Why A.M.E.'s do not allow adults a second Baptism

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I was approached recently with a question I had an answer for. If the A.M.E. Church allowed two baptisms. It was an easy answer, no. Then came the why. Why was it in the A.M.E. Church that adults could not choose to be re-baptised, especially if they did not remember it being done as a child?

I informed the person asking the question that it was part of the basis of the A.M.E. Church's religious foundation and belief structure not to baptise twice. I pointed out the Articles of Religion. But the question remained why.

I think I covered it from a legalistic and a disciplinary basis but I think the questioner wanted something they could more personalize. So, since I know they will read this discussion area, I am soliciting some suggestions as to how best explain the policy of not re-baptising to someone who as an adult, really would like to go through the baptismal process.

This requires calling on every spiritual gift you may have, to not just raise a convincing argument, but to put together a reasoned explaination, one that will speak to the indwelling of the spirit within the questioner.

Rev. John

-- Anonymous, April 04, 2000


This is much like the need to read the Federalist Papers and other documents to understand the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

I believe the answer to this must lie in understanding the thinking and intent of the authors of our policy, rather than what some may feel to be a "good reason".

Perhaps someone can direct us to such documentation in search of an answer.

-- Anonymous, April 04, 2000

Water baptism is necessary but not a sufficient condition for salvation. Anything which is purely symbolic [water baptism]doesnot merit repeat performances unless someone has a burning conviction. Baptism in the Holy Ghost is what really matters. As we used to say in my neo-Pentacostal circles "Are you saved, sanctified, fire- baptized and runnig for Jesus?"

-- Anonymous, April 04, 2000

The AME Church does not allow for the "re-Baptism" of those baptized as infants or small children because of our belief on Baptized children and their relationship to the church.

Many people confuse Baptism with "Christening" - the Roman Catholic tradition of giving a child a "Christian name" at the point of Baptism. We do not "Christen" - We BAPTIZE children. We do so not because young children can comprehend or answer Baptismal vows, but because parents or guardians (hopefully after prior pastoral counseling)stand at the altar and vow to raise their children in the church. The Sacrament of Baptism in the case of children requires an affirmation by godparents and by the entire congregation to see that the vows made are carried out. Baptized children become preparatory members of the church who are cared for by those who make the vow at the altar and by those in the congregation who witness the Baptism. Those children complete the cycle of full salvation when they later come to the altar to affirm their faith and are accepted as full members of the the congregation.

Our understanding of Baptism is that is not exclusively a sign of repentance, which requires an awareness of sin, but that it is an outward sign or symbol of an inner change and of commitment to Christ. In the case of children, that change and commitment come when their parents vow to raise their children in the sight of God. We do not knowingly re-Baptize because most Baptized children should have some awareness either from their guardians or from their nurturers in the congregation that they have been Baptized.

Much of the confusion about Baptism comes because those who join the church do not fully understand the nature of Baptism and are not properly informed and counseled by their pastors and lay leadership. Many adults seek immersion not understanding that the water, regardless of the amount, is simply a symbol of the Baptism that comes from the Holy Spirit. Without that true Spiritual Baptism, one can literally "go down a dry devil and come up a wet devil!"

Those of us who are clergy and lay leaders of the church could easily eradicate requests for "re-Baptism" if we would (1) See that parents or guardians of children brought for Baptism are counseled as to the nature of the Sacrament and the importance of following through on their vows and taught that we don't Baptize children just because it's a "cute" thing to do, (2) See that those who promise to raise their children in the church are indeed members of and active in the church, and (3) Make use of opportunities provided by our positive law such as "Decision Day," when children active in the church school are counseled as to the nature of salvation and encouraged to make a decision to accept Christ on a day designated for that purpose.

-- Anonymous, April 07, 2000

Brother Fisher, first I am interested in the response you gave. You did not specify precisely what your answer was. It appears that you are attempting to solicit answers in that you are not sure yourself on how to answer. Secondly, your grammar and spelling needs to be touched up just a bit. i.e. the start of your second sentence, the last two sentences and the word baptise(Baptize) Thirdly, the answer I believe you are seeking is this, in Methodism, the belief is once a person is baptized, the work in which Christ does in the life of the person is done once and for all.(Permenant) It does not matter if the person has no recollection of the act. i.e. none of us witnessed or remember the crucifixion yet we accept Christ 0nce. We don't become saved over and over again. To rebaptize a person suggest that the work in which Christ did in the life of an individual was not complete thus you suggust failure in God. This is why Methodist and any other faith traditions do not do 2nd baptisms.

-- Anonymous, April 11, 2000

Question for AC, Your response appears to link baptism with salvation. Are you suggesting that once an individual is baptized he/she is implicitly/explicitly saved as well?? My Biblical understanding of the "plan of salvation" consists of ABC's e.g.A - accept your status as a sinner B - Believe in your heart Christ is raised from the dead & C - Confess Jesus as your Lord/Savior I don't read anywhere in the NT where baptism "saves" a lost soul exclusive of confession. Does Methodism actually teach that baptism is spiritually redemptive?

-- Anonymous, April 12, 2000

I have been praying about this issue myself. Coming from another denomination and taught that children should not be baptized, I was confused when I joined the AME church and saw that they do baptize children. I was baptized at 17 years of age and will say that when I was baptized (in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost), I did not totally understand what I was doing. Years later I left church and did a little of everything until five years ago when the Lord brought me back into the fold. Having a new relationship with the Lord has blessed me and I realize that when I was baptized, I truly didn't have a relationship with him. Also, I had been praying about baptizing in Jesus name. The Lord revealed to me that most churchs baptize "in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost" but they never say the name. When I asked my pastor about this, he explained that it is just assumed that everyone knows to whom we are referring to when we say "in the name....". I told him that I would like to be rebaptized with Jesus name being mentioned so that everyone will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is who I am dedicating my life to and because only now do I truly understand what the baptism represents. He advised me that as an AME preacher he can't rebaptize me without being rebuked for it. This confused me as I know of several people (including my pastor) who were divorced and have remarried in an AME church. Why is it that the church can remarry someone but has a problem rebaptizing someone that has a strong conviction about it? I understand that it is really symbolic of what is going on in the inside. However, God doesn't have us to do things in vain. If he tells me in his Word that I should be baptized, then I want to do it right. When Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac and God had the ram in the bush, Abraham didn't say, Lord why did you have me come all the way up to this mountain, scare my son half to death because I'm about to sacrifice him and then you tell me, just kidding. No!!! God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts and so are his ways. That act worked as a witness. Tell me what you think?

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Ty; Your response highlights some of the AME theological shortcomings concerning water baptism. Refusing to rebaptize out of fear of peer rebuke by fellow AME clergy is quite simply inexcusable and shows an absence of spirtual integrity. Are we servants of God or servants of tradition? It is indeed somewhat ironic that divorcees can remarry in AME churches but similar priviliges are not extended for those who desire to remarry. Once again our committment to AME protocol makes us vulnerable to the criticsm that we are no better than the Pharisees of Jesus' day.

-- Anonymous, May 11, 2000

Ty - Please allow me to prayerfully offer a couple of thoughts that might help you as you wrestle with Baptism.

As to why we don't rebaptize, our 12th Article of Religion says in essence that even though we all sometimes sin after justification, God allows us to repent, rise again and amend our lives. Note that the Article of Religion does not quantify sin by degree or set a statute of limitations for forgiveness - it merely says that if we repent, we can be forgiven. That means that our sins, however chronic or severe, are made right by repentant prayer and do not require re-Bpatism. If we are honest in what we do, then we all repent at least once a month when we join in the Communion Prayer of General Confesssion that says in part, "Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Savior. Forgive us all that is past, and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please Thee in newness of life."

As to the formula quotation for Baptism, it simply comes down to a matter of whether you're comfortable with the way that Scripture is applied to the Sacrament as it is celebrated in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Many of the "Apostolic" churches that rose to prominence and popularity in the early 20th century placed their greatest Biblical emphasis not on the Gospels, but on the Acts of the Apostles. Their Baptismal formula - "...in the Name of Jesus Christ..." - is taken from the Apostle Peter's sermon and invitation on Pentecost. The AME Church still chooses to Baptize as instructed not by an Apostle of the Christ, but by the Christ Himself who commanded in Matthew 28:19 that we should Baptize, "...in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." God bless, and take care!

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

A couple of notes, not having visited this stream before.

We baptize once for the following reason: Ephesians 4 ("There is one faith, one Lord, one Baptism"). We baptize children for the following reason: Acts 16:31-32 ("Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy whole house"). I agree with Rev. Darby's comments on post-baptismal repentance, and strengthen it with I John 1 ("If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness").

The three points in this thread raise doctrinal questions that should probably be separated into different threads. One that I find interesting is the notion of "prevenient grace". On the one hand, we find this espoused by Wesley (God takes care of fools andd little children. On the other, we end up having infant baptism! In the Baptist church, for example, children are not baptized until they reach the "age of accountability", i.e., they understand that what they are doing is an offense to God, and choose to repent fro a lifestyle of Godly offenses.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

A second baptism is presently a sticky point in our conference as it is "rumored" (on good authority) that one of our local pastors was re- baptized by immersion "in the name of Jesus" (only) at a local Apostolic Church. He states he went there for a meeting with his Minister of Music and ended up being "slain in the Spirit" and also being "baptized in the Holy Spirit". He told his congregation about being "baptized in the Spirit", but was careful not to mention that this was synonymous with speaking in tongues. Also, he did not specifically mention being immersed, but did pose rhetorical questions about whether the amount of water used in baptism is important.

Apparently the whole story has not been told, but he has had to appear before some committee or panel and the matter is to be "resolved" at annual conference. Very interesting, esp. as we will have a new bishop.

I can't really find the matter addressed in "The Discipline", so, I don't understand "the process" he has said he must go through. Nevertheless, he declares emphatically, that he IS an AME and WLL REMAIN an AME.

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2000

I find this topic very interesting and the answers are very good. It seems that the traditions of men is part of the problem. Consider the Apostle Paul teaching that we ought to let nothing stand between us and someone who is seeking Christ. Perhaps the focus should be on getting one into the church and then teach, teach, teach. God Bless

-- Anonymous, July 16, 2000

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