At the end of Christian Christianity, #UMC Membership vows and Baptism (Fritzsche)

Joel started this a bit ago and I am finally getting around to contributing my 5 cents (I am too wordy for only 2 cents) to it. His introduction can be found here.

The membership vows of the UMC are deeply rooted in the baptismal covenant made by you if you were baptized as an adult, or for you if you were a child.  Like most things, I think that in order to have a proper discussion and understanding of the vows of membership, we must indeed go to the beginning of it all…baptism. In the UMC, the service of baptism asks questions of the person to be, or guardian of, the one baptized. The service of baptism can be found here for anyone who is interested or does not know.

After being presented and named to the gathered congregation, some questions are asked of those who are to be baptized.

  • On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
  • On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
  • Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
  • Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

Interestingly enough, these echo what a person would be asked later should they decide to join a UMC. It is no coincidence these questions mirror each other so that a person baptized in the UMC has the opportunity to answer those vital questions for themselves, but also so that someone who has come from a differing denomination can answer those questions as well and understand that this is part of the core understanding of what the UMC finds to be important doctrines of faith.

The sacramental service of baptism continues with the following.

According to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?

Again, if we look to the membership vows, we find this echoed for the same reasons as above.

After this part there are questions to the congregation that are important and all to often neglected by the congregation.

  • Do you, as Christ’s body, the Church, reaffirm both your rejection of sin and your commitment to Christ?
  • Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care?

This is actually a part of what the vows of membership ask of you when they state “To  faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers,  their presence,  their gifts, their service, and their witness?” Baptism is such a vital part of the ministry of the church and while it is a covenant between God and the baptized, it should also be a covenant between the congregation and the one baptized. By making this covenant, you are at the very least participating in the ministry of the church (so long as you make every attempt to follow through with it).

After this, the confession of faith by the baptized. The instructions for it read as follows:

The candidate(s), sponsor(s), and local congregation join with the universal Church across the ages in this historic affirmation of the Christian faith. A deacon or pastor addresses all, and the congregation joins the candidates and their parents and sponsors in responding

Notice it is the entire congregation, and the universal church across all ages. (As a side note, yes, I know where the “united” in United Methodist comes from. I also firmly believe that it should indeed come from the Apostle’s creed, but I digress). This is the confession of faith that the UMC has said is appropriate for the congregation as an affirmation of Christian faith.

Let us join together in professing the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Do you believe in God the Father?

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

In this confession, we find what the UMC has included as the basic profession of faith, the Apostle’s creed said as an answer to the questions asked by the pastor. It also echos to the membership vows when they say “To receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.” The Apostle’s creed is used to express the faith contained in the Old and the New Testaments. It is done at baptism and confirmed at membership.

The water is then blessed and prayed over and finally the event comes to it’s crescendo with the following:

I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


When you examine closely the sacrament of baptism and the membership vows there is really on a small addendum that the membership vows make which is “To be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?” and “To  faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers,  their presence,  their gifts, their service, and their witness?” The vow is the same as you made for baptism, save that it ads the UMC as the church you are choosing to serve Christ through. So, while they are not at all equal in importance (baptism is vastly more important than official denominational membership), the answer to the question lies in the connection to baptism. How seriously we take our membership vows is intrinsically tied to how seriously we take our baptism. So the question is not really if we can use our membership vows, taken seriously, to revitalize the church, but rather if we will allow our baptism to be be taken seriously and revitalize the church.

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5 Replies to “At the end of Christian Christianity, #UMC Membership vows and Baptism (Fritzsche)”

  1. This is the first piece on here that I’ve agreed with in a while. Excellent writing and thought. As a umc pastor, I can hold to the Apostle’s Creed, and it connects us with all the Church.

  2. Thank you for this clear reminder that the evolution of our understanding baptismal and membership vows is not a sign that the United Methodist Church has become extra-Biblical. The current debates about our denominations future have lost the civility of a people who share the same voluntary yoke. How can we accept and ascede to both individual and hurtful attacks and commit to the Grace denying “group think” of our or their side when we all share the same individual and collective life giving and altering public but more importantly collective covenant? Our vows should shake the very souls and the foundation of our being as we, not God, tests our faithfulness to each. I confess before God my failure to hold these vows to be less important and just another club membership ritual like my citizenship, political beliefs and actions, and personal morality. I ask for Gods forgiveness and the forgiveness of all those who share these vows for my unfaithfulness in applying them to every aspect of my life with every breath I take.

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