Thrice-baptized pastor

May 18, 2020 by

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Regarding “To Be Rebaptized?” (May 4): I was born in 1937, and my parents wanted me to be dedicated to the Lord, so I assume I was sprinkled with water in a Free Methodist Church. Later I experienced a definite conversion to Christ at age 14 and was baptized by immersion in a pond.

Fast forward to 1969, when I was pastor of the Free Methodist Church in Waynesboro, Va. At a local ministerium meeting I met Harold Stoltzfus, pastor of Springdale Mennonite, and a friendship ensued. He asked, “You don’t baptize babies, do you?” I replied, “I haven’t yet.” He invited me to join him in studies at Eastern Mennonite College. I graduated from there in 1971 and later from Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

After this, I pastored a Free Methodist Church in Maryland for 17 years. The challenge from Harold Stoltzfus stayed with me, and no babies were baptized. I compromised once when a mother insisted water be applied to her baby’s head in the dedication service. But I refused to use the word “baptize” and explained why.

When my wife and I moved to Elizabethtown, Pa., in 1989, we joined Elizabethtown Mennonite Church but were not required to be rebaptized. One Sunday eve­ning the bishop gave an invitation to anyone wishing to be baptized. I thought, “Why not get poured, the Mennonite way?” So we did. Later I was ordained in Lancaster Mennonite Conference and have served the Cedar Hill Church since 2001.

Part of my ministry at Cedar Hill has been reaching out to inmates in prisons. A prison chaplain, a Catholic, phoned me and said, “A Protestant inmate wants to be baptized. Would you do this?” I agreed and asked if an inmate could be baptized by immersion, which is my preference. He said that would not be possible. So I agreed to come and baptize by pouring. The chaplain had bought a bottle of water at a convenience store. When the inmate saw the bottle of water, he said, “That’s not holy water.” I responded, “When that water is poured through the chaplain’s hands and my hands, it will be holy.” He received an ecumenical baptism — with water poured through the hands of a Cath­olic chaplain and a thrice-baptized Mennonite pastor. I have continued a meaningful relationship with this inmate.

I believe in baptism, and I believe it should follow the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

Wayne Lawton
Elizabethtown, Pa.

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