uncm.gif (7540 bytes)


Petition


Amendments to the Discipline Related to Restoring the Ritual of Infant Dedication

A RESOLUTION SUBMITTED TO THE 1999 VIRGINIA CONFERENCE
FOR A PROPOSED PETITION TO THE 2000 GENERAL CONFERENCE


Whereas the United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 as the successor of the former Methodist Church and of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church; and

Whereas an official ritual entitled "The Dedication of Infants" (as well as a ritual for "The Baptism of Infants") was contained in the Book of Ritual, as part of the Discipline of the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1963), and was in use at the time of the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church in 1968; and

Whereas, from the time of merger in 1968 until the approval of The United Methodist Book of Worship in 1992, the United Methodist Church recognized that the Ritual of the Church included what was contained in the Book of Ritual of the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1963); and

Whereas 122 and 131.2 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (1968 and 1972) and 222 and 231.2 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (1976) directed that "baptized or dedicated" children were to be added to the Preparatory Membership Roll; and

Whereas subsequent editions of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church have omitted any reference to "dedicated" children or to the practice of the dedication of infants; and

Whereas the Judicial Council in Decision No. 811 declared as unconstitutional the legislation adopted by the 1996 General Conference in accordance with the Baptismal Study Committee report relating to "baptized membership" and "professing membership" 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and 2 (1996 Discipline), thereby declaring that the 1992 Discipline relating to membership categories "preparatory membership" and "full membership" 216.4, 222-224, 232.1 and 2 (1992 Discipline) remain as the governing law of The United Methodist Church; and

Whereas The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992) contains no service for the dedication of infants; and

Whereas many persons come into the life of the United Methodist Church from other Christian traditions which practice infant dedication; and

Whereas some parents within the United Methodist Church desire to dedicate an infant to God and to God’s service, but desire to reserve the Sacrament of Baptism until the child makes personal commitment to Christ; and

Whereas the official statement of the United Methodist Church on Baptism, entitled "By Water and the Spirit," which was approved by the 1996 General Conference, affirms, "We respect the sincerity of parents who choose not to have their infants baptized. . . ." And

Whereas 5 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (1996) states in part, "As part of the church universal, The United Methodist Church believes that the Lord of the church is calling Christians everywhere to strive toward unity;" and

Whereas 60 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (1996) states in part,

Nourished by common roots of this shared Christian heritage, the branches

of Christ’s church have developed diverse traditions that enlarge our store

of shared understandings. Our avowed ecumenical commitment as United

Methodists is to gather our own doctrinal emphases into the larger Christian

unity, there to be made more meaningful in a richer whole.

And,

Whereas 117 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (1996) states in part,

Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance, and support that enables all

persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community, and the world.

Thus, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination.

And,

Whereas references in the New Testament to specific households who were baptized may or may not have included infants; and

Whereas there are no explicit references in the New Testament either to the dedication of an infant or to the baptism of an infant during the early years of the church; and

Whereas there is no prohibition in Holy Scripture against the practice of infant dedication or against the practice of infant baptism;

Therefore, be it resolved that the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church hereby petitions the 2000 General Conference of the United Methodist Church to affirm the validity of both infant baptism and infant dedication and to restore the option of infant dedication by making the following amendments to The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (1996).

Add new sub-paragraph after 227.2:

The United Methodist Church respects the sincerity of Christian parents or guardians who choose not to have their infants baptized. If, after consultation with the pastor of the charge, it is the decision of the parent(s) or guardian(s) to present the child to the Lord for dedication, this choice will be respected. Before the time of dedication, the pastor will clearly present to the parents or guardians the meaning of dedication and the responsibility to bring up the child in the Christian faith. The pastor shall also secure for the official record of the Church the full name of the child, the date of birth, the date and place of dedication, and the full names of the parent(s) or guardian(s) and their place of residence and phone number.

Amend 227.3 as follows:

The pastor shall keep and transmit to the succeeding pastor an accurate register of the name of all baptized or dedicated children in the charge, including both those who have been baptized or dedicated there and those who have been baptized or dedicated elsewhere. This register of baptized and dedicated children, along with a list of other preparatory members, shall serve as the list of baptized members for whom the congregation has ongoing responsibility for nurture in the life of discipleship until they become professing members and accept God’s grace for themselves constitute the preparatory membership roll of the church. It shall give the full name of the child, the date of birth, the date and place of baptism or dedication, the names of the parent(s) or guardian(s) and their place of residence and phone number, and the names of the sponsor(s) or godparent(s).

Amend 231.1 (or 232.2 of the 1992 Book of Discipline) as follows:

1. Roll of Baptized Preparatory Members, ( 215) containing the names and pertinent information of baptized or dedicated children and youth of the Church eighteen years of age and under who are not full members, and other persons who have been enrolled in confirmation preparation.


Back to UCM Homepage