How do you and your congregation decide when to say “yes” to out-of-ordinary requests for baptism? Recently a family who live in another country requested our elders to baptize their eight-month old baby.
The father is a professing member of our congregation. The mother, a Chinese citizen with a secular background, comes from a deep East Asian spiritual-religious tradition. Because of their jobs, the family shuttles between China and Washington, D.C., living in each place about half-time.
Two and a half years ago, the couple’s first child was baptized in our church. At that time the mother was not a Christian, but assented to the baptism. The parents had not attended worship in one place, but had attended various congregations in Washington. In China she is not permitted to attend English services, which her husband does when they work in cities where English churches exist.
After the first child’s baptism, our council had advised that the couple affiliate with a local congregation in Washington. For the last year and a half the family has been attending a United Methodist congregation in Washington. Their children are part of the day-care program in that community as well. Since the birth of the first child, the mother has become a Christian.
What would you and your congregation do with the family’s request? How would you talk through these issues? What ARE the issues? Not merely the administration of baptism is important here, but also who "owns" sacraments? God? A church? How does a family “own” the baptism of their children? What are the reach and limit of “covenant” and a congregation’s responsibility to fulfil vows made by parents and congregation?
Let’s talk. More later!