Historically, Baptism has been used as a ritual and celebration of initiation into the Christian Community that we call the Church Universal. Itís much more than a personal celebration in front of a congregation in a worship setting. It is an acknowledgement of Godís unconditional love and grace being upon a person who God has created, chosen and set apart that person for a lifetime of devotion and commitment through that same unconditional love.
Baptism is not some ďmagic formulaĒ that guarantees a place in heaven. There is a very serious commitment that is required at the time of baptism. That commitment, from the side of the person being baptized, is that they will devote themselves, mind, body, and soul, to an ongoing journey of growth in following Christ and learning to live by his teachings. This commitment is especially profound for children, because the commitment extends to the parents and sponsors bringing the child for baptism. That commitment means that the parents will engage and participate at the highest level possible within the Christian Community so that child sees the Christian lifestyle lived out within the community of the church as well as within the personal family life. There is also a commitment on the churchís part that all will be done and all resources will be given as needed to train, teach, and nurture those being baptized in authentic Christian community. Baptism should not be taken lightly or entered into hastily.
In the United Methodist denomination, we believe that God in Jesus Christ died once and for all persons, before those persons acknowledged Godís death for them. Salvation is not dependent on whether or not we acknowledge it. Therefore, people of all ages are invited to be baptized, to claim their place within the community of those who are responding to Godís love for them and attempting to live that love life out to its fullest.
In cases of infant baptism, it is not mandatory that parents be members of the church or even baptized themselves. However, the commitment explained in the section on what Baptism means is necessary.