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Our Council recently received a request for baptism from a "long distance" member of our church. This young lady had grown up in our church, been baptized as an infant, professed her faith, and when the time came, married her sweetheart in our church a couple of years ago. Since their marriage, this young couple have settled in a larger community not far from here. They faithfully attend a community church her spouse grew up in in that city, one that believes in infant dedications and adult baptisms. So when they were recently blessed with their first child, they made the decision to have their son baptized. And since her membership is still with our church, they requested the baptism take place in her CRC "home" church.

As Council, we are not sure how to proceed. It would be hard for us as church to "support" the family as the traditional baptismal vows would suggest. We have approved baptisms for member families within our church who we would honestly describe as "inactive", so how do we turn down this request? Are we being too "legalistic"? Our desire is for them to make a commitment to their new home church, but in this instance, are we just frustrating them along their faith journey?

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated. As a Council, we have deferred our decision until we do some more research.


The Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary by Henry deMoor provides an answer to your question on page 314-315. On those pages Henry answers exactly the question you are asking. Hopefully your church has a copy you can look at (if not, let me know, and I can scan those pages for you). If your couple has indeed retained their church membership with your congregation then you are in a "great position to baptize their newborn because formally they would still be members of your church."

   Seems to me part of the quandary is the way in which we in the CRC view church membership in these situations.  It tends at these times to look like a club membership rather than a living engagement with a local congregation.  Members move away or move on to another congregation/denomination and yet their  membership remains in the CRC of which they are no longer a part for all practical purposes.  Henry DeMoor in the suggested reference mentions the need to "maintain some contact from time to time" (CRCO Commentary p.314).  There's the rub for me.  Are they still connected in some way to your congregation?  If not, then I think there is a matter of integrity for the Council and the members in question.  If they are (e. g. occasional attendance, financial support, participation in some aspect of your church's ministry work, etc) you may wish to honor their request and continue your discipling work with them concerning the nature of being in the actual Body of Christ.  If they are not, and just have their names still on your membership list, and that's it, I think you need to have a conversation with them about that.  You do so graciously and patiently of course with pastoral tact but also with honesty about what membership is in the Body of Christ means.  I think these situations arise because we constantly wait for members to do something with their memberships after they leave.  I'm a proponent of being way more intentional and proactive as a Council if you know people are moving on.  Meet with them before they leave, or very soon after they stop attending and ascertain what their plans are.  Of course encourage them to re-engage or deal with problems if that is why they have moved on.  If they choose to be worshipping elsewhere, help them understand what that choice means as far as their place in the congregation they have left.  I have found that waiting for people to do something with their CRC membership often takes years of waiting as they have no need to care about that as they are already on to their next congregation, whether they join or not (many congregations don't have "membership" the way the CRC traditionally has).  What seems key to me in your situation is that they have already functionally joined the community church they have become a part of.  Unless they are planning to return to the CRC, seems they have already made their choice of which part of the Body of Christ they are joined to, formalities not withstanding.  They may just need to come to terms with that or make a change back to the CRC or some other denomination that practices baptism of infants also.  For what it's worth, that's my thoughts on your situation.

May the Spirit guide you.

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