Baptism by Immersion as a Requirement for Ordination to Pastoral Leadership (Mennonite Brethren Church, 1987)

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Baptism by Immersion as a Requirement for Ordination to Pastoral Leadership (Mennonite Brethren Church, 1987)

In 1963 our conference opened the door to full church membership for those who had been baptized upon confession of faith in Jesus Christ by some mode other than immersion in water. However, such members were not to be transferred by letter from one local church to another. Local churches were, in fact, given freedom to deny full membership to non-immersed applicants.

In 1972 our conference took one step further and allowed non-immersed members, who had been accepted into the full membership of local churches, to transfer freely by letter from one church to another.

In 1981 this practice was re-affirmed. Also, it was reiterated that those seeking ordination, or recognition of ordination by another denomination, should be baptized by immersion, since that is the form of baptism practiced by the MB church.

Since there was considerable difference of opinion on requiring immersion for ordination to the pastoral ministry, the matter was referred to the churches for discussion. The Board of Reference and Counsel reported to the conference in Reedley in 1984, that our churches were quite divided on this issue. However, the board recommended to the conference that we continue, for the time being, to adhere to our former decision to require baptism by immersion for ordination.

The discussion on the conference floor in 1984, indicated the need for further study and resolution of this matter. The Board of Reference and Counsel is of the opinion that by allowing believers who are baptized by another mode, upon confession of their faith to become full-fledged members ofour churches, the conference clearly indicates that it accepts different modes of believers' baptism as biblically tenable. (It does, however, rule out infant baptism.) Whereas immersion signifies primarily dying to sin and rising with Christ to newness of life (Romans 6), pouring signifies the receipt of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2, 8, 9, 10, 19).

The Board of Reference and Counsel, therefore, recommends:

Resolution

  1. That we re-affirm that the MB church understands the New Testament as teaching believers' baptism. (See 1975 Confession of Faith)
  2. That we re-affirm that the MB church practices only one form of baptism and that this be immersion. (See 1975 Confession of Faith)
  3. That we re-affirm that only those who have been baptized upon confession of faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of the mode of baptism, be accepted as members in our churches. (See 1975 Confession of Faith)
  4. When such pastors are appointed, it is understood that they both teach and practice baptism by immersion. And it should be remembered that we do not baptize believers who are unwilling to become members of one of our local congregations. (See 1975 Confession of Faith)
  5. That we request candidates for ordination to the pastoral ministry (or for recognition of ordination) who have been baptized by a mode other than immersion, to consider re-baptism, in order to serve with greater freedom in our denomination.
  6. That, however, we accept also those candidates for ordination to the pastoral ministry who have been baptized upon confession of faith by some mode of baptism other than immersion.

[edit] Bibliography

1987 yearbook: 57th session General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches of North America, August 7-11, 1987. Winnipeg, Man.: The Conference, 1987: 47-48, 73.

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