard for what came later. That'd be like asking adult life to be very much like baby life."

It's true that in the very early (i.e. Apostolic) days of the Church, baptisms tended to be fairly immediate (though there is a pretty obscure reference to catechumens in the Greek of Galatians 6:6, possibly referring to the one being instructed in the faith being willing to share his possessions with whoever teaches him). It's clear that the catechumenate arose in its present form later (though not significantly later...) as a guard against making converts who would fall away, which is its purpose to this day. Also, there is the understanding that a new convert should be able to give an answer for the hope that lies in him (1 Peter 3:15), so he must actually know his faith to some degree before being initiated into it. But we do see evidence of it arising as early as St. Justin Martyr in the mid 2nd-century, who tells us that there was a period of instruction beforehand.

"As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated."

- St. Justin Martyr, First Apology

Also, the Didache, dated to within the mid first-century (that was almost included in the NT canon!), mentions that baptism should be administered 'after explaining all things'. That implies a period of instruction.

Another thing to consider is that after Christianity became institutionalized (to wit: became identified with the Empire), the Church made the period of preparation for baptism longer in order to weed out the people who just wanted to become Christians just for political expediency.

Also, I've just learned from some other friends that the catechumenate can be a lot less than a year. One woman I spoke to said she was only catechized for about 4 months.
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I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
~ Ryan Isaac

Lo! How a rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as seers of old hath sung,
It came a flower bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half-spent was the night.

Isaiah t'was foretold it, the rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind,
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Saviour,
When half-spent was the night.

O flower whose fragrance tender with gladness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious speldour the darkness everywhere,
True man, yet very God! From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.


Last edited by IsaactheSyrian; 09-08-2016 at 05:00 PM.
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Unread 09-10-2016, 06:41 AM   #7
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Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything that he had taught (Matthew 28:19-20). On the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached, the people were convicted and asked what they needed to do to be saved. He told them to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38).

While I would never downplay the importance of proper teaching and mentoring of new believers, I don't see anything in Scripture that says it has to come before one is baptized. Once again, depending upon your understanding of the purpose of baptism you may see otherwise. If it is part of the initial conversion experience, which I believe it is, then it would be the beginning of becoming a disciple of Christ. That does mean there has been some teaching and preaching, how else would someone know how to respond other than hearing the Gospel?
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Unread 09-26-2016, 01:25 AM   #8
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Faith

I would say that the only protocol is faith. If someone wants to be baptized because they believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and that the Bible commands it ... and there is water ... all conditions are met.

The problem begins when we try to "confirm" faith in another person. While I used to think this was of critical importance, my experience tells me that as hard as we try, we can't accurately read the heart. If someone wants to be baptized, I fill up the baptistery the following Sunday. (though sometimes scheduling interferes)

Except kids. My belief is that children of believing parents are under their faith until the Lord meets them. I have never met a child that can make a life decision much before mid-teens, some appreciable later. In this day and age, I think that time is getting later. I have heard the claims of parents trying to persuade me that their little 6-year-old or 9-year-old is ready, but glad I didn't waver. Too many kids baptized at early age leave the church and never come back. Be patient! When the enormity of such a commitment comes upon a child, everyone knows it.

One caveat: I rarely baptize someone who goes to another church. If that church choses to have a different interpretation, I honor the pastor. In the same vein, I usually won't baptize a young person (under 18?) unless the parents at least talk with me. There are extenuating circumstances, but these basics have served me well for over 30 years.

Blessings.

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Unread 10-02-2016, 09:34 PM   #9
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Faith is important--we wouldn't just baptize anyone who walked in off the street.
If someone is a member they have already met with the elders & professed faith, etc.

We do practice paedobaptism (Reformed style)--and the parents are informed what that means & have a chance to ask questions & interact--and questions are asked them by the elders beforehand--so they know what it means & what it doesn't mean, etc.

Baptism is explained when it is done (during a service.)
We don't have a formal system of Godparents, but if someone wants Godparents for their child it is allowed.
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Unread 10-03-2016, 01:44 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by zedman View Post
Faith is important--we wouldn't just baptize anyone who walked in off the street.
If someone is a member they have already met with the elders & professed faith, etc.

We do practice paedobaptism (Reformed style)--and the parents are informed what that means & have a chance to ask questions & interact--and questions are asked them by the elders beforehand--so they know what it means & what it doesn't mean, etc.

Baptism is explained when it is done (during a service.)
We don't have a formal system of Godparents, but if someone wants Godparents for their child it is allowed.
Hey zedman,

Not to debate the issue (honestly), but if a baby is baptized, would you baptize them again is they desired it as an adult/teen?

I ask this in all earnest, as I have had this situation come up literally dozens of times. Someone was baptized as a baby, or even a youth (say up to 12 years old, just to throw out a number) comes to me and confesses that they read the Bible and don't "feel " baptized ... because they were not aware of the eternal nature of faith. I tell them that I would not deny another minister's baptism, but because I agree that they were not yet of faith, would offer to baptize them. Not re-baptize them! That would be kind of redundant, IMHO.

Just a personal aside, I have take three trips "to the water." As a baby, my not-very-faithful Episcopalian mother forgot about it with my older siblings, but remembered in my case, so ... (Testimony, my mother later became a fervent Christian after I was saved at 25, and served the Lord and His church until she went to be with Him) Then when I was 4 years old, my parents wanted to enroll me in school early (October birthday ... come to think of it, today!), but the only school that would allow it was a Catholic school that required I be baptized. I don't remember much, but pretty sure I was never a faithful Catholic. Finally, and surely, I entrusted my life to Jesus after a solid dozen years of worldly living, and was Baptized by faith (and lots of cleansing!) in a church in Pittsburgh. I am pretty confident that the last one was Biblical baptism.

YMMV

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Unread 10-03-2016, 06:14 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zedman View Post
Faith is important--we wouldn't just baptize anyone who walked in off the street.
If someone is a member they have already met with the elders & professed faith, etc.

We do practice paedobaptism (Reformed style)--and the parents are informed what that means & have a chance to ask questions & interact--and questions are asked them by the elders beforehand--so they know what it means & what it doesn't mean, etc.

Baptism is explained when it is done (during a service.)
We don't have a formal system of Godparents, but if someone wants Godparents for their child it is allowed.
If someone walked in off the street and professed faith in Jesus, I would baptize him/her. I would obviously ask if he/she believed that Jesus is the Christ. I would also ask why he/she wanted to be baptized. If the answer is "because I'm a sinner and I know that Jesus is the only way to have salvation" then I would be compelled to immerse that person.
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Unread 10-03-2016, 04:00 PM   #12
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Really? No requirement that they be a member of the local congregation or anything? The thinking there is that the congregation promises to support the new Christian in baptism - how can they do that if the person isn't a member of the congregation?
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I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief...
~ Ryan Isaac

Lo! How a rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as seers of old hath sung,
It came a flower bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half-spent was the night.

Isaiah t'was foretold it, the rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind,
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Saviour,
When half-spent was the night.

O flower whose fragrance tender with gladness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious speldour the darkness everywhere,
True man, yet very God! From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

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Unread 10-03-2016, 07:21 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by IsaactheSyrian View Post
Really? No requirement that they be a member of the local congregation or anything? The thinking there is that the congregation promises to support the new Christian in baptism - how can they do that if the person isn't a member of the congregation?
Ryan,

I understand that indeed, there is a hope and desire in the heart of minister and congregation to support and nurture the faithful decision to be baptized. And yes, if said person sticks around, there is a responsibility to do just that. But to require membership, to make them "jump the hoops" of that particular denomination, creed, or style can (and often does) scare off any potential members. Not only that, but you could add to the stigma of legalism, dogma and fundamentalism that has already kept so many from sitting in the pews (we have stacking chairs, btw). Of course, we should try to spiritually assess faith ... but not judge it. Only One knows the heart of man.

I admit it is a Chicken/Egg scenario, but we all know that the Chicken was created ... then laid Eggs. In this case, if the Author (and Perfecter) of our faith initiated a desire for cleansing, who are we to place strict safeguards in place that may just cause another to stumble? While I get that we would like to set some "standards" ... I trust that Jesus can/will/does protect the standards of His church.

Personally, while I would "prefer" to be sure of someone's worthiness, I just don't think it is my call. We usually have baptisms on the third Sunday of the month, which we call Fellowship Sunday. (we have communion and an all-church fellowship meal after the service) Often, that gives us a little time to see how serious a person is about baptism. But if someone showed up on the third Sunday morning and expressed a desire to be baptized ... well, there is water (unless some clear signs of lack of faith are evident).

Anyway, that what we do ... YMMV

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Unread 10-04-2016, 08:04 AM   #14
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Really? No requirement that they be a member of the local congregation or anything? The thinking there is that the congregation promises to support the new Christian in baptism - how can they do that if the person isn't a member of the congregation?
Really.

I don't care if a person is an official "member" of our congregation unless he/she plans to vote on church matters or serve in a leadership capacity.
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Unread 10-11-2016, 01:14 AM   #15
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Hey zedman,

Not to debate the issue (honestly), but if a baby is baptized, would you baptize them again is they desired it as an adult/teen?
Probably not--it might happen if they had a legitimate reason to doubt the validity of the infant baptism.

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If someone walked in off the street and professed faith in Jesus, I would baptize him/her. I would obviously ask if he/she believed that Jesus is the Christ. I would also ask why he/she wanted to be baptized. If the answer is "because I'm a sinner and I know that Jesus is the only way to have salvation" then I would be compelled to immerse that person.
I didn't say anything about the person confessing or professing faith--just meant if someone just showed up & said they wanted to baptized it wouldn't be instantaneous-just because they asked for it.
That was my main point--if they had a credible profession of faith that would start the process. And part of that is teaching them about what baptism is & what it means.
every time we have a baptism there is an explanation (At least a basic one) of what is happening & why.
Questions are invited after the service--and usually there are some.

If they didn't have a credible profession--it could still result in a baptism later on--as long as that profession came later
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