Talbot Davis, minister of Good Shepherd (a UM Congregation) in Charlotte, NC, ran a post on his blog entitled, Top Five Things I Don’t Really Believe
. It was picked up by the United Methodist Reporter
‘s Facebook page. His #1 Thing is on Infant Baptism. The methopherse has been in an uproar since. What is really interesting are the comments, both on his blog and on the UMR’s Facebook page.
Here is what Davis wrote on his blog; (go to the link above for full version)
1. God Does The Baptizing. In seminary and beyond, I heard teaching on the subject of infant baptism that grounded the practice in the confidence that “God does the baptizing.” The logic goes something like this: “The reason we Methodists can baptize babies is because we put the emphasis on God in the sacraments. The reason Baptists don’t is because they think sacraments are more about people.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Makes our tribe a bit more erudite and theological than our immersion-happy brethren. You can baptize an infant because even though the baby doesn’t know what’s happening, he or she now has a divine, moist seal of approval. I was taught it, I believed it, I spoke it, and that settled it. My own children (now 23 & 20) were even baptized as infants.
Here’s the problem: God doesn’t baptize. God saves. We respond by getting baptized.
Nowhere in the New Testament do we read the words or even intuit the concept that God baptizes.
Whether it’s Peter’s emphatic “Repent and be baptized” in Acts 2:38 or the wandering Ephesians who get re-baptized in Acts 19:1-7 or even Paul’s subtle yet unmistakable picture of baptism-by-immersion in Romans 6:3-5, the New Testament is consistent and clear: people choose their own baptism. They come to faith and then to make that faith public, they get wet.
It’s not complicated, it’s not a spiritual birthmark, it’s not a naming ceremony, it’s not even the New Testament equivalent of circumcision. It’s death to the old life and resurrection to the new. And babies don’t have old lives to die to.
And . . . best of all the practices I’ve learned from some of our non-denominational friends . . . in the context of a church gathering parents can baptize their own children and friends can do the same for folks they have led to faith.
That may not be very Methodist but it sure is contagious.
The comments that are range from support to utter shock that Davis is United Methodist. There are critiques that since Good Shepherd is one of the top 100 largest United Methodist Congregations that the DS and Bishop turn a blind eye (see comments on Facebook). Others are glad to see him profess this openly and are proud of the work he is doing.
I will confess it made my blood curdle a little bit but this is not the first time that I have seen Davis come out like this on infant baptism. I have questioned him on his stance in other posts of his on blog in the past. Is this theologically controversial, yes. But it leads to good questions and dialogue.
Whether you agree that Davis is in alignment with UMC theology or not, it does demonstrate the basic value of the UMC. As we attempt to hold down the extreme center we will have people we disagree with theologically, practically, politically, and personally. That will happen and I think that is a great image of the Kingdom of God. We should have open and honest conversations about what we believe and what we disagree with when it comes the theology of the UMC. God knows I don’t agree with 100% of what the Discipline says too.
Through conversation we grow deeper in our understanding of and relationship with God.
First off let me announce that at this time I AM NOT moving. I’m not on the move list (as far as I know) and since I did not hear anything last week I’m pretty sure it will stay that way. Why do we UM ministers have to always lead with this stuff! But moving is on my mind since cabinet did meet last week and I do know people who are on the move list.
As I started thinking I realized the changes in social media since I moved last (June of 2007). When I moved to Trinity I had a very inactive Facebook page with only a few friends. Since moving I gained more and more friends on Facebook as it became even more popular. Many of my parishioners from my current church are friends of mine on Facebook. There are great opportunities to be in contact with them and pray for them as we share life via social networking. But what happens when I do move?
I know there are some pastors who are processing this thought since they will be facing this reality in June. There are others who have already lived through it. My main question is…how do you handle making pastoral transitions and your social networking?
I know there is a rule (written or unwritten) that a moving pastor should not be in contact with the congregation they are moving away from for about a year. This gives the pastor moving in a chance to settle and establish ministerial authority without being in competition with the one who just left. This was easier to do BFT, (before Facebook & Twitter). But we live in a world that breaths FB and Twitter now and so how do you handle the transition. Do moving pastors take a year off form FB and Twitter? Do they de-friend/unfollow their old congregation and only accept friends from their new one? Do you limit past laity’s access to your account and give them no ability to comment on your wall and posts for a year?
This is a new realm of thinking when it comes to moving pastors but it is a reality. I know if I was getting to know a new congregation, Facebook and Twitter are places where it would be easy to start building relationships but it would be hard if you kept seeing the previous minister adding the conversations.
So what do you all think? What have you done? Should a petition be written to General Conference and our disciple changed because of these new social networking sites? (just kidding on that one) But what have ministers done or are doing to give room for saying goodbye to old relationships and welcoming new ones in the area of social networking?
Facebook use to be fun. It was a great way to connect with old friends and people I forgot I knew. I could cyber stalk old high school friends and see where they are now, 15 years later. I could catch up with good friends and see updated pictures of their families. I got sucked into Mafia Wars but dodged Farmville. I attempted to create funny and interesting status updates.
Now though it is getting sad. Now I am finding out more than I have ever wanted to know about some people. I have seen people become huge jerks. I have read people trounce their churches, spouses, friends, and themselves via status updates. I’m friends with people who find it impossible to say anything nice about our President. I see pictures of wild parties and have watched marriages fall apart.
I wonder if people realize that when they post stuff on Facebook it is open to the world? I really don’t think people realize this fact.
Now as I get my Facebook fix, I get depressed watching the downward spiral of people’s lives or the arrogance people can have hiding behind a keyboard. It is sad and depressing.
But Facebook also gives opportunity for ministry and this is the excuse I use to keep returning. I have learned some things about people I would have never known by just shaking their hand after worship. This gives me an in to make contact and inquire more about what is happening and offer up prayer and support.
It is also a great way to promote new ministries or groups coming up at church, through the fan pages. It is a free marketing tool and can have a great impact.
Facebook is a double edged sword and a time suck. It is one of those things I want to live without but I can’t afford to ignore either. Oh Facebook, how I love and hate you. Hey, that’s a good status update.
Jesus called me on the phone today (yes I do have a direct line…all UMC pastors do) and he told me that unless this person stops their sinning ways…they will be going to some place hotter than Columbia, SC.
HT: Hacking Christianity
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