Who Gave You Authority to Baptize?


(Spectrumbot) #1

Who can baptize? Adventist policy is clear: Adventist pastors alone have the authority to baptize, and that, under the authority of the Conference president. Milton Adams respects this, but in his article “Who Gave You Authority to Baptize?”1 finds a way forward for Adventist believers to baptize their friends who become disciples — and this way is also within policy, but true also to the commission of Jesus.

The question Adams addresses was not only thrown at John the Baptist, and implicit in early challenges to Jesus’ authority when His very new disciples baptized many others (John 4:1, 2), but a very significant and practical question for all committed to mission and cultivating movements today. Typical of the approach we have come to expect, Adams’ writing is careful, and while generous, also measured, even cautious — but he leaves no doubt about the tension that has developed between the biblical instruction and Adventist church policy as outlined in the Church Manual. He is well aware of the negatives of this dichotomy, and spends considerable space documenting the reality that changed attitudes today is resulting in many choosing biblical over institutionalized authority.

As an Adventist writing primarily for Adventists, Adams takes the gospel commission to heart and also engages carefully with the writings of Ellen White, demonstrating her commitment to Jesus’ commission, affirming that all believers are ordained for all the tasks of disciple-making — both teaching and baptizing. He is clear, the task, privilege, and joy of sharing the gospel is not the task of paid clergy alone, and nor is baptism — an integral aspect of disciple-making.

Adams explores the two distinct tracks that the Church Manual outlines for people to become members of the Adventist Church. One is by baptism by a duly ordained pastor of the Adventist Church. The second track to membership is by profession of faith — acceptance of a person into full fellowship and membership on the basis of a previous immersion baptism. The only question asked of that person is: were you baptized by immersion? If the answer is yes, that person is voted in as a new member. On this track, no one is asked: Who can verify this? Who baptized you? Was the one who baptized you of the ordained or clergy class?

Track 1 requires an officially Adventist Church-ordained pastor — but track 2, according to the Church Manual, does not require any validation of the person baptizing. It could literally be anyone. So, as Adams points out: the profession of faith track is available for those baptized by Adventist believers (who are not ordained clergy) who then wish to join the denomination — recognizing of course that the Seventh-day Adventist Church retains the right to examine those who want to become members, regardless of who baptized them.

Adams seriously examines the membership tracks of church policy, and while “the first membership track requires a church-approved officiant to legitimize the baptism,” the second does not. It “does not require validation of any baptismal credentials…of any kind” on the part of the one baptizing. Adams is not simply exploiting a loophole in church policy, rather he concludes: “the Seventh-day Adventist denomination recognizes that baptism by immersion without respect to church ordination of officiants is biblical” (Adams 145).

This is a must read for all denominational leaders, pastors, church planters, and members. Adams believes a careful biblical response to this question “Who Gave You Authority to Baptize?” — based on Jesus’ commission, supported by White, and affirmed within the opportunities of Church Manual policy will encourage many faithful believers living within our rapidly changing culture, and prove to be a message of trust, honesty with Scripture, integrity, and inclusiveness (Adams 150).

Notes & References:

Milton Adams, “Who Gave You Authority to Baptize?” Journal of Adventist Mission Studies, Vol. 14 [2019], No. 1, Art. 10 (127-155). https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/jams/vol14/iss1/10/

Peter Roennfeldt is an author, professor, administrator, and pastor who equips church planting teams.

Photo by Elisey Vavulin on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9667

(Robert Lindbeck) #2

Thank you Peter. Discipleship and disciple -making is open to (and should be encouraged in)all. Every christian father or mother should have the pleasure (great joy) of baptising their child.


(Gregory Matthews) #3

That is essentially what I have said to people who have questioned me on that subject.


(Steve Mga) #4

Do any of you remember the Mission Stories of Missionaries various
placed in the jungles of Borneo and New Guinea???
Any of you remember that the Missionaries had to wait for –

  1. A cleared area long enough for a small plane to land.
  2. Sometimes up to a YEAR for a representative from the “Office”
    to fly in so the converts COULD BE BAPTIZED because the
    Missionaries did NOT have the SCHOOLING to ALLOW them to
    Baptize ANY of the converts.
  3. Someone to fly in with the “Office Representative” to take pictures
    so they could end up in the Review, and PROVE that Missionaries
    do do what they are hired for.
    I remember that as a kid [my parents subscribed to the WEEKLY Review
    and after I advanced to the 4th grade I would read it myself each week.
    But I did enjoy having my Mom read the Mission Stories to us.
    Any one Remember the Yearly BOOK CLUB the church had – Adults,
    Youth, Younger age? Many of the ADULT Books were mission story
    books. Most written about Medical-Missionaries in various countries.
    We no longer do that.
    When I was in 9th and 10th grade Church School I was the Librarian for
    the church Library. And checked books out and in on Sabbath evening at
    MV program. I took this position quite seriously!

Even as a kid reading that sometimes converts had to wait a WHOLE YEAR
sometimes for Baptism, I wasn’t sure I agreed with that.
STILL DONT.
Jesus told the crowd around Him – 1. Preach the Gospel 2. Baptize in the
name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Jesus at that Commissioning Service DID NOT SAY, Only ORDAINED could
Baptize.
All THIS is Tradition from our Church Fathers, the Catholics of the early Centuries
when it was organized by Constantine.


(efcee) #5

We do need to require our church to place no limitations on disciple-making. Joining the SDA church should be untethered from the act of baptism. It is not the place of the church to baptize people into membership in the SDA church, but to baptize them into new life in Christ. All disciples are ordained by the Spirit of God (and commissioned by Christ himself) to be baptizing new disciples of Jesus. All other hoops and hurdles are unchristian.


(FrankieB) #6

This is a no brainer. Two participles “teaching”, “baptising” relate to the same imperative verbs to “Go” and “teach.” You cannot split teaching and baptising from each other. They are part of the means by which the subject of the imperative verbs “go” and “teach” get to fulfil their obligations. You cannot have tiers of responsibility here. The text will not allow it.
There is nothing more spiritually beautiful than mother or father baptising children, or spouse baptising spouse; friend baptising friend etc. It takes the incredible personal nature of baptism to a whole new level; especially with the person baptising being the person who actually was the instrument in that spiritual change. They are, in a very real sense, the spiritual parent of the person being baptised.
The concept that baptism is a sacrament needing to be overseed by church authorities is just bunkum, a vestige of Catholicism. As rightly noted above, the waters are muddied (lol) when baptism is used for TWO things–membership in the kingdom of heaven, and membership in the church. If it is a sacrament to be controlled by the church ministers, then the laity have no responsibility to “teach” others to observe the things the Lord taught, since the act of forbidding non-ministers from baptising says that the laity are not the subject of the sentence and the baptising and teaching must always be linked to the subject of the main verbs in the sentence. If the laity are not ordained to baptise, they are not ordained to teach. But if “you teach” applies to all Christians, then “you baptise” applies to all Christians also.


#7

This article does not address the requirement that the 28 fundamentals (Creeds) MUST be accepted without question.


(Robert Lindbeck) #8

That requirement only applies to one who wishes membership in the SDA church. If the desire for baptism is to join the church of God, repentance and baptism is all that is required.


(George Tichy) #9

Lucky we who were baptized long time before the 28…


(George Tichy) #10

Many pastors may be approving/performing baptism without a 28-point inquisition.


(FrankieB) #11

What about a person who wants to be a Christian with no revealed intention of joining any particular church and also has no desire to become an Adventist? What happens here? Will a church minister baptise him at church; during church?


(Robert Lindbeck) #12

A disciple of Christ has an obligation, a mandate to baptise someone who requests it. Think Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Whether an ordained minister performs the ceremony would depend on if the minister considered themselves a disciple of Christ.

As a church we accept members by profession of faith if they have been previously baptised. To my knowledge there is no pre-requisite the baptism be performed by a minister of another denomination. Why should our ministers (or members) refuse to baptise someone who requests it because they want to be part of God’s church but not ready or willing to commit to the SDA denomination.


(FrankieB) #13

The problem is how baptism is “packaged.” Readiness for baptism is assessed through the “baptismal class.” The targeted outcome is directly related to the Baptismal Vow. A commitment to God and acceptance of Christ as Saviour and Lord of one’s life is only one topic in “the baptismal class” because it is only one topic of many in the Baptismal Vow. Going through the baptismal class is as much a rite of passage as the baptism itself. If you don’t complete the baptismal class, or if you object to certain parts of the class content, you cannot “graduate” to the next step–baptism. I wonder how many readers objected to the material in their baptismal class and still ended up being baptised? I wonder how many stories could be recounted of people who dropped out of the baptismal class, or who were refused baptism but who still wanted to be baptised into Christ? Another important rite of passage is the vocal adherence to the Baptismal Vow during the service before the congregation. How can the minister present the candidate to the congregation as being ready to accede to the Vow if the candidate objects to some of the topics of the class? The baptismal class is, in effect, the Adventist’s Jacob’s Ladder to heaven. Every run is significant, and one cannot enter heaven until every run has been successfully embraced and acceded to. Here is the Adventist creed. “Let him who does not accede to any point of the Vow be anathema.” There were 23 runs in my ladder; now there are twenty-eight and counting. Clearly, climate change is affecting not only sea-levels, but also increasing the distance of heaven from earth!! Soon we will need more runs, like one on homosexuality, Last Generation Theology, and perhaps the role of women etc.
Will the minister carry out a baptism without any associated Baptismal Vow, or baptismal class and just baptize like Phillip did, on the basis of a confession of Christ? (No confession of acceptance of the Tanakh as read in the synagogue as the revealed will of God? No acceptance of a belief in Creation by Yahweh? No acceptance of the words of Moses and the prophets or the Writings as being from God? Just this?) I doubt it. It is running too close to the edge–the looking-for-alternate-employment edge.
It is the process of packaging that eliminates the freedom to just baptize as Phillip did. And given the amount of effort the organisation invests in the Baptismal Vow (Creed), it is understandable that they would want to see the process maintained.


(George Tichy) #14

Bring them to me and I will baptize them, no strings attached! :+1: :+1:


(Pierre-Paul Legault) #15

The Adventist Church cannot make up its mind on the sacraments and the priesthood. We don’t call marriage, baptism, and the eucharist “sacraments”, but we then limit the performance of these rituals to the ordained clergy.
I fought with the conference a few years ago when my nephew wanted to be baptised by his bible teacher, and then the clerical class swooped in to ensure only clergy could perform clerical rites.
It was then that I realized we aren’t nearly as protestant as I was taught we were. For all the 19th century style anti-Catholicism with which the Church adorns itself, we have gone a long way to emulate their hierarchy and governance.


(efcee) #16

This is the manner in which that topic is addressed: One can be baptized by anyone - an act completely separate from membership in the Seventh-day Adventist church, and then join the SDA church through profession of faith. The joining of the Adventist church is done when one agrees to the shared (fundamental) beliefs. It has been the practice of the SDA church to conflate the two, but they are indeed separate acts (being baptized and joining the SDA church). It is a sad ignorance of SDA history, along with a desire by some to wield influence and control over others, that has led so many to treat that list of “fundamentals” as if it were a creed.