One of the greatest joys as a United Methodist pastor is when I baptize babies. There are people who do not have a clear understanding of infant baptism as we United Methodist understand infant baptism. This is not just the case of non United Methodist but also many United Methodist. As A United Methodist pastor there is a word that many people use when you begin to talk about infant baptism and the word is,”christening.” First, christening is not a proper understanding of infant baptism. Christening is something that is usually carried out with a hard whack of a bottle of champaign on the bow of a vessel before it starts its maiden voyage. Christening is simply giving a ship or some other thing a name. As United Methodist the sprinkling of water on the head of a beautiful baby is more than simply giving the child a name. It is giving the child an identity. An identity that is rooted and grounded in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. United Methodist do not believe infant baptism saves the child. We believe that when a child reaches an age were they can understand the Gospel of Jesus she or he must make a decision to follow Christ for themselves. Infant baptism is a sacrament in The United Methodist Tradition. A sacrament can be defined as a “means of the grace of God,” (Book of Discipline). It is a sign of the prevenient grace of God which is the grace of God that goes before us. Prevenient grace is the grace which leads us eventually to the justifying grace of God. Babies are innocent in the eyes of God. They have not committed sin, but all human beings are forever tainted with the stain of original sin according to Scripture and John Wesley. We call this,”original sin.” Infant baptism is also a time in which the parents make a commitment with God to raise their child up in the faith of Jesus Christ, and to live lives worth of the Gospel. It is also a time in which the congregation make a commitment to the child, the parents and the Lord to live lives worthy of the Gospel. Remember, United Methodists see Infant baptism not as the giving of a name but the giving of an identity. Infant Baptism is a means of grace, but salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is something that each individual must embrace for themselves. It is a time in which commitments are made by the parent’s and the church to the child and to the Lord. Every United Methodist pastor should urge all parents within their congregations to present their children for infant baptism. Certainly, this is a very limited explanation of infant baptism in The United Methodist tradition.
Till We Meet Again,