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Asking the clergy about renewing baptisms

Baptism, the public symbol of accepting Christ as one's savior, is a hallmark of Christianity. But, is it a once-and-done event, or should it be renewed periodically? Our clergy take a look at being rebaptized.

The Rev. David J. Ware, rector, St. John's Episcopal Church, Cold Spring Harbor:

In the Episcopal tradition, we don't invite people to be rebaptized. We don't rebaptize because we feel that baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime event. We do recognize that people have a regular longing to recommit, so, every time we have a baptism, we invite people to renew their vows.

If you've never been baptized, you can be baptized as an adult. Even when we baptize a child, we address the questions to the accompanying adult, to someone cognizant of the commitment that is being made.

I see rebaptizing as suggesting that the relationship that is asserted at baptism is no longer in existence. If you've been baptized, you become a child of God. Although you may feel you have fallen away, God didn't fall away from you. He never left you. Therefore, you don't need to redo that relationship.

The Rev. William Brisotti, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church,

Wyandanch:

In the Catholic faith, we do not rebaptize. When someone from a non-Roman Catholic Christian church has been baptized, we accept that baptism.

We do have a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. There are two tracks. One is for a non-baptized person. This is usually a youth who would learn about the faith, the sacraments, etcetera. Then, they would be baptized, confirmed and receive first Communion. A baptized person would simply make a profession of faith, then receive the sacraments of Confirmation and first Communion.

To rebaptize someone would be a redundancy. God never leaves us. Of course, the person who was baptized as a child may feel that he or she finally has a full understanding of the commitment that was made at that time. It is acceptable and understandable that someone would want to recommit to their faith after they fully understand what they're committing to.

But, you have to understand that the rebaptizing is for the individual, not for God. He doesn't need you to do it.

Pastor Robert Walderman, Lynbrook Baptist Church, Lynbrook:

As a Baptist, I believe the Bible teaches that baptism is for those who are able to profess their faith in Christ Jesus. "Repent, believe and be baptized" is the Scriptural formula. While Jesus welcomes and blesses little children, nowhere in Scripture is there teaching for, or example of, infant baptism. So when people come to me, having been "baptized" as an infant, but now having expressed repentance for sin and faith in the saving work of Christ, and ask to be baptized, I will baptize them by immersion.

Since we don't recognize infant baptism as baptism, technically this adult request is not a rebaptism. While baptism neither saves nor washes away sin (grace and faith do), it is a very meaningful, public expression of identification with Christ's death (being immersed under water) and his resurrection (coming up out of the water) and that they are followers of Christ.

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