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The Age of Baptism in Protestant

Churches
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Babies are baptized in many Protestant churches.

by Contributing Writer

Baptism is one of the central practices in most


Christian churches. Among Protestants, there are
several ways of approaching baptism. For example,
Protestants differ on whether to immerse baptismal

candidates in water or sprinkle or pour water over


their heads. Protestants also disagree widely about
the age at which baptism is appropriate.

Baptism of Infants
Some Protestant denominations practice
paedobaptism, the baptism of infants. These include
Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians,
Methodists and Reformed Churches. Churches that
practice infant baptism generally don't prescribe an
age at which a baby can be baptized, though it is
common to baptize babies within two weeks of birth.
When a baby has serious health complications, a
church will often baptize the baby sooner -sometimes right in the hospital shortly after the baby
is born. Churches that practice infant baptism also
baptize converts to Christianity and their children at
any age.

Believer's Baptism
Other Protestant denominations teach that baptism
should be reserved for those who have made a
conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ. This is
referred to as "believer's baptism." Many -- but not all
-- of these denominations practice baptism by
immersion. Denominations that practice believer's
baptism include Baptist, Anabaptist (including

Mennonite, Hutterite and Amish), Methodist-Holiness


(including Wesleyan, Nazarene and Free Methodist),
Brethren, Evangelical Free and Pentecostal churches.
Most evangelical and charismatic nondenominational
churches also practice believer's baptism.

Old Enough to Understand


Protestants who practice believer's baptism -- even
those within the same denomination -- may disagree
about what age is appropriate for a child to be
baptized. Most acknowledge that the Bible does not
set a definitive age at which a child can believe and
be baptized. Baptist minister Doug Wolter sums up the
belief held by many who practice believer's baptism
about when it is appropriate to baptize a child:
"Children should show that they have genuine faith
based on a right understanding of God, sin and
salvation through Jesus alone. Likewise, a child must
possess a simple understanding of what baptism is
and why baptism is important."

Sacrament, Covenant Seal or Ordinance


Many Protestant churches that practice infant baptism
teach that baptism is a "sacrament," meaning that
they believe that the practice actually confers the
grace of God to the person being baptized and enjoins
him in eternal covenant with God. Reformed and

Presbyterian churches teach that baptism is a means


of sealing a covenant between God, the church and
the child, making the child part of the church rather
than the actual means of conveying the grace of God.
Most Protestants who practice believer's baptism
teach that baptism is a symbolic act of obedience -called an ordinance -- which declares to those present
that you have already received God's grace.

References

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod: Questions

& Answers

Christian Reformed Church: Should Babies be


Baptized?

LaGrange Baptist Church: Preparing your Child for


Baptism

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod: Belief and


Practice

Presbyterian Mission: Infant Baptism

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: What are


Appropriate Baptismal Practices