Baptism

What do Presbyterians Believe About Baptism?
Presbyterians, like many other Protestants and also Roman Catholics, practice infant baptism. Infants are presented by their parent(s), in a church service, to receive the sacrament of baptism. At that time, parent(s) make vows, as does the congregation.

We baptize babies because we believe our children are included in God’s covenant of grace with Christian believers. In the Old Testament, the sign of God’s covenant relationship with the people of Israel was circumcision (Genesis 17:11). The New Testament church saw baptism as the new sign of God’s covenant relationship with the church, the new people of God. (Colossians 2:11-15). Jesus Christ is God’s “new covenant” (Luke 22:20; I Corintians11:25). Baptism is a sign of the believer’s incorporation into Christ as we are adopted into the family of God.

We also believe that just as in the Old Testament the sign of God’s covenant was given to those of faith and their children, so also now the benefits of Jesus Christ as God’s new covenant of grace are extended to believers and their children as well. In the baptism of infants we recognize this covenant and celebrate the entry of our children into the church. Infant baptism is the sign and seal of God’s promises in Jesus Christ to our children. Such a practice also emphasizes God’s choosing us, before we are even able to make choices; then, as one grows into awareness of God’s love, that person is able to make a choice him or herself to follow Christ.

Traditionally, those baptized as infants are “confirmed” in their faith when they reach an “age of accountability.” At that point, young persons affirm the vows taken on their behalf by their parent(s) when they were baptized. In baptism, parent(s) promise to raise their child by teaching faith. The congregation promises to support, nurture, and provide opportunities for the child to grow in faith.

An infant baptism is not a “guarantee” of salvation. But it is a wonderful sign of God’s electing love. The helpless child is drawn into the family of God, just as all of us as fallible humans are saved by God’s grace “while we [are] weak and unable to save ourselves.” (Romans 5:6).
– Donald K. McKim, Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers: Exploring Christian Faith

In Baptism, the Holy Spirit binds the Church in covenant to its Creator and Lord. The water of Baptism symbolizes waters of Creation, of the Flood, and of the Exodus from Egypt. Thus, the water of Baptism links us to the goodness of God’s creation and to the grace of God’s covenants with Noah and Israel . . . In his ministry, Jesus offered the gift of living water. So, Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s grace and covenant in Christ.

Baptism signifies:
a. the faithfulness of God, 
b. the washing away of sin,
c. rebirth,
d. putting on the fresh garment of Christ, 
e. being sealed by God’s Spirit, 
f. adoption into the covenant family of the church, 
g. resurrection and illumination in Christ.
– Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Order (W-2.3003 & 4)

Frequently Asked Questions about Baptism

Can we have a private Baptism for our child?  The Reformed tradition makes Baptism an act of the whole church and as such should be a part of the worship of the congregation.

Can we have godparents for our child?   The Presbyterian Church does not include the practice of having godparents. The whole congregation, under the authority of the Session, takes on the role of godparent. Parent(s) may ask another person or persons to be a sponsor for the child. The sponsor or sponsors should be a practicing and committed Christian and a member of a recognized Christian church. When sponsors are involved in the Baptism, their role will be acknowledged in the liturgy.

When can I have my child baptized and what do I have to do to prepare for it?   Baptisms may be requested by completing a Baptism Request Form, which can be obtained through the church office.

Does the Baptism of my child require Session approval?  Yes. After parent(s) complete the Baptism Request Form, it will be submitted to Session for approval. The Session meets on the third Thursday of each month.

Do we get a certificate of Baptism?  Yes. The certificate will be given or mailed to you. The Baptism is also recorded in the church records and in the pastors’ personal record. If you ever need a copy of the record, contact the church office.

Is photography allowed?  No photography is allowed during the worship service. If you wish to take pictures in the Sanctuary, the pastors and family can re-create the scene in the chancel of the church.

According to the Presbyterian tradition, must we have our child baptized as an infant?  No. You may choose to have your child raised in the program of Christian nurture in the church without infant baptism. They may make their public profession of faith when they are ready after consultation with the pastor and the Session. The program of confirmation is available during the 8th grade, any time after which is an appropriate time for youth to make a public profession of faith and prepare for baptism.

Must the parent(s) be members of the church?  “When a child is being presented for Baptism, ordinarily the parent(s) rightly exercising parent responsibility shall be an active member of the congregation.” (Directory of Worship 2.3014) The Session requires that at least one parent be a member of this congregation.

The Session may also consider a request for the baptism of a child from a Christian parent who is an active member of another congregation that validates the practice of infant baptism. The session and pastor will approve such a request after speaking with the parent(s) to assure the child will be nurtured in the Christian faith within a faith community.