I listened to my friend Rick Moyer's podcast this week called "Take Him With You
". He is doing a multi-part segment called "Spiritual Bootcamp" where he explains the key tenants of the Christian Faith. The podcast is focused towards the unchurched where he shares his faith and discusses Spirituality in a non-threatening, non-preachy, and non 'religious' way.
This week he was talking about Baptism. He explained some of the origins of Baptism, where it is referred to in the Bible, and drilled down to the essentials of its importance. He talked a bit about Episcopalians in the podcast and suggested that I send in an audio comment explaining Baptism in the Episcopal Church. So I did! Below is what I sent him (note: I am no theologian so hopefully I did not misrepresent anything):
Holy Baptism was instituted by Jesus after His resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). He went on to say “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Another important Scripture verse that addresses Baptism is in John 3:5 where Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” All of these actions by Jesus are why we see Holy Baptism as a Sacrament within the Church, just like the Eucharist or Holy Communion. In fact, these are the two major Sacraments in the Episcopal Church. (There are five other Sacraments).
We believe that one is only baptized once as a Christian. It does not matter which faith tradition baptized you. Once you are part of the Body of Christ, there is no further need to ‘redo’ that membership. For those who wish to formally join the Episcopal Church from another tradition, we ‘receive’ them into the church as opposed to baptizing them.
We baptize people of all ages when they request it. It is true that it is our tradition to baptize babies into the Body of Christ. This is done so that they can share in the New Covenant, in membership in the Body of Christ, and receive redemption by God (the whole original sin concept). During the service, promises are made on their behalf by their parents and sponsors (godparents), who guarantee that the infants will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow him.
Then later, as you stated, when youth are old enough to make their own faith affirmation, there is a separate process called Confirmation, where they profess their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior in front of the church and usually a Bishop.
During a Baptism, the person being baptized states their faith and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they renounce Evil and the Devil, and they commit themselves to following God’s will. Then, using water, the person is either immersed or sprinkled three times, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus instructed in Matthew. Then the person is anointed with Holy Oil marking them as God’s child forever. And then we pray for the newly baptized.
It is a very powerful service, and the community witnessing baptism is encouraged to recommit themselves as it reminds us all of our responsibilities as Christians in this world.
I wanted to share with you part of the prayers that are said towards the beginning of the service. I think they are pretty cool and explain why water is such an important symbol in Christianity as a whole.
“We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior.”
Anyway, I hope I wasn’t too wordy here. I hope this provides a little clarity around how the more mainline Christian denominations like the Episcopal Church view Holy Baptism. Thanks for allowing me to share this.