The Renewal Of The Baptismal Covenant

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

Christian baptism represents a commitment to Christ. In other entries, much will be said about rites of confession of sin, reconciliation, fasting, and solemn assembly that are intended to restore such a commitment when it has been broken, both individually and corporately. Here another approach, used particularly in churches that baptize infants, is formal renewal of baptismal promises. Baptismal renewal is closely connected with the increased attention given to catechism of baptized...

Historical Origins And Development Of The Renewal Of The Baptismal Covenant

Baptism was understood as a pledge, vow, covenant, or contract early in the history of the Christian church. The very term sacrament meant an oath in Roman culture. When children of Christian parents were baptized, whether as part of the households mentioned in the New Testament or as children born into families that had been Christian for generations, this pledge was made by the parents and baptismal sponsors. The sacrament of confirmation became separated from baptism in the West. When Protestant Reformers denied sacramental status to confirmation but retained it as catechetical device, it gradually developed into a ceremony by which, after instruction, adolescent children of Christian parents took ownership of the vows made for them at baptism.

A Theology For The Renewal Of The Baptismal Covenant

The separation of confirmation from baptism in the West has left an enduring legacy of unease among paedobaptist Christian theologians. If baptism is indeed the full and complete rite of initiation into the church, what is the role of confirmation, whether as a sacrament (Roman Catholic) or a catechetical and social rite of passage (Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed)? Is a baptized but unconfirmed child not really a full member of the church? Adult-baptizing churches maintain baptism's full initiatory status by reserving baptism until children are old enough to make their own commitments, but this still leaves the unbaptized children somehow both inside yet outside the church (see chapter 4). In infant-baptizing traditions, one way of dealing with the problem is to treat confirmation and other occasions in later life simply as renewals of baptism. In this way, baptism itself retains its significance as full, complete entry into the church while asserting that its promises are capable of being renewed after the child reaches the age of discretion.

A Liturgy For The Renewal Of The Baptismal Covenant

The following service invites worshipers to recall their own baptism, to renew their promises of faith to God, and to hear again God's promises and provisions for them as his people. The text is based on a service in Holy Baptism and Services for the Renewal of Baptism formulated by the Office of Worship for the Presbyterian Church (U. S. A. ) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It is similar to texts used in several Protestant denominations.

Guidelines For Planning A Service Of The Renewal Of The Baptismal Covenant

Planning for the renewal of baptism must be undertaken with the need of the local worshiping community in mind. This article reflects on this service of renewal and proposes guidelines for the worship planning process.