A Few Thoughts on Baptism

There’s been a story in the news about a clergy person in another denomination who baptized people with the wrong pronoun (“we” instead of “I”). I don’t know enough about that other denomination to weigh in according to their theology, but in the United Methodist Church this would be a non-issue. Here are a few of the reasons.

  1. I may have baptized you, but God did the heavy lifting. And for this I am thankful, it would be really hard for me to screw up a baptism because God’s doing the majority of the work. To think I could do so by using the wrong pronoun would be to take too much credit for what is primarily an act of God.
  2. I do follow the traditional rubric of “Name, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. But this is not a spell from the fictional world of Harry Potter that won’t work unless it is said in just the right way. This is a sacrament, the grace of God is at work and the Holy Spirit will not be turned aside by a simple mistake on the part of the pastor. Furthermore Jesus said to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)— but he never gave us an exact wording with the proper pronouns.
  3. What happens if more than one person does the baptism? Jenny and I have done a lot of them together. I don’t remember ever saying we, but it certainly would have been appropriate.

I’ve got more, but I’m going to stop there.