Elders and Baptism

Like a number of other churches around the world, the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand provides for both infant baptism and infant dedication, for claiming God's covenant promises for children of believers by baptism, and for profession of faith by immersion for those who come to Christ later in life. (See Infants and Believers)

We respect different traditions, yet there is a common theology of God's grace. Ministers and elders acknowledge different practices as we seek to obey the Great Commission. It is easy to overestimate the difficulties these differences need cause in practice. It helps to know where others are coming from. Note the following on the Presbyterian website:

It is now possible for Presbyteries to authorise elders to conduct baptisms as well as preside at communion. This is a suggested outline.

Training for elders authorised to conduct baptisms

As members of Session or Parish Council, all elders are involved in decisions about baptism. It is now possible for elders to be authorised and trained to conduct baptisms. Training may be arranged by the Presbytery to cover the following:

1) Biblical examples and theology, what it means and who decides. Baptism in water and the Holy Spirit.
2) Why Infant Baptism remains part of our church's faith and practice and we also accept leaders and congregations who do not practice it.
3) Accepting and respecting a range of views and practices in our church.
4) Infant Baptism
5) Infant Dedication
6) Confirmation
7) Reaffirmation of Baptismal vows by immersion
8) Believer's Baptism by sprinkling, pouring or immersion
9) Role of the Congregation
10) God-parents, whanau, and supporters
11) Tricky cases and questions - what to do when the Youth Group wants to or already has baptised people immediately after a conversion decision.
12) The responsibility of the Session
13) Record keeping.

It is important to have a practical for both infants and for immersion. It would be good if people identified their questions. There will need to be some background reading.

In order to obtain a certificate of having completed this element in their training, elders need to prepare three orders of service, one for an infant baptism, one for a believers baptism, and one for reaffirmation of baptismal vows by immersion, together with a sermon and readings explaining the teaching behind each of these.

Criteria in the marking include

You may view online or download the teaching PowerPoint used at a March 2006 Invercargill seminar for elders in Local Ministry Teams who may be authorised by their Presbytery to preside at Baptism.

Other resources for those leading baptism.

John Roxborogh