Baptisms are in the headlines, right now, for better or for worse – GetReligion


When I say “good news” I am referring to a New York Times story which is quite funny and has tons of good information. However, it’s a story that takes a trend in some of those giant, modernized evangelical mega-churches and tries to make it a big idea piece. Hold that thought.

The title: “Horse waterers, hot tubs and hashtags: baptism goes wild. “Here is a large block of the thesis material:

Performing the centuries-old Christian ritual in a more informal style “indicates that this is not your grandmother’s church,” said Drake Osborn, pastor of teaching and liturgy at Grace Church in Waco, Texas . His congregation moved into a former bowling alley in 2016, but never considered installing an integrated baptistery. Instead, Grace Church uses a foam model purchased online for around $ 2,500.

The change has come about as many symbols of pre-21st century church life have fallen into disuse in evangelical culture, especially among churches that are expanding or building new facilities. The shrines are now “centers of worship” and the bell towers and stained glass have disappeared. Natural light is often avoided in favor of a black box-like theater aesthetic optimized for flashy audiovisual experiences and online streaming.

It’s not just architecture that is changing. Contemporary evangelical baptisms are often rowdy affairs. Instead of hymns and subdued whispers, consider roaring modern worship music, punches, tears, and loud cheers. There are photographers, selfie stations, and social media hashtags. A church in Texas calls its regular mass baptism a “plunging feast.”

Good now. It may be true that “evangelical baptisms” are getting a bit “loud,” but that’s a rather odd statement to make in light of the baptismal traditions over the years in evangelical and Pentecostal black churches. And things have always been pretty wild in mountainous evangelical churches, which are traditionally located next to streams or rivers – a logical place for baptisms (think imagery from the Jordan River).

Here is an article on religion that I wrote about it in 2011: “Farewell to the mountain faith of yesteryear. “

Travelers who frequent the winding mountain roads of the southern Appalachians know that every few miles they will pass yet another small Baptist church sitting by tumultuous water. It’s all about location, location, location.

Why would a preacher baptize a new believer in a heated inner tank when he can immerse him in the mighty, living, freezing waters of the river that created the valley in which his flock has lived for generations? There is no doubt which option the self-proclaimed early Baptists will choose, even if that adds an element of risk.

“Among the early Baptists, you almost always see two ministers when they baptize someone – one to do the baptism and one to hang on. It’s even part of their unique liturgical tradition to have two ministers there.” said Baptist historian Bill Leonard of the Wake Forest School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, NC, “As the saying goes, you could get baptized and go to Heaven on the same day if there was no one there. who to hang on to so you don’t wash and drown. “

the Time story – for good reason – spends a lot of time on changes to the facilities of the Protestant mega-church. But there is also this reference to the larger world of Christian tradition.

Facilities tend to flow from theology. In traditions like Catholicism which baptize infants by sprinkling them or pouring water over their heads, the equipment required is minimal, although it can be adorned: a bowl on a stand and perhaps a small one. pitcher. But many who practice “creed baptism,” or the voluntary baptism of believers as an outward expression of faith, require that the person – usually an adolescent or adult – be completely submerged in water. For congregations in this category, including Baptists and Charismatics, that means plumbing, heating equipment, maintenance costs, and potentially hundreds of gallons of water for each event.

These interior baptistries were common in the 20th century, especially in the wealthier churches. Soaking people in streams and rivers and lakes was, well, so old-fashioned.

So there is news here, no doubt about it. Large suburban churches are making some changes.

However, it would have been good to note some trends in baptism in some radically different churches. For example, many Eastern Orthodox congregations (such as our church here in Oak Ridge, Tenn.) Keep a horse trough handy for baptizing adults, teens, and older children. The Orthodox baptize by immersion and, well, if a congregation is evangelist enough to have adult converts, then it helps to have a watering hole to soak them. I don’t know if this happens in Catholic, Catholic, or Lutheran churches.

Another tip: There is another reason why some evangelical churches may rethink their baptismal plans. In recent years, the Southern Baptist Convention has seen a worrying drop in the number of baptisms – period. Check out this title from Baptist Press: “Donations increase as baptisms continue to decline. “

Now for the bad news, in this podcast.

In this case, we are talking about this crop war title in The Washington Post: Transgender People Cannot Be Baptized Unless They Have ‘Repented’, Catholic Diocese Says. Here is the opening (which was not produced by the newspaper’s religion office):

A Catholic Diocese in Michigan has asked its pastors to deny baptism, confirmation and other sacraments to transgender and non-binary people unless they have “repented” – possibly the first diocese in the United States to publish such a radical policy about those who identify with a genre. other than the sex assigned at birth.

The guidelines issued by the diocese of Marquette also states that transgender people cannot receive Communion, in which Catholics believe the body and blood of Jesus Christ is truly present. In most circumstances, they cannot receive the anointing of the sick, which is believed to provide physical or spiritual healing to those who are gravely ill. The directive was released in July, but only recently sparked debate after a prominent priest and advocate for LGBTQ Catholics shared it on Twitter.

The story turns to advocacy journalism after this sentence: “A spokesperson for the diocese said no one was immediately available for an interview.

Thus, there is no need to seek the advice of Catholic liturgists or Church historians anywhere else. It is not necessary to actually cite Catholic doctrines on matters relating to this history.

The end result is a parade of commentary from the Catholic left, including an LGBTQ advocacy group – New Ways Ministry – currently in the news for other reasons.

All these comments and information are valid, in the context of a debate with Orthodox Catholic sources.

The bottom line: one or two hyperlinks in the digital edition of this story are not enough, as in this passage:

Since the Catholic Church baptizes primarily infants, the policy of the Diocese of Marquette is likely to primarily impact non-Catholic adults seeking baptism in the Catholic Church, with transgender adolescents preparing for Confirmation and the children of Catholic migrants who were not baptized in infancy because their parents were frequently moving, among other possible reasons.

The backlash may portend growing conflict between the church, who teaches that people should accept their sex assigned at birth, and a younger generation is more likely to identify as something other than cisgender and less likely to believe that being transgender is morally wrong.

A crucial fact is missing from this summary.

In Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches it is normal – adolescents and adults, in particular – to meet a priest and go to confession for the first time. As an Orthodox convert, I lived this tradition as part of my conversion. Needless to say, all kinds of questions are discussed as the priest helps you navigate the timeline of your life. Yes, we are talking about that word information professionals tend to avoid – “sin”.

Certainly, the diocese of Marquette is not the only Catholic organization to have been confronted with this problem. The views of the Catholic Church on “gender theory” are clear.

As always, Pope Francis’ theological signals have been mixed – in the headlines.

But there is this comment from the current pope, like cited by the Attorney, an important source of LGBTQ information:

Let us also think of genetic manipulation, the manipulation of life, or the theory of gender, which does not recognize the order of creation.

With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator. The true custody of creation has nothing to do with ideologies which regard man as an accident, as a problem to be eliminated.

God placed man and woman and the top of creation and gave them the earth. The design of the Creator is written in nature.

In a memorable sound sample, Pope Francis said that “gender ideology is demonic” and he compared this school of thought to “Hitler’s educational policies”.

There are many, many sources of Pope Francis’ documents on this subject, all available with a click or two of the mouse. Here is one more, watch out The tablet, during a discussion of problematic trends in modern life:

“One place is ‘gender theory’,” the Pope said. “From the outset, I want to make it clear that I am not talking about people with a homosexual orientation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church invites us to accompany them and to provide pastoral care to these brothers and sisters.

Gender theory, he said, has a “dangerous” cultural purpose of erasing all distinctions between men and women, men and women, which would “destroy to its roots” God’s most fundamental plan for human beings: “diversity, distinction. everything is homogeneous, neutral. It is an attack on difference, against the creativity of God and against men and women. “

Pope Francis said he did not want to “discriminate against anyone”, but was convinced that human peace and well-being should be based on the reality that God created people with differences and that to accept – and not ignore – these differences is what brings people together.

So there is the problem that the church will face: What is the appropriate confession of sins for a trans convert entering the Catholic faith?

Enjoy the podcast and please pass it on to others. Also consider doing a tax-free end of year donation to help GetReligion continue its work in 2021.

FIRST IMAGE : Printing a table – for sale on Amazon.com – depicting a river baptism outside an African-American church.


Comments are closed.