Meaning of baptism

Jun 1, 2020 by

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I gained some perspectives on baptism and rebaptism (“Should Anabaptists Still Rebaptize?,” April 20) during the years I participated in a Mennonite-Cath­olic dialogue in Winnipeg, Man. Our conversations ranged over a number of issues, and baptism became one of them.

We learned that the rite of infant baptism arose quite early in the history of the church because of the belief that it was necessary for the salvation of infants. They were born in sin and carried its condemnation. Anabaptists affirmed the innocence of infants. Infant baptism suited the notion of Christendom, because once baptized everyone who belonged to society was considered a Christian. It became a cultural support. And the confirmation rite would be a way of affirming society’s identity, though the church might have little real notion how genuine that affirmation was.

One of the most intriguing discoveries was to learn that the Roman Catholic Church created a rite for adult baptism for the first time — if I remember correctly — during the 1960s. The Catholic chair of our dialogue, Father Luis Melo, shared his joy at being able to perform it.

My own grandmother grew up in that tradition. The child of Lutheran-Catholic parents, she would have been baptized as an infant. She came to an owned faith in a Mennonite Brethren setting in Russia and confessed that faith through baptism as a young woman. She often used this expression (in German): “That which fills the heart, the mouth cannot hold back.” She was happy to make that confession in word and deed, giving voice to her faith before the church community and then allowing them to baptize her.

Harold Jantz
Winnipeg, Man.

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