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Monday, June 11, 2007 

Rebaptizing Missions?

Several months ago I learned an important lesson. I had tried to convince a mission board to insert into it’s mission statement that the purpose of any mission is preaching purely the Word and administering of the Sacraments rightly. I used Scripture and I used our confessions as the reason that we should distinguish ourselves from the local nondenominational “deeds not creeds” Sunday gatherings.

The response from the committee was for the most part, negative. Of course nobody could argue with my concerns from a theological point of view. However, I was called a useless wordsmith who was wasting everyone’s time with bothersome dogmatic statements. “Everyone knows what we believe, so we don’t need to bother adding statements that confuse the unchurched seeker." Everyone knows what we believe and confess? Really? Do the "seekers" we are so quick to fill our sanctuarys with know what we believe? Do we even know what we believe and confess? Really?

In my mailbox this morning was the screenshot of Jefferson Hills Church website featuring their rebaptizing program titled “Dunked.” Jefferson Hills Church is a mission church of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Now we all know what our beloved synod believes teaches and confesses don’t we? Really?

In the third article of the Nicene Creed we confess that we “acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” Sound like a very simple statement to confess doesn’t it?

So then why would Jefferson Hills Church invite people to be rebaptized? As a public confession? the Nicene Creed already confesses that only one baptism is necessary since God does not need do-overs. If the Lord of all that is marks you as His own and seals you as a child of Christ, then it is so. That is what he promises us and that is what he does.

Now, if your god cant do what he said he will do, and make it stick the first time, I would suggest that you turn from that false god and pay a visit to the one true God that all Christians confess in the Nicene Creed. That way you will be sure that you baptism “took” the first time and you wont have to redo it every time you are plagued with doubts. Really.

FYI: Jefferson Hills Church describes themselves this way: "Jefferson Hills Church is a Multi-Site Church specifically designed for people who don't go to church." I couldn't agree more.
Thanks Mr. A.

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Thanks for the information. I just fired off a letter to President Kieschnick's office with the hope that synod leadership will do something. We shall see.

Adam,
Uh, good luck on that one. I am not so optimistic that anything good will happen. I’ve been told over and over (in mission committee meetings) that we need to meet the unchurched where they are and not scare them away with all that theology stuff that distinguishes us from, I don’t know, Mormons or Mohammadians.
I think there is a lot to be positive about even though I normally sound rather negative. Really.

Frank,
I agree. There's much to be positive about. I think this one hit me especially hard, though, because I just left a "non-denominational" background and I know what re-baptizing does to a person's faith. Whether they intend it or not, they're re-enforcing the idea that how we feel is what matters; not what God objectively does.
Adam

Adam,
Two things… first, I’m with you 100%! And for the record I think do intend to convey the idea that we do the doing instead of God doing it all for us. This is the same group mindset that wouldn’t count baptisms as growing the church because baptism was “only an outward sign” at the Ablaze! counting website. That gem was up for almost a year before enough people shamed synod into removing it because it directly conflicts with both Scripture as well as our confessions.
Second, I just realized that you were not on my blogroll, my apologies. I’ve been to your blog many times and it was a mere oversight that I hadn’t added you yet. Sometimes life work and fun get in the way of keeping up with all the good blogs out there. My apologies, the mistake has been corrected.

This smells like really bad Ablaze!(tm) stat-padding.

The only thing they're asking you to do (whether they care or not) is to deny God's work in your actual baptism for, as Adam rightly said, a personal feeling experience.

Each day I learn a little more how tearing one's clothes would be an appropriate response for mourning/anger/indignation.

OSC,
I don’t think this is the fruit of Ablaze! but rather decades of bad catechesis. The tearing of ones clothes, hmm, that’s an idea albeit an expensive one. I think there would need to be lots of extra clothes lying about. Lots.
Hope all is as well as can be with you and the missus. Thanks for visiting again.

Greetings in the Lord!

I like your blog. I noticed in one of your posts that you are in favor of paedocommunion. Amen!

I want to invite you to join The Reformation Superhighway. We celebrate confessional Reformation theology (including Presbyterian, Anglican, and Lutheran). And many of us (including me) are pro-paedocommunion.

And, I would really love to balance out the board with some Lutheran voices. There are a lot of Presbyterians on there, which is fine, but there are other brands of Reformation theology, too, as you well know.

You can find us here:
www.reformationsuperhighway.com

Welcome! I hope to have some good discussions with you there!

Your brother in Christ,
Joseph Gleason

Greetings.
At Jefferson Hills we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. God does all the doing. It is once and for all.
The term "renewal" can be missleading. Good point. The concept is that a baptised believer can come participate and in remembrance of his or her baptism be immersed to the phrase..."May you continue to die to sin and rise in Christ."
This baptism event starts off with a worship/teaching time where we explain the confessional theology of baptism. We do not attempt to teach the entire concept of baptism in an advertisement of the event. I do appreciate your concern and hope that I have somewhat put your mind at ease.

Anonymous,
That’s great that you have a class explaining what the confessional position of baptism is. But do you also explain that we confess one baptism for the remission of sins? Do you explain that that we don’t need to “renew” our baptism because God got it right the first time He marked us as a child of His as St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: “We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Absolutely, that's what we teach.
Anything we do beyond that is just a remembrance of what God did for us once and for all.

if that's what you teach, then how is it exactly that you distinguish the anabaptist position from the confessional standpoint?

Anonymous,
How is a remembrance differ from rebaptising? I'm more than curious as to how you tell folks "renewing" accomplishes nothing and yet it can be done as an outward public sign and still justify the condemnitory statements of the Augustana as being Scriptural.

Anonymous, What are the unchurched to think when they see Christians who confess one baptism for the remission of sins, jumping into the water "renewing" their baptism? The confession and the act are clearly in conflict with one another. This is clear even to you as you state above that the " term "renewal" can be missleading".

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  • From The Haut South
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