POLICY FOR INFANT BAPTISM
Smyrna First United Methodist Church
“People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” (Luke 18.15-17)
Throughout the history of the Christian church, parents have made a commitment to raise their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord”, in the hope that their child will come to abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and live a life of faithful discipleship. This has commonly been expressed in the United Methodist Church through infant baptism.
What Is Baptism
Baptism is one of two sacraments or ordinances practiced in the United Methodist Church. At its core baptism represents identification with Jesus Christ. It does not convey salvation in any way, shape, or form. Rather, the water of baptism, points to the cleansing from sin that is found by placing one’s trust in Jesus Christ.
The act of baptism signifies a connection to and identification with the Body of Christ, the church, and the new life of obedience into which the Christian enters when he/she places faith in Christ.
There are two “types” of baptism: the baptism of the children of Christians – infant baptism, and the baptism of those who profess faith in Christ – believer’s baptism. While baptism is a key practice of the church, only personal, individual faith in Jesus Christ provides entry into the kingdom of God.
What Is Infant Baptism
Infant baptism is a ceremony where Christian parents commit to prayerfully, actively, and intentionally raise their child in the ways of Christ, desiring that the child will put his/her faith and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord. In addition, it identifies the child with the community of faith, acknowledging that God, in his grace, has placed the child within the fellowship of the people of God.
Those who hold to infant baptism see it as a sign and symbol of identification with the covenant community of their local United Methodist Church congregation. Baptism is understood to be the new covenant extension of the Old Testament rite of circumcision, and a sacrament that is given by the church.
Baptism is regarded as important and an act of obedience to Christ. It expresses the conviction that our children are a trust from God, and that we are to live in such a way as to point them to Christ. It acknowledges that it is to be practiced by Christians only – those who profess faith alone in Jesus Christ, and who live this out in the fellowship of a local church body. It calls upon not only parents but also the whole congregation to be involved in the raising of children so that they might embrace Christ in faith.
What Is Involved In Infant Baptism
It is performed during the public worship of God’s people, to express a public commitment on behalf of the parents. The ceremony, however, does not confer membership in the local church upon the child.
It is the acknowledgment of Christian parents that our children are a gift, a trust from God; we do not “own” them but they ultimately belong to God.
It is the commitment of Christian parents to raise their child in such a way that the child may personally come to faith in Jesus Christ, resulting in faithful obedience to him.
It is the commitment of the local church to provide Christian nurture for both the parents and the child, through worship, Christian education, and personal relationships. Infant baptism at Smyrna First United Methodist Church can be extended to families subject to the following conditions:
¨ At least one parent has made a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
¨ At least one parent is an active member in good standing of Smyrna First UMC. If an individual has demonstrated committed participation in the life of the congregation but has not entered into membership, his/her child may be baptized/dedicated with the approval of the senior pastor.
¨ The parents have read and studied a booklet entitled Your Child Is Baptized, has met with the senior pastor to discuss the booklet, and can in good conscience affirm all that is found therein.
¨ The parents should live locally. Parents who live out of the area may have a child baptized at Smyrna First UMC only if there is some unusual and extenuating circumstance, and if they are involved in a local church in their home area. The parents must consult the pastor of the home church, as will the senior pastor, who must give final approval for the baptism.
¨ All child baptisms will take place during Sunday morning worship service; only in extreme cases and circumstances will they be held at other times and places, and only with the approval of the senior pastor.
¨ Other circumstances or concerns not mentioned above will be taken under consideration by the senior pastor.
What Other Things Should Parents Know
The date of the baptism is at the discretion of the senior pastor. In order to maintain the reverence and decorum of the worship service, no photographs or videos are to be taken during the baptism.
An adult-staffed nursery is provided for children during the service, and older children are invited to attend children’s church, which meets during the latter part of the worship service. Your children may join you during the ceremony, if you desire. Godparents/sponsors are at the discretion of the family, and are not required. Smyrna First UMC will provide a certificate of baptism.
What To Do Next
Meet with the senior pastor to discuss any questions from the booklet, and to further clarify the meaning of child baptism. Specifics about the date and the content of the service will also be discussed. On the scheduled day of the baptism, be sure to arrive 10 minutes before the beginning of worship. If there is a question not answered in the above policy, you may call the senior pastor at the church office for clarification. The phone number is 459-2826.