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Article 8

by Colton Floris

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Christian Baptism (1999 wording)

Confession

We believe that when people receive God’s gift of salvation, they are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of having been cleansed from sin. It is a covenant with the church to walk in the way of Christ through the power of the Spirit.

Meaning

Baptism by water is a public sign that a person has repented of sins, received forgiveness of sins, died with Christ to sin, been raised to newness of life, and received the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of the believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ as expressed in the local church. Baptism is also a pledge to serve Christ according to the gifts given to each person.

Eligibility

Baptism is for those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and commit themselves to follow Christ in obedience as members of the local church. Baptism is for those who understand its meaning, are able to be accountable to Christ and the church, and voluntarily request it on the basis of their faith response to Jesus Christ.

Practice

We practice water baptism by immersion administered by the local church. Local congregations may receive into membership those who have been baptized by another mode on their confession of faith. Persons who claim baptism as infants and wish to become members of a Mennonite Brethren congregation are to receive baptism on their confession of faith.

Matthew 3:13-17; 28:18-20; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:2-6; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 2:12-13; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 4:4-6

Word Count: 241

Article 8: Christian Baptism (2020 DRAFT #12)

God’s Invitation 

We believe that when people respond in faith to God’s invitation to repentance, new life, and discipleship, God calls each of them to receive water baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Meaning

Baptism is an act of obedience which testifies that God in Christ has forgiven and cleansed a person from sin, freed them from the power of sin and death, given them the Holy Spirit, and united them with the body of Christ. Baptism by immersion is a powerful testimony that a believer has been washed by the Spirit, has died with Christ to sin and has been raised to newness of life.

In baptism the believer publicly bears witness to their own commitment to follow Jesus as Lord, serving Jesus as a covenant member of the local congregation in God’s Kingdom mission.  

Baptism is the God-given means by which the local church family incorporates followers of Jesus.   

Who 

Baptism is for all those who repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, have received the Holy Spirit, and pledge to live as disciples who obey Jesus in all of life. Baptism is for those who understand its basic meaning, are able to be accountable to Christ and the church, and request it voluntarily. 

Practice 

The local church baptizes believers by immersion and joyfully welcomes and disciples them into full participation as members of the congregation. The local church also joyfully welcomes Christian disciples baptized elsewhere, regardless of mode, if they were baptized upon their own confession of faith.

The local church invites those who claim baptism prior to their own confession of faith and who desire to be members of a Mennonite Brethren congregation to receive baptism as a testimony to their own faith.

Matthew 3:13-17; 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-42; 8:12; 10:47-48; Romans 6:2-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Colossians 2:12-13; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 4:4-6; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21. 

Word Count: 294 

Article 8 video resources

Membership and baptism – John Neufeld

Why connect baptism to belonging in a covenant community?

My baptism story – Heather Neufeld

Testimony of a confirmed believer baptized into an MB community

5 comments

Charlie Hunter November 13, 2019 - 3:49 pm

I appreciate the work that has gone into the 2019 draft of article 8. In general, I really like the 2019 draft.
This is to comment on the second half of the Meaning section. “In baptism the believer also publicly bears witness to their own commitment to follow Jesus as Lord, serving as a member of the local congregation in God’s Kingdom mission. Baptism is the God-given means by which the local church family incorporates followers of Jesus. ³”. I certainly defer to the many who have greater Biblical knowledge than I do. But I have been under the impression that baptism is into the body of Christ and that membership in a local church is demonstrated through joining Covenant Community or equivalent.
I am inclined to favour this sentence from the 1999 wording: Baptism is a sign of the believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ as expressed in the local church.
If the 2019 draft is to be used, I wonder about changing ‘the’ to ‘a’ in “serving as a member of the local congregation in God’s Kingdom mission.”
Also, my personal preference in the Practice section would be to forego the wording “washed by the Spirit, has died with Christ to sin” for the less churchy 1999 version.
Again, I am really grateful for all the attention being paid to updating this article of faith. I make these comments very humbly and with appreciation. Thank you.

Reply
Ingrid Reichard
Ingrid Reichard February 3, 2020 - 12:26 pm

Thank you for your comment Charlie.
General comment – the goal is have the Article phrasing reflect the wording of Scripture as much as possible, hopefully creating mental links to the passages that form our core convictions. Hence the scriptural language of “washed”, “died to sin” etc.
The NT church and early church pattern (as well as the Anabaptist pattern) is to see baptism as a a visible testimony of the believer’s incorporation into the family of Christ (which happened at salvation, some time prior to baptism) AND into the local expression of Christ’s body. Hence we belong in the universal church through the local church. With one possible exception (the Ethiopian Eunuch) baptism in the NT church incorporate believers into a local community of believers.
The word “sign” has been problematic due to its confusion with “symbol”. A sign is meant to point to something…the new language of testimony or witness has been chosen in hopes to more clearly convey this meaning.

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Terry Veer January 13, 2020 - 11:06 am

Are we no longer linking membership to baptism?

Reply
Ingrid Reichard
Ingrid Reichard February 3, 2020 - 1:15 pm

Hi Terry,
We are looking at 2 meanings of belonging:
1) At baptism the person becomes a MEMBER of the covenant community (the local church), having had some teaching on the meaning of salvation, baptism and expectations of the family into which the believer is baptized and expectation of discipleship. There is an expectation of an expression of commitment on the part of the church to receive and disciple this believer and on the part of the believer to give himself/herself to this discipleship, to grow, to serve Jesus, to contribute to the work of his mission in this church.
This kind of organic way of belonging/membership is expected and stated in the 2020 version of Article 8 more clearly than before.
Pls also see Article 6 – Nature of the Church for a parallel statement of belief along these lines.
2) On the other hand we have to consider the Canadian laws which set guidelines and limitations in the area of legal members of societies/corporations. In addition the MB churches across Canada use various governance models. These laws and governance variations result in varying practices with respect to the decision-making process within each church. The article is not speaking to this kind of legal “membership”. The national Conference is working on preparing guidelines for churches in this respect by offering a range of options.

In short – each church is encouraged to receive newly baptized believers into their community in a very intentional way, in order to facilitate discipleship in the context of community.

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Kevin Snyder January 17, 2020 - 12:10 am

I appreciate all the hard work that has gone into this. Foot note #4 says, “While the New Testament is not absolutely clear… the only New Testament evidence that might support the possibility of infant baptism involves five references to “household baptisms” (Acts 11:13-14; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16) and the analogy between Old Testament circumcision done to male infants born to Israelite parents and these household baptisms. These do not seem strong enough to support the practice of infant baptism by Christian parents.” I agree that this is ambiguous. I agree that this might not support the practice of infant baptism. But… might it allow for churches to receive Christian brothers and sisters into the local MB congregation that were infant baptized who have gone through a confirmation of faith and or catechism of some sort that validates the Christian faith tradition that they were born into but now find themselves among a local MB Church body.
Might this be a “Third Way”?
We would not practice infant baptism but might we be so creative as to recognize infant baptism that has been meaningful for some. As Anabaptists we don’t think that infant baptism means anything. But we have wonderful Jesus following people that display a lived theology that announces their baptism daily – that Jesus is Lord of their lives. Their process of baptism, although it was infant baptism, was very meaningful for them. I think more thought could be given to including those followers of Jesus that are in our midst that were infant baptized and later confirmed, into the formal local church body. The footnote already recognizes that the NT is not absolutely clear on the topic. Might we as Anabaptists come up with a third way practice of incorporating these fellow Jesus followers among us with out making them participate in a baptism that might not mean anything to them now? Something to ponder and maybe even practice.
Kevin Snyder
Lead Pastor
Coast Hills Community Church

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