Monday, September 8th, 2008...10:42 am

Baptismal Differences Between Churches

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TOPEKA – Tiffany Dudley made a public declaration of her faith last month in a baptism service at Lake Shawnee.

“I decided to be baptized because the past decisions maybe weren’t the best,” Dudley said. “It’s turning over a new leaf, an outward show of an inward change.”

Dudley was one of six people who took part in the annual Galilean baptism service. The event was sponsored by First Baptist Church.

For Christians, baptism recognizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It also represents the follower’s death to sin and rebirth in Christ.

Though baptism is practiced in nearly every Christian denomination, there are differences from one group to another.

Baptists and Pentecostals, for example, view baptism as a symbolic action, not something contingent for salvation. It is seen as an act of obedience after a person has received the Holy Spirit.

On the other side of the issue, Catholics and Lutherans teach that baptism has saving powers.

“It’s a way in which we experience God’s grace in a tangible form,” said the Rev. Trudy Cretsinger, pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The Church of Christ is unique and combines the two, teaching baptism is necessary for salvation but doesn’t in itself bring salvation.

“If you were to blend both together, it is essential for obedience and to be saved,” said Robert Stephenson, minister at Quivira Heights Church of Christ.

Most churches don’t re-baptize people if they move to another denomination. The Church of Christ does if the person had a different understanding of baptism.

“If you came from a different teaching other than the Bible, then all you did was get wet,” Stephenson said. “If a person comes to understanding that they were baptized for another purpose, then we will rebaptize them.”

Despite the differences, believers all over the world have submitted to a spiritual bath.

“Baptism deals with the heart,” Stephenson said. “If a person is sincere, God knows.”

Other differences arise over how baptism should be performed — whether by immersion, sprinkling or pouring.

The Church of Christ, Pentecostals and Baptists practice baptism by immersion.

Perhaps the most widely disputed aspect of baptism is infant baptism, a long-standing argument through the centuries.

Church leaders dating back to the second century opposed the practice, saying instead that children should be taught to come to Christ and be baptized when they are mature enough to understand.

“There are people who are saved at a young age,” said the Rev. Bo Melin, of Topeka First Assembly of God Church, “but you have to be able to understand the Gospel.”

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